G. Brown (George Brown) Goode.

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length of about a foot. It is found for the entire length of the coast, being exceedingly abundant
northward. All the bay sand outlets of Pnget Sound are filled with them in the summer. South
of Point Concepcion they are seldom seen except in winter. At San Diego they spawn in the bay
in January. Farther north their spawning season comes later. They are so abundant in Sau
Francisco Bay in the spring that eighty pounds can often be bought for twenty cents. They are
fattest and bring the best price in early winter. The Herrings are smoked and dried, or salted, or


sent fresh to tbo markets. Sometimes herring oil is azpTCHcd from them. The priucipnl herring-
euring establishment is at Port Madison, on Puget Sound.''


"This species," writes Professor Jordan, "is everywhere known as the Sardine, or by tlte
Italians as 'Sardina.' It is, in faet, almost exactly identical with the Sardine of Europe. It
readies a length of a little less than a foot. It ranges from Cape Mendocino to Chili, and is
extremely abundant southward, especially in the winter, when it fills all the. bays. In the
slimmer it is generally scarce southward, although still taken northward. The young are,
however, seen in San Diego in the summer. It is probably to some extent migratory along the
enast, but as little attention is paid to it, no definite data can be given. It is brought into the
markets when taken, and is sold with the Herring. The question of the possibility of canning it
in oil, like the Sardine, hns been considerably discussed. It would probably prove unprofitable,
from the high price of labor and the uncertain supply of fish."


NAMES. The Menhaden has at least thirty popular names, most of them limited in their use
within narrow geographical boundaries. To this circumstance may be attributed the prevailing
ignorance regarding its habits and migrations, among our fishermen, which has perhaps pre-
vented the more extensive utilization of this fish, particularly in the South.

North of Cape Cod the name "Pogy" is almost universally in use, while in Southern New
England the fish is known only as the " Menhaden." These two names are derived from two
Indian words of the same meaning; the first being the Abnaki name " Pookagan," or "Pog-
haden," which means " fertilizer," while the latter is the mollification of a word which in the
Nanagausett dialect meant " that which enriches the earth." About Cape Ann, ' Pogy " is par-
tially replaced by " Hard-head," or " Uard head Shad," and in Eastern Connecticut by "Bony
Fish." In Western Connecticut the species is usually known as the " White-fish," while in New
York the usage of two centuries is in favor of " Mossbunker." This name is a relic of the Dutch
colony of New Amsterdam, having evidently been transferred from the " Scad," or " Ilorso
Mackerel," Trachurus lacerta, a fish which visits the shores of Northern Europe in immense schools,
swimming at the surface in much the same manner as our Menhaden, and known to the Hol-
landers as- the " Alarshbauker." New Jersey uses the New York name with its local variations,
.-in h as "Bunker" and "Marshbanker." In Delaware Bay, the Potomac, and the Chesapeake, we
meet with the "Alewife," " Bay Alewife," " Pilcher" (Pilchard), and " Green-tail." Virginia gives
us " Bug-fish," " Bug-head," and " Bug-shad," referring to the parasitic crustacean found in the
mouths of all Southern Menhaden. In North Carolina occurs the name "Fat-back," which
prevails as far south as Florida, and refers to the oiliness of the flesh. In this vicinity, too,
the. names "Yellow-tail" and "Yellow-tailed Shad" are occasionally heard, while in Southern
Florida the fish is called " Shiner" and " Herring." In South America, among the Portuguese,
the name "Savega" is in use. On the Saint John's River, and wherever northern fishermen are
found, < Menhaden" is preferred, and it is to be hoped that this name will in time be generally
adopted. A number of trade names are employed by the manufacturers in New Jersey who can
this fish for food; these are "American Sardine," "American Club-fish," " Shadine," and "Ocean

lu 1815 the species was described by Mitchill. of New York, under the name Clupea menhaden,

' For a fuller account of this tish, sec an elaborate memoir iu ]>art v of (be Kojiort of the Coiumiwiouer of Fisheries.


which has since been commonly accepted. A prior description by Latrobe, in 1802, long lost
sight of, renders it necessary, as I have, elsewhere demonstrated, to adopt the specific name
tyraitHKH. The genus Brevoortia, of which this species is the type, was established by Gill in 1801.

