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Europe they are said to be prized for food. The Germans prepare them by smoking or drying.

"In the a in ii in-: months," writes Buckland, "Gar-fish are very plentiful on the Cornish coast
In the autumn of 1867 scarcely two thousand were taken in the seines at Mevagissey, which
fetched good prices, as they are much eaten by the Jews. One of the advantages of railway
communication may be seen in the fact that before the opening of the Cornwall Railway the
fishermen would not spend time by catching sea-fish, for which there was no demand, so that what
were caught were used for manure. Mr. Hinkston, of Mevagissey, inclosed at one time in a seine-
net one thousand at one time. They were at first thought to be mackerel, but, proving to be
Gar-fish, the seine-net was opened and they were allowed to escape. That number would now
commaiid the sum of 90. In by-gone days they were not esteemed by the Cornish people as an
article of food, but are now eaten with the greatest avidity."

The peculiar green color of the bones is said to prejudice many people against them. I have
myself tasted the American Gar-fish and found it exceedingly palatable; and I cannot doubt that
at some future time they will be highly prized by our people, as they richly deserve to be.

A species commonly known as the "Needle fish," Tylostirug exilis, exists on the California coast.
It reaches a length of about two and a half feet and a weight of little more than two pounds. It
is found from Santa Barbara southward, and is rather common in the bays, its habits being similar
to those of the Atlantic Gar-fish. It spawns in August. It feeds upon anchovies and similar fishes.
It is a food-fish of good quality, but is not sufficiently common to be of much economic importance.



This group is represented on the Atlantic coast by several species, the most abundant being
probably the common Exoccetus Rondeletii. They are usually seen quite a distance out at sea,
and sometimes fly on board of passing vessels. They are considered excellent food, but are so
rarely taken as to require no notice here.

Professor Jordan says: "The California Flying- fish, Exocatus calif ornientu, known to the


Italians and Spaniards of the Pacific coast as the < Volator,' reaches a length of eighteen inches
and a weight of one and a half pounds, being one of the largest of the Flying-fishes. It is found
only about Santa Barbara and the Coronados Islands, where it is excessively abundant in the
summer, appearing in June and disappearing probably in September. This fish flies for a distance
sometimes of nearly a quarter of a mile, usually not rising more than three or four feet. Its
motions in the water are extremely rapid, and its motive power is certainly the movement of its
powerful tail in the water. On rising from the water the movements of the tail are continued for
some seconds, until the whole body is out of the water. While the tail is in motion the pectorals
are in a state of very rapid vibration, and the ventrals are folded. When the action of the tail
ceases, the pectorals and ventrals are spread, and, as far as we can see, held at rest. When the
fish begins to fall, the tail touches the water and the motion of the pectorals recommences, and it
is enabled to resume its flight, which it finally finishes by falling into the water with a splash.
When on the wing it resembles a large dragon-fly. Th motion is very swift; at first it is in a
straight line, but this becomes deflected to a curve, the pectoral on the inner side of the arc being
bent downward. It is able to some extent to turn its course to shy off from a vessel. The motion
seems to have no reference to the direction of the wind; and we observed it best from the bow of
a steamer off Santa Catalina Island in early morning, when both air and water were free from

Two other species of Scomberesocidce occur on the Pacific coast. Hemirhamphus Rosce, J. & G.,
inhabiting San Diego and San Pedro Bays, is too small and too scarce to be of any value as a
food-fish. Scomberesox brcvirostris Peters is found from Tomales to Monterey, and is sent to
market when taken. It is, however, extremely rare and only one was seen by Jordan.


The Skipjack, although in general appearance very dissimilar to the Flying-fish, is a member
of the same family. It is quite similar in form to the silver gar-fish, Tylosurus, from which it differs
in the long beak-like jaws, slender and flexible, and in having fiulets behind the dorsal and anal
fins. In England it is known as the "Skipper," "Skopster"; also in the books as the "Saury,"
or the "Egypt Herring," and by the Scotch as the " Gawnook."

