Game and Forests New York (State). Commissioners of Fisheries.

Annual report of the Commissioners of Fisheries, Game and Forests of the ... online

. (page 3 of 38)
Online LibraryGame and Forests New York (State). Commissioners of FisheriesAnnual report of the Commissioners of Fisheries, Game and Forests of the ... → online text (page 3 of 38)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

greater than in the case of planting fry ; others that the trout accustomed to liver
would not adapt themselves to other food. I promised to give some facts and figures
relating to the expense of rearing trout to the age of one year at the Northville
Station. It must be borne in mind that the food used at this station for feeding fry is
wholly beef's liver bought from the slaughter-houses in Detroit, and shipped by
express to Northville. For the years 1890 and 1891 we reared and distributed 250,000
yearlings, about one-half of them being lake trout and requiring at least one-half more
food than brook, Von Behr (this is the brown trout), or Loch Leven trout. The cost of
the food for this lot of fish was $740, making the cost per thousand $2.95. The cost
for labor, based on actual trial, was $600, or $2.40 per thousand. In addition to this
amount there should be added $3 per thousand for expressage, draying and superin-
tendence, making a total cost, when ready for distribution, of $8.35 per thousand, or
less than one cent for yearling fish ; and with facilities for rearing four times as many,
the cost as to labor would be much less per thousand.

" Not only are the arguments from figures strongly in favor of yearling plantings,
but those drawn from well-known facts also speak with no uncertain sound ; for
instance, the condition of fry when planted is such that they must have food at once
or they perish ; while on the other hand, the yearlings are in a condition to go with-
out food for a considerable length of time. Also one of the greatest losses suffered in
planting fry is their being devoured by larger fish, which loss in planting yearlings we
do not find as great. To test this difference I placed 100 fry in a tank eight feet long,
two feet deep, and eighteen inches wide, containing twelve yearlings. In another tank
of same dimensions, I placed twelve yearlings with six three-year-old trout ; this, for
the purpose of noting how soon each would disappear as prey. The fry were all
gone in six hours, while in the tank where yearlings were with three-year-olds,
only two were gone the second day. Remember, please, that our argument rests
upon actual experience and not theory."

Another argument against yearlings is that they do not bear transportation as well
as fry ; but Mr. Clark demonstrates that in the transportation of 80,000 yearlings the
loss was about two per cent., and that over fifty per cent, of the loss was owing to an
accident which ordinarily would not occur. Last October this Commission planted in

Digitized by



State waters two carloads of fingerling land-locked salmon, contributed by the United
States Fish Commission, without losing a fish, except such as were caught in the
dippers when the men were working the cans in the night. Both carloads were on
the road over 48 hours.

Almost since the date of the creation of the New York Fish Commission, in 1868,
it has been dependent in great degree upon the waters of the Great Lakes for a supply
of lake trout and other fish eggs. In recent years the supply of eggs from this source
has been growing gradually less, and it is a matter of serious consideration where we
shall look for a supply of eggs of the food or commercial fishes. With our increasing
population and the growing interest taken in the hook-and-line fishes, it is also a
serious matter to obtain a sufficient quantity of the eggs of such fishes to supply the
demand for young fish for distribution in State waters. The demand each year is
several times greater than the supply. The hatcheries of the State have at best but
limited facilities for keeping stock fish ; and the building of stock ponds, and the food
and labor required to maintain the stock fish in them amounts to a considerable sum
each year. This will be augmented when the proposed rearing ponds for fry are con-
structed, and we must look elsewhere for a considerable part of the eggs to keep the
hatcheries in operation up to their capacity.

We would recommend as a public necessity that two bodies of water in the Adiron-
dack region, to be selected by the Commission, be set aside by law to be controlled
by the Commission and used as stock waters to supply eggs of lake trout and other
fish for public waters of the State. For this purpose the waters would be thoroughly
stocked with the species of fish most in demand and maintained as natural stock
ponds. It would not be necessary to erect hatcheries on the shores of these stock
waters or disfigure them in any way, as the eggs would be taken at the spawning
season and conveyed to State hatcheries for development.

