Essays in Natural History and Agriculture
by Thomas Garnett
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FACTS AND OBSERVATIONS ON THE SALMON. Introductory Observations The Salmon enters and ascends Rivers for other purposes besides Propagation Suggestions for an alteration in the Laws regarding Salmon Artificial Breeding of Fish Artificial Propagation of Fish Remarks on a Proposed Bill for the better Preservation of Salmon

LETTERS ON AGRICULTURAL SUBJECTS. On the Cultivation of Wheat on the same Land in Successive Years The Cultivation of Wheat On the Gravelling of Clay Soils Cotton

PAPERS ON NATURAL HISTORY. Wrens' Nests The Long-tailed Titmouse Identity of the Green with the Wood Sandpiper The Stoat The Marsh Titmouse Creeper Wrens' Nests Alarm-note of one Bird understood by other Species of Birds Dates of the appearance of some Spring Birds in 1832, at Clitheroe The Rook Serviceable to Man.—Prejudice against it Sandpipers On Birds Dressing their Feathers with Oil from a Gland Mocking powers of the Sedge-warbler The Water Ouzel Scolopax, Sabines, Sabine's Snipe Fish and other River Phenomena Lampreys On the Spawning of the Minnow Eels On the Possibility of Introducing Salmon into New Zealand and Australia On the Formation of Ice at the bottom of Rivers On the Production of Ice at the bottoms of Rivers Gossamer

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In the following observations I intend to offer some remarks on the various migratory fish of the genus Salmo; and then some facts and opinions which tend to show the importance of some change in the laws which are now in force regarding them.

We have first the Salmon; which, in the Ribble, varies in weight from five to thirty pounds. We never see the fish here before May, and then very rarely; a few come in June, July, and August if there are high floods in the river, and about the latter end of September they become tolerably abundant; as the fisheries near the mouth of the river have then ceased for the season, and the Salmon run very freely up the river from that time to the middle or end of December. They begin to spawn at the latter end of October, but the greater part of those that spawn here do so in December. I believe nearer the source of the river they are earlier, but many fish are seen on the spawning beds in January; and I have even seen a pair so late as March; but this last is of very rare occurrence.

Some of the male Kipper (Kelts) come down in December and January, but the greater part of the females remain in the river until April, and they are occasionally seen herding with shoals of Smolts in May. In this state they will take a worm very readily, and are, many of them, caught with the fly in the deeps; but they are unfit to eat, the flesh being white, loose, and insipid; although they have lost the red dingy appearance which they had when about to spawn, and are almost as bright as the fresh fish, their large heads and lank bodies render it sufficiently easy to distinguish them from fish which are only ascending the river, even if the latter were plentiful at this season; but this is unfortunately not the case.

Secondly, we have the Mort. I am not sure whether this fish is what is called the Grilse in Scotland, or whether it is the Sea Trout of that country; it is a handsome fish, weighing from one and a half to three pounds. We first see Morts in June; from that time to the end of September they are plentiful in favourable seasons in the Hodder, a tributary stream of the Ribble, although they are never very numerous in the Ribble above the mouth of that stream. It is the opinion of the fishermen here that this is a distinct species; my own opinion is, that it is a young Salmon, and yet, if I were called upon to give reasons for thinking so, I could not offer any very conclusive ones: the best I have is, that there is no perceptible difference in the fry when going down to sea. It may be said, How do you know that one of the three or four varieties of Smolts which you describe further on, is not the fry of the Mort? To this objection, if made, I say that these varieties exist in the Wharfe, where, owing either to natural or artificial causes, there is never either a Mort or a Sprod (Whitling?) seen.

Thirdly, we have the Sprod, which is, I believe, synonymous with the Whitling, Whiting, or Birling of Scotland. It is a beautiful fish of six or eight ounces in weight, and has more the appearance of the Salmon than the Mort; it seldom ascends the river before July, and, like the Mort, is far more abundant in the Hodder than in the Ribble; this fish sometimes rises pretty freely at the fly, and when it does so, makes a very handsome addition to the angler's basket, but at other times it is difficult to hook, because of its shyness. It disappears in a great measure about September.

Fourthly, we have the Pink, or Par, which is found of two or three sizes in the Ribble; the largest are all males, and in October the milt in them is large; they are small fishes, ranging in weight from about one to three ounces each, and it is well remarked by the author of that delightful book "Wild Sports of the West," they have very much the appearance of Hybrids between the Salmon and the Trout; they rise very freely at the fly and maggot, from July to October, and afford good sport to the angler who is satisfied with catching small fish. I trust I shall be able in the following pages to give some information respecting this fish which will assist in dispelling the mystery in which its natural history has been enveloped.

I will now mention a few of the opinions respecting the various species of the Salmon, and also my own, when they are at variance with the generally received ones, and give the facts and reasonings which have induced me to form those opinions, and I shall be very glad, if I am in error on any of these points, if some one of my readers, better acquainted with the subject than I am, will take the trouble to set me right. It seems to be the opinion of many, indeed of most persons, that the Salmon spawns from November to February, that the young fry, or Smolts, go down to the sea in the April or May following; my own opinion is that they stay in the river much longer. The Grilse is by many believed to be a distinct species, whilst others stoutly maintain that it is a young Salmon.

The testimony of the witnesses from the Severn, the Wye, the Lee, near Cork, and the Ness (see the evidence given before the Select Committees of the House of Commons in 1824 and 1825), would lead one to suppose that the fish were in best season from November to March, whilst the evidence of the witnesses from other parts of the kingdom goes to prove that this is the very worst period for catching them.

One maintains that each river has its own variety of fish, which can be distinguished from the fish of any other river; another contends that there is no such difference; a third states that stake nets are exceedingly injurious to the breed of the fish; and a fourth attests that stake nets only catch the fish when they are in the best season, that neither Kelt nor fry are taken in them, and that if they were prohibited it would only be preserving the fish for the grampuses and seals;—in short, the evidence regarding both their habits, and the best mode of catching them, having in view the preservation and increase of the breed, is so completely contradictory as to leave a doubt in the mind of every one who reads it, and has no other means of forming an opinion. I will endeavour to show in some instances which of the testimonies is correct, and it will be for my readers to judge how far I succeed, and I hope they will be so obliging as to correct any error into which I may fall.

First.—It is my opinion that the fry of Salmon are much older when they leave the river than seems to be generally supposed, and that the growth of this fish is by no means so rapid as it is considered to be by those who have written upon the subject. For several years previous to 1816 the Salmon were unable to ascend into the upper parts of the river Wharfe, being prevented either by the high weirs in the lower parts, or by some other cause, and of course there were no Smolts or Par; but in that year either the incessant rains of that summer or rumours of the formation of an association for the protection of fish, or some other unknown cause, enabled some Salmon to ascend the river, thirty or forty miles, and to spawn there. In the next spring, 1817, there were no Smolts, but about September they began to rise at the very small flies which the anglers use in that river—they were then a little larger than Minnows. In the spring of 1818 there were blue Smolts, or what are generally known as Salmon fry, which went down to the sea in the May of that year; but these were only part of the brood, the females only, the males remaining all that summer, being at the period when the females went down very much smaller than they, and what was called at the Wharfe Grey Smolt and Pinks, or Par elsewhere.

I have shown that there were two migrations from the spawn of 1816; but this was not all—there still remained a few Smolts through the summer of 1819, which by that time were from four to six ounces in weight, and which are known by the anglers there as Brambling Smolts. The blue marks on their sides are very distinct, and the fish is a perfect Smolt, except that it is considerably larger. It is quite different from the Whitling, or Sprod, which is not known in the Wharfe, at least not in the upper parts of that river, whilst the Brambling is never seen in the Ribble. [1]

The Brambling is a beautiful fish, and it rises very freely both at the May fly and the artificial fly through the summer; it is occasionally caught by anglers with the worm on the Salmon spawning beds in the autumn, with the milt perfectly developed, and in a fluid state. Although this fish is not found in the Ribble, so far as my observations and inquiries have gone, I believe that it is found in the Tweed, and perhaps also in other rivers running into the German Ocean; for a letter addressed to Mr. Kennedy, who was chairman of the select committee appointed to investigate this subject, by a Mr. George Houy, states that the Smolts are sometimes found there ten inches long, which he attributes to their not being able to get down at the proper period for want of a flood in the river. But I know that in the Ribble Smolts will go down to the sea without there being a flood at all, if that does not come within ten days or a fortnight of the time at which they usually descend to the sea. I also know that Brambling are found in the Wharfe, in years where there has been no deficiency in that respect; yet why they should be common in that river, when they are never met with in the Ribble, which has ten times as many Salmon and Smolts in it, I am unable to comprehend.