This species is probably found in all parts of the Atlantic, although it has not yet been recorded
from South America. On our coast it is abundant at times from the Gulf of Mexico to the Banks
of Newfoundland. In the Eastern Atlantic it ranges from the Loffoden Isles, latitude 69, to the
Gape of Good Hope, specimens having also been observed about Saint Helena; it does not, how-
ever, occur in the Mediterranean, where it is replaced by an allied species, Sayrus Camperii, which
is distinguished from it by the absence of the air-bladder. On the New England coast large
schools are occasionally seen in autumn, and this is the only part of our Atlantic seaboard
where they are of any special importance. Codfish feed upon them voraciously, and they are
sometimes eaten by blnefish. Storer remarks: "Large quantities are yearly thrown upon the shore
at Provincetown, but are considered worthless, while by the inhabitants of the other towns of
Cape Cod it is taken in immense numbers and considered by many of them very nutritious food."

DeKay supposed New York to be the extreme limit of the southern range of this species, hut it
has been observed at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, and at Bedford, North Carolina, by Jordan.

Neill states that it is not an uncommon fish in the Frith of Forth. Numbers run up with the
flood-tide in the autumn; they do not, like other fishes, retire from the shoals at the ebb of the
tide, but are then found by hundreds, having their long noses stuck in the slush, and are picked
up by people from Kincardine, Alloway, and other places. The fullest account of their habits
is the following, from the pen of Mr. Couch :


"The Skipper is, more strictly than the gar-pike, a migratory fish, never being seen in the
channel until the month of June, and it commonly departs before the end of autumn. It does not
swim deep in the water, and in its harmless manners resembles the flying-fish, as well as in the
persecutions it suffers from the ravenous inhabitants of the ocean. The methods it adopts to escape
from their pursuit are peculiar. It is sometimes seen to rise to the surface in large schools and fly
over a considerable space. But the most interesting spectacle, and that which best displays their
great agility, is when they are followed by a large company of porpoises, or their still more active
and oppressive enemies, the tunny and bonito. Multitudes then mount to the surface and crowd on
each other as they press forward. When still more closely pursued they spring to the height of
several feet, leap over each other in singular confusion, and again sink beneath. Still further
urged, they mount again and rush along the surface by repeated starts for more than one hundred
feet, without once dipping beneath, or scarcely seeming to touch the water. At last the pursuer
springs after them, usually across their course, and again they all disappear together. Amidst
such multitudes for more than twenty thousand have been judged to be out of the water together-
some must fall a prey to the enemy; but so many hunting in company, it must be long before the
pursuers abandon. From inspection we could scarcely judge the fish to be capable of such flights,
for the fins, though numerous, are small, and the pectoral far from large, though the angle of their
articulation is well adapted to raise the fish by the direction of their motions to the surface. Its
power of springing, therefore, must be chiefly ascribed to the tail and the flnlets. It rarely takes
bait, and when this has happened the boat has been under sail, the men fishing with a 'lash' or
slice of mackerel made to imitate the living body. The Skipper has not been commonly taken since
drift-fishermen began the practice of sinking their nets a fathom or two below the surface, a cir-
cumstance which marks the depth to which they swim; but before this it was usual to take them,
sometimes to the amount of a few hundred, at almost evey shoot of the pilchard nets."

This description of their habits is doubtless very applicable to those of the same species in
the Western Atlantic. I have frequently seen them in schools springing above the surface, but
have never had an opportunity to study their movements closely. The Skipjack probably feeds,
for the most part, on soft pelagic animals, the teeth in their jaws being very minute. Giinther
states that the young, having the beak is still undeveloped, are met with everywhere in the open
ocean, in the Atlantic as well as in the Pacific.


Species of this genus are abundant all over the world, and are particularly numerous in the
West Indies, where they are sometimes known by the Indian name " Balahoo." They are closely
related to the Skipjack, but have the upper jaw short and the lower jaw prolonged into a long,
slender beak. Our own species ranges in abundance from Gape Hatteras, through the West
Indies, to Bio Janeiro ; stragglers have been taken at Wood's Holl, Massachusetts, and a single
specimen at Danvers, Massachusetts. Stearns writes that it is a common fish along the Florida
coast, living in shoal water, and although so different in appearance is confused with the silver
gar-fish, Tyloaurit*. On some parts of the coast it remains all the year; in others, only in warm
weather. It swims in small schools, and it is probable that it spawns in the fall.