It is the desire of the Commission to greatly increase the output of commercial or
so-called food fishes. Last year the Commission planted 41,205,0x50 pike-perch fry
(also called wall-eyed pike), one of the best of table fishes, and hook-and-line fish as
well; 24,080,000 white fish, and 18,000,000 ciscoes. These are the very choicest
of food fishes, but- the annual output should be doubled or trebled, and we would
recommend a special appropriation of $25,000 to be used for the purchase of suitable
lands (and water, if necessary), and to erect buildings in such place or places as may
be selected by the Commission for the propagation of pike-perch, white fish, ciscoes,
black bass, etc.

The initial experiments conducted last year in hatching black bass artificially, con-
vinced the Commissioners that it may be quite possible to hatch black bass in large
quantities and thus supply the demand for this excellent fish, which each year is far in

Digitized by



excess of the number to be obtained by the Commission. The spring spawning fishes,
and some of those spawning in the fall, should be planted in the fry stage of their
existence, as it is not practicable at this time to attempt to rear them to yearlings,
except, perhaps, in the case of shad; and where i,ooo are now planted, 100,000 should
be planted to make them sufficiently abundant to be within the means of every one in
the State to obtain.

It is our wish and our duty to so manage the affairs of the Commission as to
produce the best edible fishes in abundance and cheapen this important food product.

Heretofore the Commission has been hampered by lack of facilities to bring about
this desired result, but with such a plant as is here recommended, the Commission
should, and doubtless will, be able to increase the commercial fishes of the State in a
manner commensurate with the demands of the people.

We feel that we must utter a word of caution to those who apply for fish, particu-
larly for the different species of trout, other than lake trout, and for black bass. The
annual applications call for more of these fish than it is possible to supply under the
most favorable conditions. Applications are made for 25,000 trout, when the water
named may not support more than 5,000. The question of food for the fish seems not
to be considered, and really it is of vital importance. Without food in abundance fish
will not thrive any more than farm stock. Last year the applications for black bass
amounted in the aggregate to several millions, while the State, by strenuous effort,
was able to obtain less than 20,000, and some of them had to be purchased. One
application called for one million black bass for Lake Ontario, when we were looking
to this lake to furnish a small number of black bass for other waters. During thirteen
years of the life of the New York Fish Commission a total of 8,043 small-mouthed,
and 4,821 large-mouthed bass were distributed, or a grand total of 12;864, ^"d from
this it will be seen how idle it is to ask for black bass in million lots.

A dozen adult black bass thoroughly protected will do wonders in the way of
stocking a pond.

A trout stream can be more certainly stocked by planting 5,000 fry annually in
the headwater rivulets of the stream than by turning in 25,000 in one year and leaving
it to fate. If there is no food for the fish in the stream planted, it is simply a waste
of fish to plant them. We have just received a letter on the subject, from which we
make an extract.

A good trout stream in this State seemed to lack fish food, and it was suggested
to a resident at its headwaters to plant shrimps for food. He not only planted the
shrimps, obtaiaed from the Caledonia Station, but procured a lot of trout eggs from
the United States Fish Commissicui and hatched and planted them. A small pond
was built on a tributary stream and in it the fry were placed and reared until they

Digitized by



were fingerlings, when allowed to run down into the main stream. The letter says :
** Our river holds out wonderfully well, and the trout are fat, showing plenty of food.
I think the shrimps I put in account for the condition of the trout. I do not know
anything about the shrimps in the river, but do know that since they were planted the
trout have grown noticeably fatter. I do know, however, that the shrimps that I put
in the little pond multiplied wonderfully. For once when I drew it down the bottom
was fairly alive with them, and I have no doubt but there are millions upon millions
in the river. I think that the question of food supply for the fish in our streams and
ponds is of the utmost importance, and I also know that the fry we hatched and fed
in our pond for weeks after the sac was absorbed were worth very much more for
stocking. In fact, planting fry as soon as the sac is absorbed is largely a waste of
eflfort, judging from my own experience."