DISTRIBUTION. The geographical range of Brevoortia tyrannus varies from year to year. In
1877 it was, so far as it is definable in words, as follows: The wanderings of the species are bounded
by the parallels of north latitude 25 and 45; oil the continental side by the line of brackish
water; on the east by the inner boundary of the Gulf Stream. In the summer it occurs in the
coastal waters of all the Atlantic States from Maine to Florida, in winter only south of Cape
Hatteras. The limits of its winter migration oceanwards cannot be defined, though it is demon-
strated (hat the species does not occur about the Bermudas or Cuba, nor presumably in the Ca-
libbean Sea. In Brazilian waters occurs a geographical race of the same species, Brevoorlia
tyranuus, subspecies aurea (the Clupanodon aureus of Agassiz and Spix) ; on the coast of Paraguay
and Patagonia by Brevoortia pectinata ; in the Gnlf of Mexico by Brevoortia patron nx.

MOVEMENTS. With the advance of spring Menhaden appear near our coasts in company with,
and usually slightly in advance of, the other non-resident species, such as as the Shad, Alewife,
Bluefish, and Squeteague. The following general conclusions regarding their movements are
deduced from the statements of about two hundred observers at different points on the coasts from
Florida to Nova Scotia.

A t the approach of settled warm weather they make their appearance in the inshore waters.
It is manifestly impracticable to indicate the periods of their movements except in an approximate
way. The comparison of two localities distant apart one or two hundred miles will indicate very
little. When wider ranges are compared there becomes perceptible a certain proportion in the
relations of the general averages. There is always a balance in favor of earlier arrivals in the more
southern localities; thus it becomes apparent that the first schools appear in Chesapeake Bay in
March and April ; on the coast of New Jersey in April and early May ;' on the south coast of New
England in late April and May; off Cape Ann about the middle of May, and in the Gulf of Maine
in the latter part of May and the first of June. Returning, they leave Maine late in September
or in October; Massachusetts in October, November, and December, the latest departures being
those of fish which have been detained in the narrow bays and creeks; Long Island Sound and
vicinity in November and December; Chesapeake Bay in December, and Cape Hatteras in
January. Farther to the south they appear to remain more or less constantly throughout the year.

It is a strange fact that their northern range has become considerably restricted within the
past twenty-five years. Perley, writing in 1852, stated that they were sometimes caught in con-
siderable numbers about Saint John's, New Brunswick, and there is abundance of other testimony
to the fact that they formerly frequented the Bay of Fundy in its lower parts; at present the east-
ward wanderings of the schools do not extend beyond Isle an Ilaut and Great Duck Island, about
forty miles west of the boundaries of Maine and New Brunswick. They have not been known to
pass these limits for ten or fifteen years. They have this year hardly passed north of Cape Cod,
and forty or more steamers, which have usually reaped an extensive harvest on the coast of
Maine, have been obliged to return to the fishing grounds of Southern New England, where Men-
haden are found as abundantly as ever.

I have elsewhere shown the arrival of the Menhaden schools to be closely synchronous with
the period at which the weekly average of the surface temperatures of the harbors rises to 51 F.,
that they do not enter waters in which, as about Eastport, Maine, the midsummer surface tem-

'Tlio linit catch of Menhaden by the fleet in 1881 was off Long Branch, May 6, when Gallup & Holmes' steamer
took i-iulit hundred liiiNhelg.


pcratures, as indicated by inoiitlily averages, fall h-li\v r>l F., and that their departure in the
autumn is closely connected \\itli tin- fall of the t hermonieter to . r >l F. and below. In 1877 a cold
summer seemed to threaten the success of the Maine Menhaden fisheries. In September and
Oetolier. lm\\e\er. the tcmpci atures were higher than in the eon esponding months of the previous
\ear. and the .-carcity of the early part of the season was amply amended for.

The season of 1S7S in Maine was fairly successful, the three summer months being warmer
than in 1877, but cooler than in 1S7<1. The absence of the Menhaden schools north of Gape Cod
in ISTii is also easily explained b.v the study of temperatures of the water of the Gulf of Maine, as
indicated b.v the observations made ill Portland Harbor. The averages for the three summer
months are as follows, the numerator of the fraction being the average surface temperature, the
denominator that of the bottom: 1876, 62O.5-57<>.9; 1877, 5o.6-56o.7; 1878, 01.5-58o.l ; 1870,
5i;o. 1-540.0.