The Pike, Esox lucius, is one of the very few species of fish which is found on both sides of
the Atlantic, and is equally familiar to the inland fishermen and anglers of North America, Europe,


and Northern Asia. Notwithstanding its broad distribution in the Old World, however, the genus
Esox may be claimed by Americans as pre-eminently American, since all the known species occur
in North America, while only one of them is found in Europe. The Pike the "Hecht" of Ger-
many; the "Brochet" of France; the "Luccio," or "Luzzo," of Italy, and the "Gadda" of
Sweden is easily distinguished from the allied species in the United States by its coloration,
which is uniform brown, green, or black, with numerous elongate white blotches upon the sides.
It is further distinguished from the Muskellunge, Esox nobilior, by the fact that the cheek in front
ef the fore operculum is covered with scales, while in the latter the lower half of the cheek is
entirely naked.

It is sometimes known as the " Great Lake Pike." The name " Pickerel," which in England
is used as a diminutive, and applicable to the young Pike, has in this country been appropriated
to represent a smaller species of the same genus, Esox reticulatus, etc.; but our fishermen are not
usually so skilled in ichthyology as to be able to distinguish infallibly between a small Pike and
a large Pickerel : consequently there is frequent confusion of nomenclature, nor is this lack of
precision altogether absent from the writings of our early ichthyologists.

The earliest biography of the Pike, written with reference to its American habitat, is that of
Richardson, in the "Fauna Boreali Americana." He states that "by the Cree Indians it is called
'Eithmyoo-cannooshffioo.' As it takes a bait set under the ice more rapidly than any other fish of
the same districts, it forms an important resource to the Indian hunter in the depth of winter,
when the chase fails him. In the summer it is occasionally shot while basking in shallow waters,
but, except in very urgent cases, powder and ball are of too high value in the fur countries to be
thus expended. No quadruped, bird, or fish that the Pike can capture seems to be secure from its
voracity, and even the spring perch is an acceptable prey to this water tyrant. The Pike rarely
weighs more than twelve pounds in the northern parts of America. One specimen, taken in Lake
Huron, was submitted to Cuvier's inspection, and it has also been carefully compared with English
Pike without any specific differences having been detected." 1

Richardson further remarks that the Pike was not mentioned by Fabricius as a native of
Greenland, and has not been found on the islands of the Polar Sea. It has, however, been recently
discovered by Dr. Bean in a collection received from the island of Kodiak, Alaska.

The Pike, almost universally despised, and generally, on account of its predacious habits,
regarded by the fishermen of our Great Lakes as a pest, is in Europe considered one of the most im-
portant of game fishes. Walton devotes to it an entire chapter, concluding with directions how to
"roast him when he is caught," and declaring that "when thus prepared he is 'choicely good'
too good for any but anglers or honest men." Mr. Chalmondeley-Pennell, a well-known English
writer on angling, has published a work, of considerable size, entitled "The Book of the Pike."

HABITS OF THE PIKE IN EUROPE. So few have been the observations in this country, and so
much has Esox lucius been confused with the other species of the genus, that it seems impracticable
to compile from American authorities a satisfactory account of its life history, and in default thereof
is here presented a synopsis of what has been written concerning the habits of the species in
Europe, by Dr. L. Wittmack, director of the Agricultural Museum of Germany. It is not proba-
ble that the habits of the fish in America differ materially from those here described : still the
European investigations cannot fail to be interesting and suggestive to those who may hereafter
have the opportunity to study the fish in our own Great Lakes.

The Pike occurs from Northern Asia to North America, and from Scandinavia to Italy. It
appears, according to Kroyer, to be absent from the Spanish Peninsula. It is found in all parts of

i Fauna Boreali Americana, p. 124.


Germany, not only in the high incuntain regions, but along the sea-coast of Northern Germany,
and even close to the shores of the Baltic. The highest vertical distribution of the Pike occurs on
the northern side of tin- Alps, in Tyrol, in various lakes, from that of Tristac, 2,070 feet, to that
of Halden, 3,618 feet. On the south side of the Alps it occurs in certain lakes of the Tyrol, and
in the Lake of Reaction, 4,637 feet, which is apparently the loftiest point of its distribution. In
Switzerland, according to Tschudi, it ranges to the height of 3,398 feet."