It may be well to refer to the standing of the State of New York, based upon
the value of its food product derived from commercial fisheries. A statistical
report on the fisheries of the United States, by Dr. Hugh M. Smith, of the
United States Commission, in 1893, places New York third of all the States in
the Union in the value of the product from its fisheries, Massachusetts being first
and Maryland second.

The value of the annual catch in New York waters was $5,04i,cxx), and the capital
invested, $5,981,000. As late as May, 1895, Dr. Smith made another statistical
report on the fisheries of the Middle Atlantic States, New York standing second in
the value of its fisheries, and in 1891, of shad alone 3,044,956 pounds were taken,
valued at $161,209, which was less than the catch of 1889, but unforeseen causes of
temperature, freshets, etc., operate to produce fluctuations in the catch, in spite of the
best efforts of man to the contrary.

If New York is to keep her place as second of the Middle Atlantic States, and
third of the States in the Union, in the value of her fishing products, her fish cultural
efforts must be assisted by liberal appropriations and necessary laws to maintain this
proud position.

New York with its area of 49,170 square miles, with jurisdiction over 1,550 square
miles of water, has but thirty-five men to protect its interests in the fish, game and
forests, a number entirely inadequate for the task set before them. Within the past year
the State has added to its great public park in the Adirondacks, by purchase, about
1 10,000 acres of land, mostly virgin forest. This great tract of land and water has
for years been thoroughly protected by its former owner as a private preserve, and
in all probability, now that it is thrown open to the public, it will afford the best
fishing and shooting in the State. We would recommend that additional fish, game
and forest protectors be provided by law, that the newly acquired territory, and other

Digitized by



territory requiring better surpervision, may be more thoroughly guarded and protected,
as otherwise the best efforts of the Commissioners will fail of what is demanded of them.

Last June the largest hatching station in the State, situated on Caledonia creek,
in Monroe county, experienced what can only be called a visitation of Providence.
Spring creek, as it is locally known, has its source in a number of large springs in
Livingston county, which form a mill pond not controlled by the State. The extreme
heat and drouth which visited that region in early summer caused the springs to dry
up in a degree ; the pond filled slowly, and the rank water vegetation created a water
mold or fungus which, when the pond was opened, came down the creek working
destruction to the fish-life in its path. All the young fish, and most of the stock fish,
at the hatchery below, were killed, as the poisoned water reached them. Every effort
was made to counteract the evil, but without avail. Except for a temporary embar-
rassment at the hatchery, and, perhaps, a decrease the coming year in the number of
young fish that will be furnished from the station for planting in other waters, the loss
was a blessing in disguise. From the fact that the different species of stock fish have
been crossed and recrossed in years past hybridism was the rule, and pure bred fish
the exception in the stock ponds. The loss has been made good in part with young,
vigorous, pure bred fish, and all the stock ponds will soon contain their full quota of
breeding fish of pure lineage, better adapted for producing fry and yearlings for planting
than fish with a taint of hybridism.

At the Caledonia Station we have commenced to make a collection of the fishes of
the State, native and introduced, and will preserve them in jars, showing their natural
coloring, for the purpose of inspection and identification.

The matter of food for our commercial fishes is something that demands most
earnest consideration. We know little or nothing about the food upon which some of
our fishes subsist, except, perhaps, in a general way ; but we do know that without an
abundance of proper fish food we cannot hope to propagate food fishes successfully.
Doubtless there are waters lacking only this indispensable factor to make them fish
producing, and, so far as practicable, we wish food planting to go hand in hand with
fish planting. Before this can be done systematically and intelligently, a scientific
inquiry should be inaugurated to obtain definite knowledge concerning the fauna of
our large lakes and streams. We know all about the food of trout, knew about it
before we hatched trout ; but we know very little, positively, about the food of white
fish in its younger stages, and it is a subject that will bear investigation most thor-
oughly when we consider the monetary and food value of our commercial fisheries to
the State.