It is my opinion that the ova of the Salmon are not hatched before March or April. Two anglers, who were in April wading in the river Wharfe, came upon a spawning bed, which they had the curiosity to examine; they found a number of ova, in which they could see the young fry already alive, and one of them took these eggs home with him. By regularly and frequently supplying them with fresh water, he succeeded in hatching them, and kept some of the young fishes alive for some time; but they died in consequence of neglect, and were even then very diminutive. The opinion generally received in Scotland seems to be, if I may judge from the evidence given before the House of Commons, that the Smolts go down to the sea in the spring after they are spawned, and that they return in the summer and autumn of the same year as Grilse. When they return, and what size they are on their first visit, I have hitherto been unable to ascertain; but I think I have succeeded in proving that they do not go to the sea so soon as is generally believed, nor do any of the witnesses give their reasons for thinking that they do. I should very much like to learn what evidence they have to offer in behalf of this opinion.

I remember seeing an article in the "Scotsman," perhaps about twelve months ago, in which it was stated that Dr. Knox had made some important discoveries in the natural history of the Salmon and Herring, both in their food and propagation, and, if I recollect aright, it stated that he had ascertained that the eggs remained several months in the gravel, and that then, in a few days or weeks after, they (i.e. the fish hatched from them) were so much grown as to go down to the sea; but none of the data which enabled him to arrive at this conclusion were given, and since then I have heard nothing about the matter. As it is so long since I read this article, I may have quoted it incorrectly, but I believe its substance was what I have stated.

The only conclusive evidence I can find about the hatching of Salmon fry is that of Mr. George Hogarth (second Parl. Report, p. 92), and his account agrees with my own: he states that he took Salmon spawn from the spawning beds, and by keeping it freely supplied with fresh water, he succeeded in hatching some of the eggs; he gives drawings of the appearance of the fry in three or four different stages, from the egg to the age of eight days (see Appendix to second Parl. Report), that the young fry, by keeping them well supplied with fresh water, were very lively and vigorous for three weeks, but that they after this time appeared to grow languid and uneasy, and as they would eat nothing they died when one inch long. Unfortunately he does not state at what time of the year they were hatched, but if this were in March or April, which I see no reason to doubt, it is sufficient to prove that they would not reach the size that Smolts are when they leave the river for the sea; for supposing them to be hatched the last week in March, and that they lived a month, this would bring us to the time when they are about to migrate, at which time they average more than six inches long; many of them are eight inches, and at this period they are fond of feeding upon worms, flies, maggots, and caddis worms, as is known to every schoolboy living on the banks of a river frequented by Salmon. It is also my opinion that neither Salmon nor Trout spawn every year, [2] for Salmon ascend the river as early as January, in the highest condition, with roe in them no bigger than mustard seed: these could not have spawned that season, as the Kelts, particularly the females, do not return to the sea until March or April, [3] and at that time they are in very bad condition, and do not appear to have a particle of spawn in them; and in the evidence of Mr. Mackenzie (see Parl. Rep., p. 21), we have an account of a Grilse Kelt which was caught and marked in March, 1823, and was again caught as a Salmon on its return to the river in March, 1824. In this case the fish had evidently required a residence of twelve months in the sea before it was in a condition to visit the river a second time, and in the Wharfe it is the constant practice of the angler to catch Trout through the winter with very minute roe in them, and in high condition with the worm and Salmon roe, and also with night lines. In fact, one of the fishermen has frequently remarked to me that he occasionally caught dishes of Trout with the fly in January, and in finer condition, than he has found them in April, which he accounted for by saying that the spawned fish (Kelts) of that season had not begun to rise freely at the fly at the former period, but they had at the latter, so that his pannier contained as many Kelts as fresh fish. Another reason has just occurred to me: it is, that in January the spawned fish will still be in the small brooks in which they are so fond of breeding, and of course the bulk of the fish remaining in the river at that time would be fish in good season.

As it is some years since I acquired this information, or at least a part of it, I felt afraid of giving it incorrectly; and I therefore addressed a letter to a friend living on the banks of the Wharfe, requesting him to send me all the information in his possession on this subject, that derived from his own observations, as well as that collected from others. He has since the above was written sent me the following reply:—"I have seen Robinson (one of the best anglers and fly makers between Cornwall and Caithness), and have had some conversation with him on the subject of Salmon, &c. He is of opinion that the spawn of the Salmon remains five months in the gravel before hatching; he examined the spawn in April, and found the young fry alive in the eggs, and Ingham, another angler, took some home and kept one of the Smolts two or three months. I have subsequently seen Ingham, and he has given me the same account. All the fishermen here are of opinion that the female Smolts remain one year, and the males two years, before they go down to the sea. The Bramblings are supposed to be Smolts which remain a year longer than the usual time; they are few in number, and are generally taken with the May fly. I have no doubt that the above opinions are correct, for we have now three distinct sizes of Smolts in the river exclusive of Bramblings, the largest of which are nearly four ounces in weight, and are all males, as they contain milt in October and November. The next are the females of the present year: I have had one since the receipt of your letter, which weighed half an ounce and measured five inches in length; this was a real blue Smolt; the third are the males of the same age, and are much smaller; these are occasionally taken with the worm, and will rise at the fly all the next summer."

"We were for several years, but I do not know the dates, entirely without Salmon, and of course without Smolts; and we invariably found that the Smolts made their appearance the year after the Salmon, but were very small till the second year, when we had what we call blue Smolts, which disappeared in May or June; and what you called Pinks, which remained till the following year; and Brambling Smolts, which remained another year. The fishermen here are also of opinion that neither Salmon nor Trout spawn every year. Robinson says that one day lately (the letter is dated December 13th) he caught seven Trouts, six of which were in good season; and he brought me two the other day, one of which contained roe, and the other was in excellent condition." My friend states, in a subsequent communication, that one of the fishermen had told him that he had caught the male Smolt (Par) more abundantly on the Salmon spawning beds than elsewhere, and my friend adds that the opinion there is, that if a female Salmon gets up to the spawning beds, and if no male accompanies her, yet her eggs are fecundated by the male Smolts; and they allege, in support of this opinion, that a female got up one season and spawned, and though no male was seen near her her eggs were prolific. I mention this, although I apprehend it is evidence which the unbeliever will consider inadmissible, for though no male was seen, still there may have been one, or admitting that one did spawn, without being accompanied by a male, yet another, which contrived to bring her mate along with her, may have spawned in the same place the same season; yet, notwithstanding its liability to these objections, I have no doubt myself that if a female were to come alone her eggs would be impregnated by the Par. It is an excellent maxim, that Nature makes no useless provisions; yet, if we admit that Par are young Salmon, for what purpose is the milt if not to impregnate Salmon roe? and if we deny this to be the fact, we must endeavour to show that there are female Par, but in all my examinations, I have never been able to meet with one that contained roe. That the Grilse are Salmon is proved I think sufficiently by the evidence given before the House of Commons. Mr. Wm. Stephens states (see Rep., p. 52) that he has known Grilse kept in a salt-water pond until they became Salmon, and that fry that had been marked came back that year as Grilse, and the year after as Salmon; and Mr. George Hogarth states that he has often seen a Salmon and a Grilse working together on the spawning beds, as two Salmon, or two Grilse; and Mr. Mackenzie states (page 21) that he, in March, 1823, marked a Grilse Kelt with brass wire, and caught it again in March, 1824, a Salmon of seven pounds weight. The testimony of the witnesses from the Ness, the Severn, the Lee, and some other rivers, is too positive and too well supported to admit of any doubt as to the excellent condition of many of the fish ascending those rivers in November, December, and January—a period when they are out of season, and full of spawn generally, and even when many fish are caught in those rivers in the same unseasonable condition. The fact that there are many fish in fine season in those months may be, I think, accounted for, if we admit that Salmon spawn every other year, which I have I think shown to be very probable; but what it is that induces those fish to ascend rivers so many months before the spawning season, I cannot explain. Probably there may be some quality in the waters of these rivers, all the year, which is congenial to the habits of the fish, while the same quality may only be found during part of the year in others; it is certain that the quality of the waters in rivers generally varies very much with the season: thus the water of the Ribble, after a flood in summer, is always of a dark brown colour, being so coloured by the peat moss over which it passes, while in winter no such tinge can be observed; and there may be other differences with which we are unacquainted; however, whether this is the true reason or not, it certainly cannot be that the fish which spawn in October are impelled by their desire to propagate their species to ascend the river the January before; and if this long residence in fresh water were necessary for the proper development of the ova in one river, we might suppose it would be necessary in all; yet this is not the case, as the red fish which ascend the river in November and December have at that time the spawn in them nearly ready for exclusion.