The spawning time of the Pike, as is shown in an elaborate table presented by Wittmack,
often begins iu the latter part of February, and lasts, depending somewhat upon temperature and
the weather, into March and April, sometimes even into May. It deposits its eggs upon water-
plants, especially rushes and grasses. Examples one-third of a meter long are capable of repro-
ducing their kind.

The predacious nature of the Pike is proverbial. It eats nearly all other kinds of fishes,
sparing not even its own species, and also devours frogs, mice, rats, and even young ducks.
Although it is voracious in its attacks upon its prey, it remains generally in quiet and seems to
prefer quiet and slow-flowing waters rather than swift streams.

Wittmack gives a number of statements from authorities in different parts of Germany
showing the annual rate of growth of the Pike, which appears to vary from two to three pounds,
the maximum size attained being from forty-five to seventy pounds. lie cites one instance in
which, in two summers, a few individuals, liberated in a pond full of a species of carp, grew from
the weight of one and three-quarters to that of abont ten pounds.

BENECKE ON THE SPAWNING OF THE PIKE. The breeding habits of the Pike are still fur-
ther described as follows by Professor Benecke, of Konigsberg :

"The Pike inhabits all of our waters with the exception of shallow and rapid brooks. It
prefers clear, quiet water with. clean bottom; is usually active at night and quiet in the daytime;
lurks among plants in convenient corners, whence it rushes forth with arrow-like velocity. It lives
a hermit life, only consorting in pairs during the spawning season. The pairs of fish then resort
to shallow places upon meadows and banks which have been overflowed, and, rubbing violently
upon each other, deposit their spawn in the midst of powerful blows of their tails. The female
deposits generally about 100,000 yellowish eggs, about three millimeters iu diameter, out of which
in the course of fourteen days the young with their great umbilical sacs escape. The spawning
time occurs in Eastern Prussia in the months of February to April, and occasionally the spawning
of the first Pikes occurs before the departure of the ice. When well nourished the Pike grows
very rapidly, and in the first year often reaches the length of more than a foot, and sometimes
eventually the length of seven or eight feet. Only the young, rapidly growing Pikes are eatable,
the old ones being dry and tasteless."

PIKE IN THE GREAT LAKES. In his excursion around the Great Lakes for the purpose of
gathering fishery statistics, Mr. Kuinlien obtained the following notes upon the abundance of the

" On the western shore of Lake Michigan it appears to be resident in those portions of the
lake off Racine, and is very rarely taken in gill nets. It is. however, not known to Waukegan or
Keuosha fishermen. At the west end of Lake Erie individuals are at rare intervals taken in
pound-nets set in the deepest water. About Sandusky and vicinity, like the Muskellnnge, they
are said to be raiher rare, though a few taken in winter around Put-in Bay Island are then
regarded as residents of cold, deep water. Above Cleveland they are not known to the fishermen,
but in the vicinity of Ashtabula considerable numbers are sometimes taken in spring one or two
hundred pounds at a haul of a pound-net. On the south shore of Lake Erie very few are taken in


pounds, and it is there thought that they keep constantly in deep water and seldom approach the
shore. They are very salable and much sought after, but apparently nowhere abundant."


This fish is known in the North always by the name of "Pickerel"; in the Southern States it
is usually the "Jack." It is found chiefly in the streams along the Atlantic coast, from Maine to
Alabama, it being generally abundant, especially in clear, grassy streams and ponds. It is not
found in the Lake region, nor west of the Alleghanies. It sometimes reaches a weight of seven
or eight pounds, but is usually much smaller. As a food-fish its rank is rather high; its flesh is
white and well flavored, but is rather dry and not very tender. It is, however, a very undesirable
fish for propagation, from its inordinate voracity. They are "mere machines for the assimilation
of other organisms."


These two small Pickerel are very abundant, the former in the coastwise streams east of the
Alleghanies, the latter in the Mississippi Basin. Neither reaches a length of much over a foot.
These have, therefore, little economic value, and from their voracity are undesirable inmates of
streams and ponds.


