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During the great eruption of Lancerote, in 1731, all the banks and shores of the island were covered with dead and dying fish, many of kinds never before seen there. (Von Buch; Lyell, vol. i. p. 381.) The putrid vapours were so great on the 28th October, that they fell down condensed in drops, suffocating the cattle, which dropped lifeless to the ground, (Lyell, i. 381.) The eruptions of Iceland have very frequently slain the fish. (See Henderson and others.) We may presume, from these effects, that the phenomena in Sumatra in 1776, and in 1827 and 1830 in the British Channel, originated in some disengagement of mephitic vapour; and though in neither case was an earthquake felt, still it is more than probable that earthquakes then and there occurred: and, if it were not out of place now, I could adduce reasons (which will be stated hereafter) for concluding that the British seas experienced some submarine convulsion in August and October, 1833. As, however, the object of this paper is to discuss the evidence from animated nature, we shall merely conclude it with observing, that, according to the presumptive proof before us, the want of fish in the Kamtschatkan seas was occasioned by a disengagement of terrestrial heat; and, if so, that the irruption of bears in Canada, considering the conditions of the year 1833, was occasioned by a similar object and cause. Whatever be decided, it is, I think, clearly established that this head of my argument is founded on sufficient evidence: and thus, for the present, I quit the subject, which will be resumed in subsequent Numbers. W. B. CLARKE. Stanley Green, near Poole, Dorset, March 4, 1834.
ART. II. Facts and Considerations on the Natural History and Political Impropriation of the Salmon Fish. By T. G., of Clitheroe, Lancashire.
Sir, INTRoductorily to the remarks, corresponding to this title, which I have to communicate, I would give a description of fish of the genus Sálmo, which we have in the Ribble: it may enable some of your readers to comprehend more readily what is said afterwards. We have, first, the salmon, which, in the Ribble, varies in weight from 5 lbs. to 30 lbs. We never see the fresh 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 in about the latter end of September they become tolerably abundant (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 a very rare occurrence. Some of the male kippers (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 smelts, in May. In this state they will take a worm very greedily, 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, however, 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 13 lb. to 3 lbs. We first see the morts in June, and 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 numerous in the Ribble above the mouth of that river. 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 the sea. It may be said, “How do you know that one of the three or four varieties of smelts, which you describe farther 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 to 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 berling of Scotland. It is a beautiful fish, of 6 oz. or 8 oz. in weight, and has more of the appearance of the salmon than the mort has. 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 shy and difficult to hook. 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; varying in weight from 1 oz. to 3 oz. each; and, as 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 salmon, and also my own, where 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 be in error on any of these points, if some one of your 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, and that the young fry, or smelts, go down to the sea in the April or May following. My own opinion is, that they stay in the rivers very 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 the best season from November to March; whilst the evidence of the witnesses from the 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 kelts 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, both regarding their habits and the best modes of catching them, having in view the preservation and increase of the breed, is so completely contradictory as to leave a doubt in the minds 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 these testimonies are correct, and it will be for your readers to judge how far I succeed; and I hope they will be so obliging as to correct any errors I may fall into. 1st, It is my opinion that the fry of salmon are much older, when they leave the rivers, 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 on 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 smelts 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 30 or 40 miles, and to spawn there. In the next spring (1817), there were no smelts, but about September they began to rise at the very small flies which the anglers in that river make use of: they were then a little larger than minnows. In the spring of 1818, there were blue smelts, 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 are called, in the Wharfe, grey smelts, 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 smelts through the summer of 1819, which by that time were from 4 oz. to 6 oz. in weight, and are known by the anglers there as brambling smelts: the blue marks on their sides are very distinct, and the fish a perfect smelt, 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. 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 also 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 (as far as my observation and enquiries 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 smelts are sometimes found there 10 in. 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 smelts will go down to the sea without there being a flood at all, if that flood does not come within ten days or a fortnight of the time at which they usually descend to the sea. I also know that bramblings are found in the Wharfe in years when 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 smelts in it, I am unable to comprehend. It is my opinion that the eggs 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 eggs, 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 smelts 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 of 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 12 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
appearance of Graham's Island, at that date, for the second time, at the surface of the sea, the steam and smoke rising furiously. (See Mag. Nat. Hist., VI. 307. [and IV. 545–550.])