On one point, about which there is great difference of opinion, viz. whether the fish which are bred in the river generally resort to it again, and whether each river has its own variety of fish, I am not a competent judge, as I am acquainted with too few rivers to pretend to decide. I may, however, just remark that the Hodder, though it is a much smaller river than the Ribble, is always much better stocked with Salmon, Morts, Sprods, Smolts, and Par than is the latter river, which I attribute to the fact that more fish spawn in the river Hodder, which runs for many miles through the Forest of Bowland (the property of the Duke of Buccleuch) and other large estates, and the fish are much better protected there than in the Ribble, where, with one or two exceptions, the properties are very much divided, and few people think it worth their while to trouble themselves on the subject. Dr. Fleming, in his letter to Mr. Kennedy (Appendix to the first Rep., 1825), seems to doubt that Salmon enter rivers for any other purpose than of propagation, but lest I should misrepresent his opinions, I will quote what he has said on the subject:—"In the evidence taken before the Select Committee during the last season of Parliament, and appearing in the report, there are several statements of a somewhat imposing kind, which, as they appear to me to be erroneous and apt to mislead, I shall here take the liberty of opposing." He then enumerates several opinions expressed before the Select Committee, one of which is, that Salmon enter and leave rivers for other purposes than those connected with spawning (see the evidence of Messrs. Little, Halliday, and Johnstone).

First, "That they enter rivers to rid themselves of sea lice (Monoculus piscinus);" secondly, "That they forsake rivers to save themselves from being exhausted by residence in fresh water, and from having their gills devoured by a maggot (Lernaea salmonea)." The whole history of the Salmon contradicts this hypothesis. Another of these errors is, that it is asserted (Rep., 1824, p. 145), "That Salmon always return to the same river;" this is not probable, when we consider the circumstances in which they are placed during their residence in the sea. On the first of these opinions, I am not a competent judge; but I think that the fact that Salmon enter rivers nine or ten months before they are ready to spawn, is of itself sufficient to show that there are other reasons for their entering rivers than those connected with propagation. With respect to the second, I believe that after Salmon have once entered rivers, at least when they have ascended into the upper parts of them, they never offer to descend again until they have spawned. On the third opinion I would remark, that although I do not think that Salmon always come to the same river in which they were bred, yet I think they will do so if they can; and I think that the fact which I have mentioned of the Hodder, a smaller and a tributary stream to the Ribble, containing many more Salmon, as well as more Morts and Sprods, countenances this supposition, for why should the larger number of fish ascend the smaller river except for such a reason?

I am of opinion that Salmon do not grow so fast in the sea as is generally supposed. It is here generally believed that the Smolts, which go down in the spring, come up again in the August or September following, five or six pounds in weight; and George Little, Esq., in his evidence states that as his opinion, but he does not give any other reason for it than this: "That the Grilse that ascend the river in June weigh one and a half or two pounds, and that those which come in September weigh five or six pounds," —but opposed to this supposition is the evidence of Mr. Mackenzie, before referred to (second Parl. Report, p. 21), who states that he caught in March a Grilse Kelt which weighed three and a half pounds, that he marked it with a brass wire, and let it go, and that in the March following he caught it again a Salmon of seven pounds weight. Now a fish which weighed three and a half pounds as a Kelt, would weigh five pounds or six pounds when in high condition the summer before, and if this were so, which I believe all persons who are acquainted with Salmon will admit, the fish would have gained only one pound or two pounds in fifteen or eighteen months. Besides, if Salmon grew as fast as is stated and believed by many persons, the breeds of different years would vary very much in weight, whereas it is known to everybody that we have them of all sizes, from five pounds to forty pounds; and it is contrary to analogy to suppose that a fish which is two or three years in arriving at the weight of as many ounces, should in two or three months acquire as many pounds. There are, however, two or three things about which all persons agree in opinion—one of these is: that the breed of Salmon is decreasing every year, and that the great cause of this decrease is the want of protection, and a consequent destruction in the spawning season. The complaint on this head is universal from north to south; from the Shannon to the Tweed, the cry is—"Protect the breeding fish, or we shall very soon have none to protect." And yet, although the destruction of the spawning fish, and the destruction of the fry in the Spring, are the chief reasons for this alarming falling off, no one seems able to devise a remedy; no one seems inclined to make the necessary sacrifices for so desirable an object, and without these sacrifices it would be absurd to expect the fish to become plentiful; and instead of furnishing an abundant supply of cheap and wholesome food to all classes, which they certainly would do if the fisheries were properly regulated, they will either become wholly extinct, or so rare as to be found only at the tables of the wealthy. James Gillies, in his evidence, states that his brother had in one night killed in the Tweed four hundred Salmon at one landing-place in close time; and all the reports are full of statements showing how unceasing and universal is the persecution the Salmon undergo, not only when in season, but at all times, and most of all when every one should do his utmost to preserve them—I mean when they are spawning. In this neighbourhood the properties generally are so much divided, and so few good fish are allowed to ascend the river, that no one has any interest in protecting them in close time, and the consequence is, as might be expected, that all sorts of contrivances for taking them are resorted to: they are speared and netted in the streams by day and night; they are caught with the fly, they are taken with switch hooks (large hooks fixed to the ends of staves), or with a triple hook fixed to the end of a running line and a salmon rod; if the river becomes low, parties of idle fellows go up each side of it in search of them, and by stoning the deeps, or dragging a horse's skull, or large bone of any kind through them, they compel the fish to side, and there they fall an easy prey, in most cases where the pool is of small extent. In a river so small as the Ribble, it will be readily believed that not many fish can deposit their spawn in safety, when practices of this kind are followed almost openly, and when no one feels a sufficient interest in the matter to put a stop to them. A single party of poachers killed four hundred Salmon in one spawning season near the source of the river; the roe of which, when potted, they sold for L20. Need we be surprised, then, if the breed decreases? The only wonder is that they have not been exterminated long ago.

I may perhaps be allowed to say what, in my opinion, would remedy this alarming destruction, particularly as no one hitherto seems to have devised an efficient preventive. I believe that in 1826 there was an Act of Parliament passed which either repealed or modified some of the old laws on the subject, and I have also understood that the good effects of this new law are already perceptible in Scotland, to which it is exclusively applied. There was a bill introduced into Parliament in 1825 which was intended to apply to the whole kingdom; but some of the clauses were so very objectionable, that if they had been carried they could not possibly have been enforced without stopping and ruining the manufactories which were carried on by water-power, and the bill was consequently abandoned. The first thing to be done is to give the proprietors on the upper part of the river such an interest in the fisheries as will make them anxious about the preservation of the fish in the spawning season; and to accomplish so desirable an object no one ought to fish or keep a net stretched across a river for more than twelve hours each day, or from sunrise to sunset; and every mill-owner ought to be compelled to facilitate the passage of the fish over his weir by every means consistent with the proper supply of water to his wheels. At present the fisheries at the mouths and lower parts of rivers so completely prevent the access of the fish to the upper parts, that unless there happen to be high floods, which prevent the fishermen below from keeping their nets in, the upper proprietors comparatively seldom see any until the season is at an end. The evidence before the House of Commons on this point is exceedingly amusing. One person thinks the upper proprietors have no right to expect any fish, as they have never paid any consideration for them when they bought their estates; another states that he pays L7,000 a year to the Duke of Gordon, and that if he is compelled to observe a weekly (not a daily) close time, he will lose that proportion of his rent; another observes the weekly close time, and opens a passage for the fish, but places a crocodile, painted in very glaring colours, in the gap to frighten them back again; another says he observes the weekly close time in his cruive fishing, but no one is allowed to inspect the cruives; another sends men to break down the stake nets in the estuary, which reach from high to low water-mark, and at the same time stretches a net completely across the river from March to August, so that a fish cannot pass without his permission. No wonder that fish are scarce in the upper parts of the river, when such samples of disinterestedness are manifested by the proprietors of the fisheries below. No wonder that the upper proprietors should be careless about the protection of fish from which they are not allowed to derive any benefit. No wonder that they should connive at, and even encourage, the shameful destruction of fish in close time, since that is the only time they are allowed to have any. Let the fishermen below make it worth the while of the upper proprietors to protect the fish, and they will receive that protection; but it is too much to expect from human nature that these proprietors will take all the odium and trouble of preserving them when others reap all the benefit. There ought to be conservators employed, to see that the fisheries are properly regulated, and these should be paid by an assessment on all the proprietors in proportion to the value of their fisheries.

