Essays in Natural History and Agriculture
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Title: Essays in Natural History and Agriculture
Author: Thomas Garnett
Release Date: May 2, 2006 [EBook #18298]
*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK ESSAYS IN NATURAL HISTORY ***
Produced by R. L. Garnett
BY THE LATETHOMAS GARNETT,OF LOW MOOR, CLITHEROE.
LONDON:PRINTED AT THE CHISWICK PRESS.1883.
FACTS AND OBSERVATIONS ON THE SALMON.
The Salmon enters and ascends Rivers for other purposes besides
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
PAPERS ON NATURAL HISTORY.
The Long-tailed Titmouse
Identity of the Green with the Wood Sandpiper
The Marsh Titmouse
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
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
On the Spawning of the Minnow
On the Possibility of Introducing Salmon into New Zealand and
On the Formation of Ice at the bottom of Rivers
On the Production of Ice at the bottoms of Rivers
* * * * *
FACTS AND OBSERVATIONS ON THE SALMON.
* * * * *
FACTS AND OBSERVATIONS ON THE SALMON.
In the following observations I intend to offer some remarks onthe various migratory fish of the genus Salmo; and then somefacts and opinions which tend to show the importance of somechange in the laws which are now in force regarding them.
We have first the Salmon; which, in the Ribble, varies in weightfrom five to thirty pounds. We never see the fish here before May,and then very rarely; a few come in June, July, and August ifthere are high floods in the river, and about the latter end ofSeptember they become tolerably abundant; as the fisheries nearthe mouth of the river have then ceased for the season, and theSalmon run very freely up the river from that time to the middleor end of December. They begin to spawn at the latter end ofOctober, but the greater part of those that spawn here do so inDecember. I believe nearer the source of the river they areearlier, 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 ofvery 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 untilApril, and they are occasionally seen herding with shoals ofSmolts 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 theyare unfit to eat, the flesh being white, loose, and insipid;although they have lost the red dingy appearance which they hadwhen about to spawn, and are almost as bright as the fresh fish,their large heads and lank bodies render it sufficiently easy todistinguish them from fish which are only ascending the river,even if the latter were plentiful at this season; but this isunfortunately not the case.
Secondly, we have the Mort. I am not sure whether this fish iswhat is called the Grilse in Scotland, or whether it is the SeaTrout of that country; it is a handsome fish, weighing from oneand a half to three pounds. We first see Morts in June; from thattime to the end of September they are plentiful in favourableseasons in the Hodder, a tributary stream of the Ribble, althoughthey are never very numerous in the Ribble above the mouth of thatstream. It is the opinion of the fishermen here that this is adistinct species; my own opinion is, that it is a young Salmon,and yet, if I were called upon to give reasons for thinking so, Icould not offer any very conclusive ones: the best I have is, thatthere is no perceptible difference in the fry when going down tosea. It may be said, How do you know that one of the three or fourvarieties of Smolts which you describe further on, is not the fryof the Mort? To this objection, if made, I say that thesevarieties exist in the Wharfe, where, owing either to natural orartificial causes, there is never either a Mort or a Sprod(Whitling?) seen.
Thirdly, we have the Sprod, which is, I believe, synonymous withthe Whitling, Whiting, or Birling of Scotland. It is a beautifulfish of six or eight ounces in weight, and has more the appearanceof the Salmon than the Mort; it seldom ascends the river beforeJuly, and, like the Mort, is far more abundant in the Hodder thanin the Ribble; this fish sometimes rises pretty freely at the fly,and when it does so, makes a very handsome addition to theangler's basket, but at other times it is difficult to hook,because of its shyness. It disappears in a great measure aboutSeptember.
Fourthly, we have the Pink, or Par, which is found of two or threesizes in the Ribble; the largest are all males, and in October themilt in them is large; they are small fishes, ranging in weightfrom about one to three ounces each, and it is well remarked bythe author of that delightful book "Wild Sports of the West," theyhave very much the appearance of Hybrids between the Salmon andthe Trout; they rise very freely at the fly and maggot, from Julyto October, and afford good sport to the angler who is satisfiedwith catching small fish. I trust I shall be able in the followingpages to give some information respecting this fish which willassist in dispelling the mystery in which its natural history hasbeen enveloped.