The average for the three summer months of 1879 is less than that of June, 1876.

This may perhaps be explained by a study of ocean temperatures. In August, 1878, there
\vas a very rapid fall in the temperature of the surface in the Gulf of Maine, so that the average
temperature of that month was less than that of July, instead of being higher, as is usual. This
may have had the eft'ect of driving the tish into the warmer water of the bays and estuaries. The
monthly averages for 1870, 1877, 1878, and 1879 are as follows:

1876 June, 560.9-54; July, 66.7-S9o.4; August, 63o.fl-G<>.4.
1877 June, 54o.9-53.3; July, 58.l-56o.3; August, 62.4-6l)o.6.-
1878 June, 56.8-550.2; July, 66.9-59.3; August, 60O.7-59Q.9.
1879 June, 520.9-510.7; July, 550.9-54Q.1; August, 590.6-58.

The arrival of the Menhaden is announced by their appearance at the top of the water. They
swim in immense schools, their heads close to the surface, packed side by side, and often tier
above tier, almost as closely as sardines in a box. A gentle ripple indicates their position, and
this maybe seen at a distance of nearly a mile by the lookout at the masthead of a fishing vessel,
and is of great assistance to the seiners in setting their nets. At the slightest alarm the school
sinks toward the bottom, often escaping its pursuers. Sailing over a body of Menhaden swimming
at a short distance below the surface, one may see their glittering backs beneath, and the boat
eems to be gliding over a floor inlaid with blocks of silver. At night they are phosphorescent.
Their motions seem capricious and without a definite purpose; at times they swim around and
around in circles; at other limes they sink and rise. While they remain thus at the surface, after
the appearance of a vanguard they rapidly increase in abundance until the sea appears to be, alive
with them. They delight to play in inlets and bays, such as the Chesapeake. Peconic, and Narra-
gansett Bays, and the narrow fiords of Maine. They seem particularly fond of shallow waters
protected from the wind, in which, if not molested, they will remain throughout the season,
drifting, in and out with the tide. Brackish water attracts them, and they abound at the mouth
of streams, especially on the Southern coast. They ascend the Saint John's River more than
thirty miles; the Saint Mary's, the Neuse, the York, the liappaliannock, the Potomac nearly to
M ashington, and the Pawtuxeut to Marl borough. They come, in with or before the Shad, and are
very troublesome to the fishermen by clogging their nets. I am not aware that this difficulty
occurs in Northern rivers, though they are found in the summer in the Hudson and its tributaries,
the Ilousatonic, Mystic, Thames, and Providence Rivers, in the creeks of Cape Cod, and at the
mouth of the Merrimack. A curious instance oi capriciousncss in the movements occurred on the
<x>ast of Maine, where much alarm was felt, because their habits were thought to have been


changed through the influence of seining. The shore fishermen could obtain none for bait, and
vessels followed them far out to sea, capturing them in immense quantities forty miles from land.
The fisheries had produced no such effect south of Cape Cod, and it was quite inexplicable that
their habits should have been so modified in the north. In 1878, however, after ten years or more,
they resumed their former habits of hugging the shores, and the Menhaden fishery of Maine was
carried on, for the most part, in the rivers.

Why the schools swim at the surface so conspicuous a prey to men, birds, and other fishes is
not known. It does not appear to be for the purpose of feeding; perhaps the fisherman is right
when he declares that they are playing.

An old mackerel fisherman thus describes the difference in the habits of the mackerel and
Menhaden: "Fogies school differently from mackerel; the Pogy slaps with his tail, and in
moderate weather you can hear the sound of a school of them, as first one and then another
strikes the water. The mackerel go along 'gilling,' that is, putting the sides of their heads out
of the water as they swim. The Fogies make a flapping sound; the mackerel a rushing sound.
Sometimes in calm and foggy weather you cau hear a school of mackerel miles away." They do
not attract small birds as do the schools of predaceous fish. The fish-hawk often hovers above
them, and some of the larger gulls occasionally follow them in quest of a meal. About Cape Cod
one of the gulls, perhaps Lams argentatus, is called "Fogy Gull."