I should also recommend an extension and uniformity of close time in all the rivers in the kingdom, for although it is an undoubted fact that some clean fish are caught in the river early in the season, yet they are comparatively few in number, and their capture involves that of a far greater number of spawning and Kelt fish, which are not only of no value for the table, but the destruction of which is in effect the destruction of millions of fish which would proceed from them. In the first Parl. Rep., p. 11, Mr. Walter Jamieson says, that in the river Tweed, from January 10th to February 1st, he caught one hundred and twenty-one fish, only one of which had spawned; from February 1st to March 1st he took forty-four fish, twenty-five of which had not spawned —fifteen were Kelts and four were clean fish; from March 1st to March 10th he took seventeen fish, seven of which had not spawned (four of them on the 10th)—six were Kelts and one clean fish. Now the close time varies in almost every river, and some have no close time at all; thus in the Ribble the close time begins on September 15th and ends on December 31st, and in the Hodder there is no legal close time; but there is no practical difference between them in this respect, every one thinking himself entitled to kill all the fish he can, at all times of the year, in both of them. The observance of the weekly close time, that is, opening a passage for the fish from sunset on Saturday night to sunrise on Monday morning, is a mere farce, even if it could not be evaded, as it almost invariably is, for it is well known to every one conversant with the habits of Salmon, that they only ascend the rivers when there are freshes (floods) in them, and in summer the ground is generally so dry, and vegetation absorbs so much moisture, and the evaporation is so great, that it not only requires twice as much rain to produce a flood in the river then as it does in winter, but when the rain does come its effects are only visible in the river for a short time. I have known a strong fresh in the Ribble in the morning, and the river low again in the afternoon of the same day. A fresh coming at the beginning of a week, would disappear long before the close of it, unless the rainy weather continued; and thus the strict observance of the weekly close time would be of little service to the upper proprietors unless the fresh came at the right end of the week.

The Smolts and the Par ought to be protected as strictly as the Salmon; and there ought to be a penalty attached to the killing of them, or having them in possession, and conservators of rivers ought to have the power of inspecting all mills and manufactories driven by those rivers, to ascertain that they have no contrivances for taking the fry on their way to the sea, as it appears that in some rivers they are taken in large quantities. There ought also to be a penalty attached to the killing of Kelt fish, which in that state are not only tasteless and insipid, but actually unwholesome; yet they are pursued and destroyed with as much avidity as the fresh fish, and a very small number of the few that spawn in safety ever return to the sea. A penalty ought also to be inflicted for selling, buying, using, or having in possession Salmon roe, either in a fresh or salted state, as its excellence as a bait for Trout and Eels, and the consequent high price at which it sells, are sufficient temptations to poachers to kill the Salmon in the spawning season even if they could not sell or use any other part. Yet destructive as this practice is, there is an extensive trade in this article— a fishing-tackle maker in Liverpool having told a friend of mine that he sold 300 lbs. in a season, which, supposing every egg to hatch, would produce perhaps five times as many Salmon as are caught in one year throughout the whole kingdom. [4]

In concluding this imperfect sketch, I may remark that I have omitted many things concerning the natural history and habits of the Salmon, fearing to trespass too much on the patience of my readers; but I have wished, in addition to communicating some facts in the natural history of this fish, which I believe are not generally known, to call the attention of the public to the present state of the Salmon fisheries in England. Many of the preceding observations are founded on the evidence of persons connected with the fisheries in Scotland, and are perhaps no longer applicable to that part of the kingdom, since there has been an alteration in the laws; whether this is the case or not, I have no present means of ascertaining. I shall be glad if any one having a knowledge of the subject will say what benefit, if any, has been derived from the alteration; however, it is sufficient for my present purpose to show what is the state of things when there are no laws on the subject, or, which is the same thing, when there is no attention paid to them; a state of things which, instead of promoting an abundant supply of these excellent fish, and rendering the Salmon fisheries nationally important, tends by the habitual disregard of the laws by one party, the selfishness of another, and the neglect of a third, to render these fisheries of little and decreasing value; whereas if the lower proprietors would allow a tolerable supply of Salmon to come up the river when they were worth taking, and the upper ones would preserve them during close time, there would be plenty for each and for all.

I am aware it will be difficult to legislate upon this subject without injury to what is of infinitely greater importance—I mean the manufactories of the country. The absurd and impracticable clauses which were contained in the bill for the protection of the fisheries, which was introduced into Parliament in 1825, show this; yet notwithstanding this difficulty, I think it is possible to protect the fish without interfering with the interest of the mill-owners, and to make such laws on the subject as will be effectual, without calling forth a single objection from any unprejudiced person. I shall be glad if what I have said on this subject should induce any gentleman to turn his attention to it. There must be many whose opportunities of observation will enable them to determine whatever is doubtful in the natural history of the Salmon tribe; whose experience will teach them the defects and absurdities of the present laws on the fisheries; and whose influence will, if they can be induced to exert it, materially contribute to their amendment.

CLITHEROE, January, 1834.

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In addition to the objections which I have offered to the seeming doubt of Dr. Fleming, whether Salmon enter rivers for any other purpose besides propagation, the following have come to mind; and though they do not apply to the Salmon, they confirm me in the opinion that there are reasons, of which we know nothing, for fish ascending rivers, which are not at all connected with propagation. One is the habit of what is here called streaming. In the winter the fish not engaged in spawning (I speak of Trout, Grayling, Chub, Dace, &c.) leave the streams and go into deep water; either because the water is warmer there, or because they there find more food; and it is well known to fly-fishers that they do not catch many fish in the streams if they begin early, say in February. It is proverbial here that fish begin to stream when the great grey, or what is called in other districts the devil or dule crook, and in March brown or brown drake, comes upon the water; and I have seen Trout by scores leaping at a weir in the beginning of May, whether in search of food or an instinct implanted in them to keep all parts equally stocked with them, I do not know; but it has certainly nothing to do with their spawning. Is it presumptuous to suppose that God in His providence has implanted this instinct in Salmon for our good, that we might have a supply of excellent food, which without this would be in a great measure unattainable? Whether this is the true cause, and the only one, I am unable to determine; but this is the effect produced, and in the absence of other reasons it is, in my opinion, one that ought to be admitted. Another reason why fish ascend rivers is their impatience of heat. I speak now more particularly of Grayling; if the weather is very hot at the end of May or the beginning of June, the Grayling in the Wharfe (they are almost unknown in this part of the Ribble) ascend the mill streams by hundreds, and go up the wheel races as far as they can get, and stay there until the stoppage of the wheels (many a ducking have I had in pursuit of them), when they are obliged to beat a retreat, and this often proves a disastrous one to many of them. The ascent of young Eels by millions, and the ascent of the Flounder, are neither of them connected with the propagation of their kind, and though I cannot say for what purposes they do ascend, I am, I think, justified in doubting assertions which seem to have nothing to support them but the positive manner in which they are made.