The following facts regarding the abundance of Muskellunge, Esox nobilior, in the Great Lakes
have been ascertained by Mr. Kumlien:

Among the islands dotting the southwestern part of Lake Superior, including the Apostle
Islands, Sand, York, and Kock Islands, and others, this fish is caught in small quantities in the
pound-nets. The Muskellunge is occasionally caught in the small bays indenting the shore south
of Keweeuaw Point as far as Huron Bay, and with it a large and much lighter-colored fish that
may possibly be Esox lucius. This latter is not well known among the fishermen, but Mr. Edgertou
says he has often noticed it, and has remarked that the general aspect was different from that of
the Muskellunge. On the fishing grounds at the north end of Green Bay this is a rare fish, only
half a dozen or so being taken each year. When it occurs it is found at any and at no particular
point. Not a single specimen of this fish was taken by Mr. Nelson in ten years' fishing in the
Cedar River district, and Mr. Everland in thirty-six years has not taken half a dozen. They are
reported of occasional occurrence in the Menomonee River, but are not found in deep nets far out
in the bay.

Lower down on the west coast of Green Bay, from Longtail Point to Peshtego Point, this fish
occurs everywhere, but nowhere in abundance. A specimen was taken at Washington Island in
1866 that weighed forty-four pounds. The fishermen of this stretch of coast-line pronounce it
Musk-ka-long. At Green Bay City this fish is caught frequently weighing forty pounds. It is
common at this point, i. e. the southern end of Green Bay. Ascending the eastern shore of Green
Bay as far as Saint Martin's Island the Muskellunge is very rare, beiug known by name only to
a great many of the fishermen. Following the western shore of Lake Michigan southward from
Porte des Mortes on the north as far south as Manitowoc this fish is rare. At Jacksonport two
have been taken in seven years. At Two Rivers only one has ever been recorded, viz., in 1878.
At Manitowoc it is less scarce, being caught sometimes in pound-nets and more frequently in the
river. At Milwaukee the Muskellunge occurs in the lake but rarely ; it is never caught in gill-
nets. In 1868 Mr. Schultz took one in a small seine, in the old harbor, weighing one hundred
pounds. This is believed by Mr. Kumlien to be a fact, having been testified to, as he says, "by so
many reliable persons." He adds: "Formerly, fish of this kind weighing eighty pounds were far
from rare."

TIIK MI sKKi.i.rNr.K ix i. A Ki: HI I;ON. 465

On the !)th of April a lisli of this speeies four left in length \va* taken at Racine; head to
opeiviilum. ten indies; to eye, tour inches; greatest circumference, twenty :m<l one half inehea;
over eye, eighteen indies; at gills, eighteen inches; weight, forty five pounds. These fish are
III-M-I- here taken in the gill-nets; they are resi, -cut in the lake about Kadne in winter. A very f.-w
have been known to occur at Waukegaii. On tbe south, astern shore of Lake Michigan, including
the lisheries of Saiigatuck. South Haven, and Saint Joseph, this tish is reported as always being
of a large si/e. At I.udinglon, farther north, only one instance of capture is on record; it is also
said to lie \vry rare at (Hand IIa\en.

r.ut little has been reported regarding the occurrence of the Muskelluuge upon the numerous
fishing grounds along the north shore of the southern peninsula, of Michigan between Little
Tra \er.se r,a\ and Thunder Bay. It is generally rare through the Straits of Mackinaw,
only about half a dozen being taken each season; and most abundant of all at Les Cheucaux
Islands. Captain Coats caught one here, in 1874, weighing sixty-two pounds. These tish are
rarely taken in pound-nets, and are chiefly caught with hook and line about the LesCheneaux and
Driiinmond Islands. Captain Dingman has caught only one in his pound- net in the past fifteen
years. All caught, of which he has heard, have been large. In Thunder Bay about a dozen, oil
an average, are taken in twelve months. In Sagiiiaw Bay they are taken in about the same num-
bers as in Thunder Bay. Here too they are always large fish. A few are taken iu seines along the
coast between Port aux Barques and Port Huron. A few also are taken annually in the Saint Clair
Ii'iver; perhaps a dozen or two altogether in this region during a year. Between Toledo and
Detroit River, Lake Krie, a specimen of this fish is taken now and then in the pound nets. When
taken, it is al \\ ays large. The same remark will apply to the vicinity of Toledo and Maumee Bay. 1

MUSKELLUNGE IN LAKE ERIE. About Locust Point a few are taken in the fall. Twenty

Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 79 of 146)