The language of the various sections of the Game Law relating to the use of nets
in different waters is loosely worded. In one section the size of mesh is described by

Digitized by



length of bar, in another as ** suitable meshes,** and in others the size of the mesh is
not mentioned. We would recommend that the size of the mesh be explicitly stated
where nets are permitted to take commercial fishes, and, so far as possible, the netting
laws be made uniform in their application.

The present law provides an open season for catching black bass, beginning on
May 30th, and extending to January ist. The continuance of this open season is a
menace to the future of this species of the fish in the waters of the State.

Black bass spawn all through the month of June, and to open the season during
the breeding time is most ill-advised, and no amount of artificial stocking within
the means of the Commission will make up for the waste of killing spawning
bass. It is difficult for the State to obtain any large number of black bass at'
this time, even by purchase, and every section that is visited to obtain bass
for transplanting protests most vigorously. The black bass is the one fish of
all the hook-and-line fishes that guards its spawning bed during the develop-
ment of the ova, and watches over the brood of young fish after they are
hatched, so they really require more consideration as to length of close season
than any other fish in the State. When cold weather approaches black bass
gather on deep shoals and lie partly dormant, as a rule, until warm weather returns.
Within recent years this habit of the black bass has led to their destruction in some
waters, as their winter habitat has been sought out by unthinking men, and the bass
have been pulled from their winter quarters in a scandalous manner. We would
suggest that the open season for black bass fishing begin on the 1st day of July, and
close on the 15 th of October.

The ** land-locked salmon " of the Game Law is no other than the sea salmon with
a fresh water habitat, or ouananiche as it is called in the Dominion of Canada. And
yet the law presents the inconsistency of limiting the legal length at which the
anadromous fish may be killed to eighteen inches, while the fish with a local
home may be legally slaughtered when, in its babyhood, it reaches the length
of six inches. Land-locked salmon run from the lakes into tributary streams to spawn,
and the young remain in the streams for two years before going down to the waters
of the lakes, and during the two years in the streams grow to exceed six inches in
length, and it is almost a criminal waste of raw material to permit a six-inch baby
salmon, weighing two ounces, to be killed, when if allowed a chance for its life it will
grow into a magnificent fish of twenty five to thirty pounds in weight. We would
suggest that the legal limit of length at which salmon and land-locked salmon may be
killed should be made identical, eighteen inches.

Section 143 of the Game Law provides that " eel pots of a form and character such
as may be prescribed by the rules of the Commissioners of Fisheries may be used in

Digitized by



any waters not inhabited by trout, lake trout, salmon trout, or land-locked salmon."
Eels are notorious spawn eaters, and as such seriously interfere with the propagation
of better food fishes by natural processes, and if the Commissioners had power to set
•eel baskets in waters containing salmonida for the purpose of taking eels that come on
to the spawning beds to eat the spawn of trout, it would aid materially in minimizing
the devastation from this cause.

The Commissioners feel that they must in the future discourage the planting of
German carp in any of the waters of the State that may contain other fish. It is no
more desirable as a food fish than the common sucker, and instead of being a strict
vegetarian, as was heralded when introduced from Europe, it has been convicted of
•eating spawn and the fry of better fish.

There is a colony of beaver near the Adirondack hatchery, probably the only one
in this State, and if this rare animal, supposed to have become extinct in New York,
is to be preserved, there is urgent necessity for the enactment of a law to protect them
at all seasons. During the past year a beaver of this colony was killed, and then it
was found that there was no law for their protection.

By every means in our power we would encourage the formation of fish and game
protective associations in every county and town in the State. Already many societies
of this kind have been organized, and they are not only public educators of the objects
and aims of fish and game laws, and supporters of this Commission in its work, but they
do much to enforce the laws and stand as a menace to law breakers in the communities
where they exist. The observance of fish and game laws is largely a matter of educa-
tion ; the first lessons were most difficult to learn, but great strides have been made in
this direction during the past ten years, and the fish and game associations should have
full credit for their share in it.