The Salmon Par is neither a Hybrid nor a distinct species of the genus Salmo, but a state of the common Salmon. The author of "Wild Sports of the West" says of the Par, as I have noted previously, "That it has very much the appearance of a Hybrid between the Salmon and the Trout, and (in a note) that the natural history of this fish is doubtful. Some conjecture that it is a Hybrid between the Salmon and Trout, because it is only found in rivers which are frequented by Salmon. Others think it a cross breed between the sea Trout and river Trout," and then he speaks of this "hybridous diminutive," as if he thought one of these opinions was correct. That the Par is not the result of a cross between a sea Trout and a river Trout, is proved by the fact that there are no sea Trouts in the Wharfe, the Par (admitting it to be a distinct species, which I do not), the Salmon, and common Trout being the only kinds of Salmonidae which are found in that river, at least where I am acquainted with it. If the Par be the result of a cross between the Salmon and the Trout, what becomes of it in the spring, and where are all the Par, which were so abundant in October, gone to in April? Did they migrate to the sea, the shoals would be met with by somebody; and did they stay in the river they would be caught at one time or other. However, as it is well known that neither of these cases is ever realized, we must suppose another, which I have already done in my former communication. In fact, in angling in the beginning of March, fish are often caught which would puzzle the most experienced fisherman to determine whether they are Par or Smolts, especially after they have been caught some time; and in a large number caught at that time there are all the intermediate shades of appearance between the perfect Par and the real blue Smolt.

CLITHEROE, May 29th, 1834.

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CLITHEROE, March 18th, 1846.


SIR,—Through the polite attention of Mr. Cardwell I have been favoured with a copy of your bill—"For the better preservation of Salmon." As this is a subject to which I have paid some attention, I trust it will not be deemed impertinent if I offer some suggestions for your consideration with regard to the free gap. It appears to me that it will be desirable to specify the width and depth of this free gap, or it may on the one hand degenerate into a mouse-hole, or on the other hand the surveyor, by the provisions of the 13th section of the Act, may insist on such a gap being made that the whole of the water may be diverted through it, which in small rivers, where there are ancient and legal hecks or cruives for the purpose of taking Salmon, will destroy the value of the fishery. Then, with regard to fence time:—In the 6th section of the Act, I presume you do not intend that night fishing shall be allowed at any season of the year; but it appears to me that the expressions in the 6th section would scarcely prevent the owners of cruives from keeping them open, as they need not go near them between sunset and sunrise, and then they will neither lay, draw, nor fish with any net, device, or engine. Would it not be better to expressly insist upon all cruive fisheries being positively closed from sunset to sunrise? or, what would be still better, that the cruive or heck should have a free gap in it, of a specified size, which should be kept constantly open between sunset and sunrise. As this is one of the most important sections of the Act, I may be pardoned for calling your particular attention to it; for unless this section be vigorously enforced, it will be in vain to legislate on the subject;—for the proprietors near the sources of rivers (where most of the fish spawn) will never interest themselves about the preservation of fish which they are not allowed to see when in season, and which has hitherto been the case in this neighbourhood at all events; but if the fish are allowed a free passage everywhere, and at all times, between sunset and sunrise, the upper proprietors will then have some inducement to take care of the fish in the spawning season. Until now, all the good fish have been taken in the fisheries near the mouth of the river.

There is at present a great trade carried on in this neighbourhood in Salmon roe, as a bait for Trout and Eels, and scores of spawning Salmon are now destroyed for little else than the spawn they contain. Cannot this be prevented?

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May 5th, 1846.


SIR,—I enclose a letter I had addressed to Mr. Pakington on the subject of the preservation of the breed of Salmon. I had written to him because I perceived that he had introduced the bill into the House of Commons, but since that letter was written I have been favoured with your address through the politeness of Sir Thomas Winnington, to a friend of mine, and as he requests that any suggestion about weirs may be addressed to you, I make no apology for enclosing the letter I had addressed to Mr. Pakington with some further suggestions, which on looking over my letter I find I have omitted to notice.

In one of the clauses of the bill (I do not remember which, and I have not the bill at hand to refer to) you require that a grating, the bars of which shall not be more than three inches distant from each other, and which shall be placed at the junction of the tail- goit with the river, as well as in front of the wheel. This I presume is to prevent any fish being injured by the wheels, but I assure you that during the twenty-two years in which I have had the management of the works here, I never knew an instance of a Salmon being either killed or hurt by the wheels. Indeed, I do not know half-a-dozen instances of Salmon ever ascending the tail-goit to the wheel, and I must have seen many instances if this was a common occurrence. This may, however, happen, and the fish may be occasionally injured where there is much fall lost, and a strong stream running from a wheel constituted in the old way with open float boards. But the objections to such a plan on the part of the manufacturers will be insuperable, in fact, the accumulation of sticks and leaves in the autumn, and ice in the winter, will be so great at the grating in the tail-goit, that the wheels will be thrown into back water and the works stopped, and all this loss and inconvenience will be incurred because of the possibility of a Salmon being killed or hurt by the wheel. There is not much probability of this frequently happening, because, as I said in my other letter, Salmon seldom migrate except where there are freshes in the rivers, and then there is so much water flowing down the usual course of the stream, that the fish have no inducement to leave it to seek for a passage elsewhere. I would, however, suggest that power be given to conservators to go at all times up the tail-goits and into the wheelhouses, to see that there are no illegal contrivances in them for catching the Salmon and Smolts in their migration, as I have certainly heard of such things occurring.

In Sir Thomas Winnington's note to my friend, he says we have difficulty enough in endeavouring to obtain support for one day's clear course; two we could not carry, however desirable. Allow me to suggest, that in endeavouring to carry so little you rouse up your opponents, while there is not enough to stimulate the zeal of your friends, for it will be in vain to look for the zealous co- operation of the proprietors on the upper part of rivers unless you give them some inducement. This one day in the week will not effect, and besides this, you make it illegal to catch Smolts, even with the rod, which is destroying one of the greatest amusements of the anglers, and depriving them of the most delicate of fish, and for no object: because, if the provisions of your bill are carried (without this clause), there will be an abundant supply of fish for all purposes, even after the anglers have enjoyed their sport. I do not see the propriety and utility of prohibiting the killing of Smolts, because if they lived they would become Salmon, any more than I see the propriety of prohibiting the eating of eggs, because if they were hatched and lived long enough they would become barn-door fowls.

Let the legislature and the estuary fisheries give the upper proprietors a fair share of Salmon when in season, and they will be glad to see the angling for Smolts abolished; but it is rather too bad for the estuary fisheries to catch all the good Salmon, and then grudge to the upper proprietors the angling for Smolts.

In conclusion, allow me to urge on you the propriety of endeavouring to obtain such a bill as will give the proprietors of land on the upper parts of rivers a strong inducement to support you, and at the same time that it does this will not injure the mill-owners; and, with the modifications I have pointed out, I think this may be accomplished. I speak on this subject as a practical man, having some knowledge of the habits of Salmon, and superintending a mill driven by water-power which employs nearly a thousand people; so that if a bill like yours could be worked in a satisfactory manner here, on so small a stream as the Ribble, it may anywhere in the kingdom. But if you make a tinkering job of it, and ask for too little, you will rouse your opponents and discourage your friends. By all means go for a free passage for the fish every night from sunset to sunrise in all cases where this does not interfere with manufactories, and then there will be some inducement to support you.

I refer you to some papers which I wrote on this subject in the Magazine of Natural History, in the year 1834, and if you think it worth while to ask for further information on the subject, I shall be happy to give you any I may possess.

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LOW MOOR, July 1st, 1846.

To the Editor of "The Times."

The attempt which is now making to amend the laws relating to the Salmon fisheries, appears to run such a great risk of failure, from the opposition of interested persons, that I think a short sketch of the defects of the present laws and their effects on the breed of fish, and a comparison of them with the proposed amendment, may be interesting to some of your readers, and may, perhaps, induce some influential gentlemen to throw their influence into the right scale, in the approaching discussion on this subject.

The Salmon fisheries in former times appear to have supplied food for a large portion of the people, as there are still traditions current on the banks of various rivers in the north, that the indentures of apprenticeship always stipulated that the apprentice should not be compelled to eat Salmon more frequently than three days a week, and however exaggerated this story may appear at the present day, I hope to succeed in showing that it is neither improbable that it has been so, nor impossible that it may be so again,—if good laws are made for their protection, and these laws are properly enforced. At present there is no doubt the fisheries are rapidly declining, and in some rivers which used to have a good many Salmon in them, and which used to swarm with Smolts (or fry) in the spring within my remembrance, they are now rarely seen. To show their scarcity I may mention a circumstance which occurred in the Wharfe, which was formerly one of the finest rivers in Yorkshire for Salmon. A few years ago a pair of Salmon were seen on a spawning bed in the Wharfe, about forty miles from its mouth. This became known at the anglers' club, and it was deemed so important to preserve them, that the club divided themselves into three or four watches, and guarded the spawning bed night and day, whilst the fish were spawning, and this spawning lasted about a week.