On warm, still, sunny days the fish may always be seen 'at the surface, but cold or rainy
weather and prevailing northerly or easterly winds quickly cause them to disappear. When it is
rough they are not so often seen, though schools of them frequently appear when the sea is too
high for fishermen to set their nets. The best days for menhaden-fishing are when the wind is
northwesterly in the morning, dying out in the middle of the day, and springing up again in the
afternoon from the southwest, with a clear sky. At the change of the wind on such a day they
come to the surface in large numbers.

A comparison of the effect of the weather upon the Menhaden and the Herring yields some
curious results. The latter is a cold-water species. With the advance of summer it seeks the
north, returning to our waters with the approach of cold. The Menhaden prefers the temperature
of 00 F. or more; the Herring, 55 F. and less. When the Menhaden desert the Gulf of Maine
they are replaced by the Herring. Cold weather drives the former to the warmer strata, while it
brings the latter to the surface. The conditions most favorable on our coast for the appearance of
Herring on the surface, and which correspond precisely with those which have been made out for
the coast of Europe, are least so for the Menhaden.

Their winter habitat, like that of the other cold-water absentees, has never been determined.
The most plausible hypothesis supposes that instead of migrating towards the tropics or hiber-
nating near the shore, as has been claimed by many, they swim out to sea until they find a
stratum of water corresponding to that frequented by them during their summer sojourn on the

This is rendered probable by the following considerations: 1. That the number of Menhaden in
southern waters is not diminished in seasons of their abundance on the northern coast, nor increased
in those of their absence from the latter region. 2. That there are local varieties of the species, dis-
tinguished by physical characters almost of specific value, by differences in habits, and in the case
of the southern schools by the universal presence in the mouth of a crustacean parasite, which is
never found in the specimens caught north of Cape May. 3. That the same schools usually reap-
pear in the same waters in successive years. 4. That their very 'prompt arrival in the spring
suggests their presence in waters near ut hand. 5. That their leanness when they first appear


renders it evident that they have had no food since leaving the coast in autumn. The latter con-
sideration, since they are bottom feeders, is the strongest confirmation of the belief that their win-
ter home is in the midoceanic substrata.

AIIUNDANCE. As is indicated by the testimony of many observers, whose statements are else-
where reviewed at length, the Menhaden is by far the most abundant species of fish on the eastern
coast of the I'nited Slates. Several hundred thousand are frequently taken in a single draft of a
purse-seine. A linn in Milford, Connecticut, captured, in 1870, 8,800,000; in 1871, 8,000,000; in
187:2, 10,000,000; in 1873, 12,000,000. In 1877, three sloops from New London seined 13,000,000.
In 1S77, an unprofitable year, the Pemaquid Oil Company took 20,000,000, and the town of Booth
Bay alone r0,UOO,000. There is no evidence whatever of any decrease in their numbers, though
there can be in the nature of the case absolutely no data for comparison of their abundance in
successive years. Since spawning Menhaden are never taken in the nets, no one can reasonably
predict a decrease in the future.

FOOD. The nature of their food has been closely investigated. Hundreds of specimens
have been dissected, and every stomach examined by me has been found full of dark greenish or
brownish mud or silt, such as occurs near the months of rivers and on the bottoms of still bays
and estuaries. When this mud is allowed to stand for a time in clear water, this becomes slightly
tinged with green, indicating the presence of chlorophyl, perhaps derived from the algse, so
common on muddy bottoms. In addition to particles of fine mud the microscope reveals a few
common forms of diatoms.

There are no teeth in the mouth of the Menhaden, their place being supplied by about fifteen
hundred thread-like bristles, from one-third to three-quarters of an inch long, which are attached
to the gill-arches, and may be so adjusted as to form a very effective strainer. The stomach is
globular, pear-shaped, with thick, muscular walls, resembling the gizzard of a fowl, while the
length of the coiled intestine is five or six times that of the body of the fish. The plain inference
from these facts, taken in connection with what is known of the habits of the Menhaden, seems to
bo that their food consists in large part of the sediment, containing much organic matter, which
gathers upon the bottoms of still, protected bays, and also of the vegetation that grows in such
localities. They also, as was demonstrated by Mr. Rathbun in 1880, feed very extensively upon
the minute crustaceans, Copepoda, etc., which are found in great quantities swimming near the sur-
face in the summer months all along our coast.