The Commissioners desire to thank the railroads of the State for their unfailing
courtesy in handling the State fish car and transporting fish cans and attendants free.
Nearly every railroad in the State has rendered this aid freely when called upon so to
do; but we are especially indebted to the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company, the
New York, Ontario and Western Railroad, the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western
Railroad, the Buflfalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Railroad, and the New York Central
and Hudson River Railroad, as they are more nearly connected with the hatcheries of
the State.

We also wish to extend our thanks to the United States Fish Commission for
continued and generous contributions of fish eggs, fry and adult fish, the contribution
this year amounting to over 1 1,000,000 of eggs and fish of various kinds.

That the people of the State may have a better understanding of the extent of shell-
fish culture practiced in the waters of New York, a census has been compiled which

Digitized by



shows that 6,280 men, using 18 steamers, 9 schooners, 235 sloops, and 1,435 boats and
skiflfs, are engaged in this industry.

These men employ $2,147,850 of capital, and market annually 2,397,735 bushels of
oysters and 380,460 bushels of clams. The market value of their product is probably
very near to $2,500,000.

Since the enactment of the law of 1887, entitled " An act to promote the cultiva-
tion of shellfish in the waters of this State,'* 17,707 acres have been covered by fran-
chises and leases, and there are still at least 200,000 acres available. Shellfish culture
will be treated more in detail later in the report by the Shellfish Commissioner.

At the close of the deer shooting season in 1895 ^bis Commission made a system-
atic investigation to determine the number of deer killed in the counties including the
Forest Preserve. It was the first attempt to make a careful and thorough canvass of
deer killed in this State. For this purpose the Adirondack region was divided into
161 districts, and 249 separate reports were received. A recapitulation shows that a
total of 4,900 deer were killed, 2,207 being bucks and 2,693 being does. As to the
manner of killing, 1,233 were killed by night hunting, 2,694 by hounding, and 973 by
still hunting. In view of this enormous slaughter, for we are convinced that the
returns are accurate, as far as can be obtained, we would recommend that further and
more stringent laws be enacted to preserve the deer from extinction, either by a
shorter season, by regulating the manner of killing, or both.

Proposed Legislation.

In further pursuance of the law requiring this Commission to make annually such
recommendations for legislative action as its Board may deem proper, we would
respectfully recommend that certain changes be made in the present law relating to
forest fires.

As the law now stands, the expense in fighting a forest fire, especially the pay of
the firewarden and his posse, is a State charge. We recommend that the law be
amended in this respect so that one-half the expense only shall be borne by the State,
leaving the other half to be paid by the town in which the fire or fires occurred.

While the citizens of our entire State are interested in forest preservation and the
prevention of forest fires, the residents and land owners in forest towns within the
Adirondack or Catskill counties have a direct and important interest m such matters.
In such towns a fire in the woods means a direct loss to a lumberman if his timber
is destroyed ; also, to hotel men and guides, who can no longer expect custom and

Digitized by



employment if the scenic attractions of their town are converted into the scorched
and blackened desolation that remain after a forest fire.

The property owners and taxpayers of a town are the ones who have the greatest
interest in providing against such disastrous results, and should pay more for this
special local protection than the citizens at large. It is just and reasonable that the
men who own these forests should pay at least half the expense of this local protec-
tion. It was absurd to enact that the farmers of Chautauqua county must pay just as
much for protecting the property of Adirondack lumbermen and hotel men as the
owners of such property do themselves.

While we are willing that the State should pay one-half of the expense incurred
by a firewarden and the posse warned out by him, we would recommend that the
entire bill be first audited and paid by the town, after which the State, through the
Comptroller, may refund to the town one-half the sum thus expended, all bills for
such rebate to be first forwarded to and approved by this department, or by such

Online LibraryGame and Forests New York (State). Commissioners of FisheriesAnnual report of the Commissioners of Fisheries, Game and Forests of the ... → online text (page 3 of 38)