Here in the Ribble the Salmon fisheries are not quite so near extinction (though they are rapidly progressing in that direction), for although we are very seldom allowed to see or catch fish in seasonable condition, a good many come up the river to spawn, though very few of them ever do so, and very few of those that do ever reach the sea again. The reason is obvious, no one here has any interest in preserving the spawning fish, and they are openly killed by the poachers, who never dream of being prosecuted for it. I am credibly informed that in a stream not five hundred yards from where I write, sixty spawning fish were killed last winter. Some years ago one gang of poachers killed three hundred Salmon on the spawning beds in one season, and sold potted Salmon roe (which is a most destructive bait for Trout) to the value of L20.

In the Lune the proprietors of the fisheries near Lancaster sent men to protect the spawning fish in the streams above; but these men were warned off by the landed proprietors, who said, If you catch all the good fish you must at least allow us to catch the bad ones. In the Tweed and its tributaries it used to be quite as bad (what the new Scotch law has done I do not know), but a poacher who gave evidence before the Committee of the House of Commons in 1825 said that he had assisted to take four hundred Salmon at one haul in close time in the Tweed.

Sir Walter Scott's vivid description of burning the water, which occurs in "Guy Mannering," shows that he knew how to kill Salmon in close time. In fact, his account, and that of Hogg (the Ettrick Shepherd), show that both were regular black fishers.

There are various devices for killing the fish in close time: they are speared, netted, and hooked on the spawning beds, and when the rivers get low, gangs of idle fellows range up and down on the banks, stoning and beating the water by poles, or, what is more effective still, a large bone, or horse's skull, and by fastening a cord to it, one end of which is passed to each side of the river, they draw this skull up and down in the pools where they know there are Salmon, and the fish are so foolish and timid, that they thrust their heads under any stone or cover they can find, and are taken without trouble; it being common enough in such cases to slip a noose over the tail, then tightening it, and the fish is hauled out immediately.

Then again, gentlemen who want to have the reputation of being skilful anglers, employ their game-keepers to find the Kippers (Scottice Kelts) or spawned fish in the pools, which is a very easy matter in low water, and dropping a hook baited with a lob worm before their noses, it is greedily taken, and the poor fish (which are unfit for food) are caught. It is then trumpeted forth to the angling world that Mr. A. B. has had splendid sport—he has caught a dozen Salmon with the rod in a single day, meaning it to be understood that these fish have been caught with the fly. I by no means uphold these practices, neither do I think them very deserving of censure in the present state of the law, for all the good fish are taken near the mouths of the rivers.

This leads me to consider the defects of the present law, which is by no means adapted to protect and increase the breed of Salmon.

In the first place, the close time is too short. It commences in the Ribble nominally (for in reality the fish are openly killed all the year through) on the 15th September, and ends on the 31st of December; whereas it ought to extend to the end of April, for the following reasons. A very large proportion of the fish are spawning in January and February, and I have even seen a spawning fish as late as the 3rd of April. In the evidence given before the House of Commons in 1825, it was proved by a fisherman from the Tweed, that in March for one clean fish that was caught there were ten caught that were not so, as they were either fish that had not spawned, or Kelts, that is, fish which have finished spawning but have not returned to the sea, and are then flabby, unwholesome, and unfit for food. A very large proportion of these Kippers or Kelts do not go to the sea until April, and not then without there is a fresh in the river, for, like the Smolts, they seem disposed to remain in the rivers until they can avail themselves of the assistance of a flood, to enable them more easily to reach the sea.

Another defect in the present law is that it fails to secure a supply of good fish to the upper proprietors. There are no provisions in it (or they are not enforced) for giving the fish a free passage, no prohibition of nets, traps, or devices for stopping them in their progress up the rivers. No daily or weekly close time, but everywhere there is so short-sighted a selfishness, that it is completely realizing the fable of the man who killed the goose which laid the golden egg. The fisheries are declining so rapidly, that unless something is done, and done quickly, the breed of Salmon will be extinct in the rivers in this neighbourhood.

Again, there is no power to appoint or pay conservators, and without their assistance there is no chance of preserving Salmon in the spawning beds. Game-keepers are most certainly not to be depended upon.

In pointing out the defects of the present laws I have, in fact, given an opinion how they should be remedied. I would extend the close time from the end of September to the end of April. I would establish a daily close time, allowing no net, device, or engine to be employed in taking Salmon between sunset and sunrise above tideway in any river; and below, I would only allow nets to be set for twelve hours per diem. I would appoint conservators, whom I would pay by a tax on the fisheries on the whole course of the river, which tax should be determined by a valuation of the fisheries, and paid accordingly. I would fine every one who sold, used, or had in his possession any potted or prepared Salmon roe for the purpose of angling, and I would give conservators the power of examining all mill goits and races, for the purpose of seeing that no unfair practices were resorted to for the taking of Salmon or Salmon fry; and I would give the upper proprietors the power of making any alterations in mill weirs and dams which did not impair their stability or the efficiency of the water power. If some such enactments as these were made and properly enforced, there is no doubt Salmon would swarm in every river, for their fecundity is such, that a very few Salmon spawning in a river under favourable circumstances stock it abundantly with Smolts. A large Salmon having not less than 25,000 eggs in it, how soon, with a little forbearance and care, would every river swarm with this delicious fish, even to such a degree as to be a cheap food for the poor! But to obtain such results it must be made the interest of every person to protect them.

In reading over the evidence on the Salmon fisheries, which was given before the House of Commons in 1825, I was exceedingly amused by the reasons given by the tenants of some of the fisheries in Scotland why there should be no weekly close time, and the shifts and evasions practiced by others. One said he paid L7,000 a year rent to the Duke of Gordon for his fishery, and if one day in the week were allowed for close time he would lose L1,000 a year. Another said he kept the close time, but he would allow nobody to go and see whether he kept the free gap open or not. Another proved that he kept open the free passage, but it was also proved that he had a crocodile placed in the gap, painted with very glaring colours, in order to frighten back any fish that attempted to pass. Another sent his boats to break down the stake nets which were set in the estuary, but acknowledged that he kept his own nets set across the river day and night. There would be no difficulty in stocking every suitable river in the kingdom with Salmon, either by putting into them a few pairs of breeding fish, or by artificially fecundating the eggs, and placing them in artificial spawning beds. It is a plan I have frequently adopted, and sometimes successfully; but in other experiments I have failed, from the difficulty of choosing a suitable locality in the river. If too rapid a stream was chosen, the eggs and gravel were all washed away; and if too calm and still a place was selected, the gravel was filled up with sand and mud, and the eggs rotted instead of hatching. I am even of opinion that where there is already a breed of Salmon fry in a river, it is not absolutely necessary that any male Salmon should come up the river in the spawning season, the male Par, or Penks, as we call them in the Ribble, being sufficient to fecundate the eggs. If this is doubted, I would ask how it happens that in the autumn they have fluid milt in them? for as nature makes no unnecessary provisions, for what purpose is this, if not to provide for the possibility of a female Salmon coming alone? These Pars swarm on the Salmon spawning beds.

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CLITHEROE, October 12th, 1851.

To the Editor of the "Gardeners' Chronicle."

As the amusement of fly-fishing is one which holds a first place in the opinion of every one who understands it, and as the Trout and the Salmon are the only fish which afford genuine sport to the angler, and as I believe that the latter in some of the southern counties is nearly extinct, whilst the former is far from being abundant, I wish to call the attention of such of your readers as are possessed by the true piscatorial furor, to the facility with which these fish can be bred artificially. And as many experiments have been made under my direction, and having witnessed the results, I unhesitatingly say that there is little risk of failure, if due care be taken.

The experiments of Shaw and Agassiz, my own also included, have proved that fish can be bred artificially. The experiments of Boccius I have not yet tried, although he proposes to arrive at the same result in another manner, and acting in the manner recommended by them, Trout and Salmon have been bred by thousands during the last ten years.