Their rapid increase in size and fatness, which commences as soon as they approach our
shores, indicates that they find an abundant supply of some kind of food. The oil manufacturers
report that in the spring a barrel of fish often yields less than three quarts of oil, while late in the
fall it is not uncommon to obtain five or six gallons.

REPRODUCTION. There is a mystery about their breeding. Thousands of specimens have been
dissected since 1871 without the discovery of mature ova. In early summer the genitalia are quite
undeveloped, but as the season advances they slowly increase in size and vascularity. Among the
October tish a few ovaries were noticed in which the eggs could be seen with the naked eye A
school of large fish driven ashore in November, in Delaware Bay, by the bluefish, contained spawn
nearly ripe, and others taken at Christmas time, in Provincetown Harbor, evidently stragglers acci-
dentally delayed, contained eggs quite mature. Young Menhaden from one to three inches in
length and upward are common in summer south of New York, and those of live to eight inches
in late .summer and autumn in the southern part of New Kngland. These are in schools, and make
their appearance suddenly from the open ocean like the adult fish. Menhaden have never been
observed spawning on the Southern coast, and the egg-bearing individuals when observed are


always heading out to sea. Those considerations appear to warrant the theory that their breeding-
grounds are on the off-shore shoals which skirt the coast from George's Banks to the Florida Keys.
There are indications, too, that a small school of Menhaden possibly spawn at the east end of
Long Island in the very early spring.

The fecundity of the Menhaden is very great, much surpassing that of the Shad and Herring.
The ovaries of a fish taken in Narragansett Bay, November 1, 1879, contained at least 150,000 eggs.

ENEMIES. Among its enemies may be counted every predaceous animal which swims in
the same waters. Whales and dolphins follow the schools and consume them by the hogshead.
Sharks of all kinds prey upon them largely; one hundred have been taken from the stomach of
one shark. All the large carnivorous fishes feed upon them. The tunny is the most destructive.
"I have often," writes a gentleman in Maine, "watched their antics from the masthead of my
vessel rushing and thrashing like demons among a school offish; darting with almost lightning
swiftness, scattering them in every direction, and throwing hundreds of them in the air with their
tails." The pollock, the whiting, the striped bass, the cod, the squeteague, and the gar-fish are
savage foes. The sword-fish and the bayonet-fish destroy many, rushing through the schools and
striking right and left with their powerful swords. The bluettsh and bouito are, however, the
most destructive enemies, not even excepting man; these corsairs of the sea, not content with
what they eat, which is of itself an enormous quantity, rush ravenously through the closely crowded
schools, cutting and tearing the living fish as they go, and leaving in their wake the mangled
fragments. Traces of their carnage remain for weeks in the great ''slicks" of oil so commonly
seen on smooth water hi summer. Professor Baird, in his well-known and often-quoted estimates
of food annually consumed by the bluefish, states that probably ten thousand million fish, or twenty-
five million pounds, daily, or twelve hundred million million fish and three hundred thousand
million pounds are much below the real figures. This estimate is for the period of four months
in the middle of the summer and fall, and for the coast of New England only.

Such estimates are professedly only approximations, but are legitimate in their way, since
they enable us to appreciate more clearly the luxuriance of marine life. Applying similar methods
of calculation to the Menhaden, I estimate the total number destroyed annually on our coast by
predaceous animals at a million million of millions; in comparison with which the quantities
destroyed by man, yearly, sink into insignificance.

It is not hard to surmise the Menhaden's place iu nature; swarming our waters in countless
myriads, swimming in closely packed, unwieldy masses, helpless as flocks of sheep, near to the
surface and at the mercy of every enemy, destitute of means of defense and offense, their mission
is unmistakably to be eaten.

In the economy of nature certain orders of terrestrial animals, feeding entirely upon vegetable
substances, seein intended for one purpose to elaborate simple materials into the nitrogenous
tissues necessary for the food of other animals, which are wholly or in part carnivorous in their
diet; so the Menhaden feeding upon otherwise unutilized organic matter is pre-eminently a meat-
producing agent. Man takes from the water every jear eight or nine hundred millions of these
fish, weighing from two hundred to three hundred thousand tons, but his indebtedness does not
end here ; when he brings upon his table bluefish, bonitoes, weak-fish, sword-fish, or bass, he has

Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 97 of 146)