I will now mention a few of the opinions respecting the variousspecies of the Salmon, and also my own, when they are at variancewith the generally received ones, and give the facts andreasonings which have induced me to form those opinions, and Ishall be very glad, if I am in error on any of these points, ifsome one of my readers, better acquainted with the subject than Iam, will take the trouble to set me right. It seems to be theopinion of many, indeed of most persons, that the Salmon spawnsfrom November to February, that the young fry, or Smolts, go downto the sea in the April or May following; my own opinion is thatthey stay in the river much longer. The Grilse is by many believedto be a distinct species, whilst others stoutly maintain that itis 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 SelectCommittees of the House of Commons in 1824 and 1825), would leadone to suppose that the fish were in best season from November toMarch, whilst the evidence of the witnesses from other parts ofthe kingdom goes to prove that this is the very worst period forcatching them.
One maintains that each river has its own variety of fish, whichcan be distinguished from the fish of any other river; anothercontends that there is no such difference; a third states thatstake nets are exceedingly injurious to the breed of the fish; anda fourth attests that stake nets only catch the fish when they arein the best season, that neither Kelt nor fry are taken in them,and that if they were prohibited it would only be preserving thefish for the grampuses and seals;—in short, the evidenceregarding both their habits, and the best mode of catching them,having in view the preservation and increase of the breed, is socompletely contradictory as to leave a doubt in the mind of everyone who reads it, and has no other means of forming an opinion. Iwill endeavour to show in some instances which of the testimoniesis correct, and it will be for my readers to judge how far Isucceed, and I hope they will be so obliging as to correct anyerror into which I may fall.
First.—It is my opinion that the fry of Salmon are much olderwhen they leave the river than seems to be generally supposed, andthat the growth of this fish is by no means so rapid as it isconsidered to be by those who have written upon the subject. Forseveral years previous to 1816 the Salmon were unable to ascendinto the upper parts of the river Wharfe, being prevented eitherby the high weirs in the lower parts, or by some other cause, andof course there were no Smolts or Par; but in that year either theincessant rains of that summer or rumours of the formation of anassociation for the protection of fish, or some other unknowncause, enabled some Salmon to ascend the river, thirty or fortymiles, and to spawn there. In the next spring, 1817, there were noSmolts, but about September they began to rise at the very smallflies which the anglers use in that river—they were then a littlelarger than Minnows. In the spring of 1818 there were blue Smolts,or what are generally known as Salmon fry, which went down to thesea in the May of that year; but these were only part of thebrood, the females only, the males remaining all that summer,being at the period when the females went down very much smallerthan 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 of1816; but this was not all—there still remained a few Smoltsthrough the summer of 1819, which by that time were from four tosix ounces in weight, and which are known by the anglers there asBrambling Smolts. The blue marks on their sides are very distinct,and the fish is a perfect Smolt, except that it is considerablylarger. It is quite different from the Whitling, or Sprod, whichis not known in the Wharfe, at least not in the upper parts ofthat river, whilst the Brambling is never seen in the Ribble. 
The Brambling is a beautiful fish, and it rises very freely bothat the May fly and the artificial fly through the summer; it isoccasionally caught by anglers with the worm on the Salmonspawning beds in the autumn, with the milt perfectly developed,and in a fluid state. Although this fish is not found in theRibble, so far as my observations and inquiries have gone, Ibelieve that it is found in the Tweed, and perhaps also in otherrivers running into the German Ocean; for a letter addressed toMr. Kennedy, who was chairman of the select committee appointed toinvestigate this subject, by a Mr. George Houy, states that theSmolts are sometimes found there ten inches long, which heattributes to their not being able to get down at the properperiod for want of a flood in the river. But I know that in theRibble Smolts will go down to the sea without there being a floodat all, if that does not come within ten days or a fortnight ofthe time at which they usually descend to the sea. I also knowthat Brambling are found in the Wharfe, in years where there hasbeen no deficiency in that respect; yet why they should be commonin that river, when they are never met with in the Ribble, whichhas ten times as many Salmon and Smolts in it, I am unable tocomprehend.
It is my opinion that the ova of the Salmon are not hatched beforeMarch or April. Two anglers, who were in April wading in the riverWharfe, came upon a spawning bed, which they had the curiosity toexamine; they found a number of ova,