As the season for making the experiment will shortly be here, I hope that those who intend to try the plan will lose no time in looking after their supply of breeding fish.

To begin with Trout:—Catch as many as you can conveniently obtain upon the spawning beds, [6] and examine them carefully one by one, to see that the spawn and milt are in a fit state for exclusion; and also to enable you to separate the males from the females. If they are in a fit state to be operated upon (which may be known by the facility with which the milt and the roe run from them on a slight pressure), squeeze the milt of the males into a little water, and when you have obtained all the milt you can get, add so much water that the mixture remains slightly opalescent—say about equal in colour to a tablespoonful of milk mixed in a quart of water; pour this into a deep dish or bowl, large enough to hold the largest of your female Trouts; take one of these and put it into the water so prepared, and gently squeeze the roe from it whilst the vent is immersed in the water. [7] Do this as quickly as possible, and return the fish into fresh water, and then pour off the water containing the impregnated roe, through a strainer, carefully preserving it for the remaining fish, and immediately return the roe into fresh spring or brook water. Repeat the operation for every female Trout, and you will then have a quantity of impregnated roe, which if properly managed will hatch with great certainty. Have ready as many boxes as you are able to stock with spawn (three feet long, two feet broad, and six inches deep). Fill them to the depth of two inches of river sand, which ought to be previously so well washed that there is not a particle of mud left in it, and upon that put two inches of river gravel, also exceedingly well washed, the pebbles varying in size from a hazel nut to a pigeon or pullet's egg. These boxes must be so placed that the water from a spring will flow into the first, and from the surface of that into the second, and below the whole nest of boxes there ought to be a small reservoir made—say three yards by two and eighteen inches deep, and well gravelled at the bottom. All these matters having been previously arranged, and the water flowing nicely over the gravel, sprinkle the impregnated roe equally over the surface of the gravel, say a quarter of a pint to each box, and it will roll down into the interstices of the gravel and find a bed in which it will remain snugly until the spring, when, about March, if all has been properly managed, you will find, on a careful examination, that the young Trout are coming to life by hundreds. I am very particular in recommending spring rather than brook water, for several reasons. In the first place, brooks are liable to be flooded, and are sometimes so overcharged with sand and mud that the gravel in the spawning-boxes is completely choked with it and the spawn is lost, as I know to my great and frequent disappointments. At other times all is washed away together. In the second place, the gravel of brooks swarms with water-lice (shrimps) and the larvae of aquatic insects, as well as bull-heads and loaches, all of which prey upon the spawn of the Trout and Salmon. In the third place, if you put your spawning-boxes in a brook, you will find it difficult to prevent the escape of the fry when hatched, and you are left in doubt as to the success of your experiment. With spring water all these inconveniences are avoided. But if your watercourse should contain water-lice or aquatic larvae, it is a very easy matter to destroy them before putting in your boxes, with a little salt or quicklime. It is also desirable to cover your spawning-boxes with a wire grating, to exclude the light, and to protect them in severe weather from the chance of being frozen.

When they begin to hatch, open a communication between the boxes and the little reservoir below, and if this communicates with a watercourse in which aquatic plants are growing, so much the better. The fry, as soon as they are strong enough, will make their way into this ditch, and will find abundance of food among the water plants; thence they ought to be able to make their way into the brook, river, or lake which it is intended to store with them. All ducks, wild and tame, should be driven from this ditch, or few of the Trout will be allowed to find their way to their final place of destination.

These rules, with some modification, are applicable to the breeding of Salmon as well as Trout; the only difference being in the mode of placing the female fish, when obtaining the roe, and the size of the gravel in which the spawn is deposited in the boxes. The Salmon is too large a fish to put into the vessels in which the diluted milt is placed, but I think that she should be held by an assistant, in such a manner that the tail and lower part of the body up to the vent are immersed in the water containing the milt. And it is also very necessary to hold her firmly, otherwise a large fish, in the struggles which it makes to get free, is apt to upset the vessel containing the milt, and then the experiment is at an end, at least for the time. Being held firmly by the assistant, as above stated, the belly of the fish must be gently pressed by the hands to promote the exclusion of the spawn, which on exclusion must be gently stirred in the diluted milt, to bring every grain into contact with it; but the roe ought not to remain in contact with the milt a minute, if it can sooner be got out, as I have found that if the diluted milt be too strong, or if the ova remain too long in contact with it, they become opaque, and never hatch at all, apparently because they are over-impregnated. In the ordinary way in which Salmon and Trout are bred, the milt must be largely diluted with water, and the contact between the milt and ova can only be momentary, for the streams in which these fish spawn (particularly the Salmon) are so rapid, that the milt on exclusion must be carried away immediately.

There is another method, which is preferred by Ramsbottom, to the one I have been describing, and it is certainly less troublesome. This is to take the ova from the female fish in the first place (taking care to exclude the air from it, by immersing the fish into water up to the vent), and when all the roe has been collected into a large bowl or basin, then mix the milt with it, the same diluted in the proportion which has been before described, namely, until the water which covers the roe becomes lightly opalescent.

I am quite aware that there is another theory which assumes that impregnation takes place twelve months before the exclusion of the ova. [8] But a very careful and long continued examination of the spawning of minnows and lampreys (I have never been able closely to examine the spawning of Salmon), convinces me that it is not a correct one. Besides, did any one ever succeed in hatching the ova of a fish which had not been allowed to come in contact with milt after exclusion? If they have, when, where, and how has this been accomplished, and where is it recorded? I know that I could never succeed, although I have often tried the experiment. On the other hand, it is the easiest thing imaginable, with due care and a suitable situation, to hatch those which have been properly impregnated after exclusion. But if, to avoid argument, I admit that this theory is correct, it will not at all interfere with artificial breeding of Trout and Salmon; on the contrary, it will materially facilitate it. It will only be necessary to catch female fish with the ova ready for exclusion, and place these ova in clean gravel in a box, as before described, but there will be no occasion for males. But supposing Trout and Salmon can be bred in this manner, which I by no means believe, there would be no means of breeding hybrids, which I consider a far more important achievement, and to which I will now refer.

Ever since my attention was turned to the artificial breeding of fish, it has always appeared to me exceedingly desirable and important to breed hybrids between the Trout and the Salmon. The fry of the Salmon, which, by-the-bye, is perhaps the most delicately flavoured fish that exists in this country, although it lives and thrives in fresh water for two or three years, if kept in a locality where it cannot escape to the sea, yet, if kept longer than that time, pines away and dies. If, therefore, we could obtain a hybrid fish, bred between the river Trout and the Salmon, we should probably produce a fish which, being a mule, would be always in good condition; being crossed with a river fish, it would probably never require a visit to salt water to keep it in good health. Being crossed with a Salmon, it ought to get to a good size in a comparatively short period; and, if it would rise at the artificial fly, or the minnow, ought to afford first-rate sport to the angler.

There does not appear to be a greater specific difference between the Trout and the Salmon than there is between the horse and the ass, between the mallard and the musk duck, or between a cabbage and a turnip. But hitherto, in all my experiments, I have never succeeded in producing a hybrid between the Trout and the Salmon. [9] Yet I do not despair of doing so, for there was always a something to complain of, and to doubt about, in every one I tried, and I still think I shall succeed by perseverance. Even if I shall succeed, the result may not prove quite so favourable as I anticipate, but may turn out as unfortunately as the marriage of the gentleman in the story, which relates that, being good- tempered but ugly himself, he married a handsome ill-tempered wife, hoping that his children would have his good-temper and their mother's good looks; but when they came, they were as ugly as the father and as ill-tempered as the mother. So it may prove with these hybrids—they may not always thrive in fresh water; they may not grow to a good size; they may not rise at the artificial fly; they may be worthless for the table. Nevertheless, it is desirable if possible that this should be ascertained. The progeny of a male Salmon and a female Trout may be much better or much worse fitted for a continual residence in fresh water than the descendants of a male Trout and a female Salmon; but this can only be determined by experiment. Dr. Lindley says, in his introduction to the "Guide to the Orchard," that in the cross fertilization of fruits, the seedlings always partake more of the character of the male than of the female parent. But I believe that in breeding mules it is found more desirable that the father should be an ass than a horse. In my poultry yard I breed hybrids between the musk duck and the common duck, and I find that I have a much better progeny from the musk drake and the common duck than from the common drake and the musk duck. In the latter cross, although the males are fine birds, the females are not larger than a widgeon, and fly about almost like wild ducks. This may not always be the case, but it has proved so with me.

But to return to the fish. If any gentleman who is interested in such matters will do me the honour to read this paper, and wishes for further information on the subject, I shall be happy to give it, so far as I am able. Very sure I am that the sportsman who once fairly starts as a fly-fisher, and is so fortunate as to hook a Salmon or a large Trout, will thenceforward despise or lightly esteem corks and floats, ground-bait and trimmers, punts and Perch fishing, and will fairly wish them all exchanged for a nice stream well stocked with Trout—as a gentleman lately said to me, fly- fishing is a perfect infatuation! He was quite right. The extreme avidity with which it is followed by the thoroughly initiated, can only be explained on that supposition; to the casual observer, there does not appear to be any strong excitement in it. But that is a great mistake. Let me get to the bank of a river well stocked with Trout in a good humour, early in the morning, and I feel neither hunger, thirst, nor fatigue if I fish until dark without tasting of anything. And the excitement of hooking a ten or twelve pound Salmon is not much inferior to that produced by a long run after the hounds.

I cannot conclude without calling the attention of all interested, and who are able to render assistance in remedying the evil, to the great falling off in the quantity of fish there is in all the Salmon rivers in England. With those in Scotland and Ireland I am not acquainted, but believe that matters are not in a much better state there. I believe that the unsatisfactory state of the laws has a great deal to do with this decline in the value of the fisheries, and I also believe that it is quite possible so to alter the law as to very greatly improve them, and that without improperly interfering with what is of far more importance—I mean the manufactories of the country. As the law stands at present the proprietors of the upper parts of rivers have not the slightest interest in the preservation of the fish in the breeding season, for, as they are seldom allowed to see a fish when it is fit for the table, why should they look after the poachers in close time? Why should they be put to much expense and trouble, as well as the risk of the lives of their game-keepers, merely to breed fish for the proprietors of stake nets and estuary fisheries, who don't spend a farthing in the preservation of the fish when breeding, and yet reap all the benefit? I had occasion, some years ago, to examine the evidence on this subject given before the House of Commons in 1825, and was exceedingly amused at the schemes resorted to to evade the law, moderate and inefficient as was the law at that time. (Since then the law has been altered both in Scotland and Ireland, but I do not know what are the provisions, nor what has been the effect of the new law.) It required that there should be a free passage for the fish (Salmon) through all the traps, nets, weirs, and devices that were used to catch or detain them, from sunset on Saturday night to sunrise on Monday morning. One man said he paid L7,000 a year for his fishery, and should lose one-seventh of his catch. Another said he allowed a free passage on Sundays, but would not permit anybody to go and examine for themselves. A third proved that he allowed the fish a free passage on Sundays, but his neighbours proved that he placed in the gap a crocodile, painted red. And a fourth was convicted of breaking down the stake nets in the estuary of a river—at the same time he had a net stretched entirely across the river above, both day and night. And so with many others, every one striving with all his might to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs.

This is not the way to improve the Salmon fisheries. To do this effectually the upper proprietors must have a strong interest in the preservation of the breeding of fish, and in order to give them this interest they ought to have an ample supply of fish when they are in the best condition; but to give them this supply the law ought to be altered. At present I believe the law does not require a free passage for the fish (at least in English rivers) except from Saturday night to Monday morning; in many of them I believe this is not insisted upon; whereas the law ought to prohibit fishing for or obstructing the passage of the fish every night from sunset to sunrise, and this regulation ought to be rigorously enforced. This would give the upper proprietors a chance of having good fish, and a corresponding inducement to take care of them. Nobody would be so much benefited as the owners of fisheries at the mouths of rivers; they would be the first takers, and would still get the lion's share of all the fish that ascended the river. If this regulation were enforced, the expenses of conservators might be defrayed by levying a small tax, in the shape of a licence for angling, which all true sportsmen would be glad to pay if it gave a reasonable prospect of a well-stocked river. Now matters are getting worse every day, and notwithstanding the enormous fecundity of the Salmon (a large one producing 25,000 ova in a season), they are now extinct in some rivers where they used to be found in my recollection, and in others where they were once abundant they are now very scarce. No one need to wonder at this, when he is told that gangs of poachers are on the look-out for them all through the spawning season. In one winter, some years ago, I am credibly informed that two hundred Salmon were taken in one stream within five hundred yards of the spot where I am now writing. It is nobody's business and nobody's interest to prevent this, and therefore it goes on openly night and day.

Are there no influential gentlemen in the House of Commons who will take up this matter and endeavour to get an equitable and comprehensive law passed for the preservation and increase of the breed of Salmon? It is a matter of even national importance, and if duly provided for and properly attended to, I see no improbability in the supposition that Salmon would again be as abundant as they were when the apprentices on the banks of the Ribble stipulated that they should not be compelled to eat Salmon oftener than three days in the week. The apathy of country gentlemen in this matter is to me unaccountable. I have some reason to believe, however, that Government have at all times been so far from lending their influence to the promotion of any attempts to amend these laws, that they have obstructed rather than assisted them, most probably from an idea that the preservation of the fish would interfere with manufactories. If I thought that this would be the case, I should not say a word on the subject; but I am very far from holding such an opinion. So far from this being the case, I assert without hesitation that weirs need form no obstruction to the free passage of fish, and that without impairing the efficiency of the water power. With the poisonous and filthy mixtures sent by some manufactories down the rivers, the case is far different, and where this is done the case is hopeless. Salmon and Trout will rapidly disappear from such rivers, never to be seen there again, so long as these noxious contaminations are permitted to flow into them.

* * * * *


CLITHEROE, December 26th, 1853.

To the Editor of the "Manchester Guardian."

SIR,—I have read with some interest the letter of your correspondent, Salmo Salar, on the artificial breeding of fish; and knowing, as I do, the great interest which the writer feels in the preservation and increase of his namesakes, I shall be most happy if my humble efforts in the same cause throw any more light on the same subject, and in any degree contribute to the same end.

But Mr. Salmo Salar is quite wrong in saying that, with the exceptions of the experiments made on the banks of the Hodder, by Ramsbottom, no efforts have been made to increase the number of Salmon by providing artificial breeding-places. Passing over my own numerous experiments here for the last fourteen or fifteen years (which you, Sir, are aware of, though the fishing world is not), I may refer to the extensive experiments made by Mr. Fawkes, of Farnley, in 1841 and 1842, and renewed again in 1848 and 1849; and the whole of which (with the exception of a portion of these in 1842) were successful. The experiments of Salmo Salar were not made until 1851 and 1852, and were intended merely to test the accuracy of an assumption that the impregnation of the ova takes place long prior to their exclusion; which experiments terminated in a complete failure. Salmo Salar says that the quantity of Salmon fry in the river is enormous; and that he has caught five pounds of them in a single pool in a single day. I have known three times that quantity caught in the same way. But still this proves nothing at all, for it is well known that almost all migratory animals, however solitary their general habits may be, are gregarious at the time of migration. Witness swallows, fieldfares, and even woodcocks. Witness also the clouds of small Eels ascending the rivers in May and June; and if we are to believe the accounts of travellers, the enormous flocks of antelopes in Africa, and of bisons in America, are proofs of the same general law. No doubt Salmo Salar will find, as he says, that the Samlets are exceedingly abundant in some of the pools, when they have flocked together for the purpose of migration; but he may perhaps travel for miles either up or down the river before he will find any more. It is notorious that, in the tributaries of the Hodder, they are walled in, in many places, for the purpose of detaining them, that unscrupulous anglers may get as many of them as possible before they go to the sea. Salmo Salar is in error also when he says that Ramsbottom deposited 40,000 in the ponds of Galway, of which 20,000 are expected to be fruitful. The fact is, that he deposited 40,000 in December, 1852, of which above 20,000 are now alive and in the ponds, varying from four to five inches long to two or three, notwithstanding that experiment was made under very unfavourable circumstances; for there was so much mud in the stream that supplied the spawning-boxes, that when Ramsbottom left Galway he was afraid all the ova would be choked by it.

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