The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), Dec. 10, 1879

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Alarming Decrease In the Population of the Lake.

If something is not done soon in the matter of fish in Lake Ontario, lovers of ciscoes and keepers of Lent will have to fall back upon Hibernian turkey, better known as codfish. We are led to these observations after reading the experience of practical fishermen of the St. Lawrence who obtain their supplies from the river and Lake Ontario. Recently Seth Green, the father of State fisheries, in a letter, stated that he had been informed that over 500 shad, weighing from 2 1/2 to four pounds each, had been taken in white fish nets in deep water off Sackett's Harbor, in Lake Ontario, during the past summer. Their stomachs were full of the common food of the lake, showing that they feed in the lake, and the chances are that they have never been to salt water, and that we have added a new fish to the waters of the lake. Seth says: "I have opened thousands of shad taken in the Hudson, Connecticut, and Potomac Rivers, and hardly ever find anything in their stomachs. I think they have become land-locked, and will make Lake Ontario their home."

Clark & Robbins, experienced fishermen of Sackett's Harbor, refer to this letter as follows: "Seth Green's shad letter is being copied widely by the press of the country, and as there is evidently some misunderstanding in the matter, we endeavour to open a discussion with a view of getting at the facts. Mr. McPherson, referred to by Mr. Green, is a dealer at Cape Vincent, not Sackett's Harbor. Monroe Green called at our office while en route from Pidgeon (sic - Pigeon ) Island to Caledonia with trout spawn, about three weeks since, and made some enquiries concerning the shad in Lake Ontario, and we gave him such facts and views as we possessed. The total number of shad caught by our fishermen during the season of 1879 does not exceed twelve in number, and we reach over the greater part of the eastern end of the lake for our supply, and get the fish from a great many miles of net.

The total number of shad received at our packing house for the past six years does not exceed fifty. We have opened most of those received, and found almost no food at all in the stomach, and the fish do not possess that bright, glossy, or oily appearance so attractive in the shad taken in the Connecticut and North rivers, but rather a dull, leaden color, suggestive of weakness and decline, as if they had lived for some time in an element not suited to their wants.

Since the attempt to propagate shad in this lake was made, there has annually appeared myriads of small fish in waters of the lake, that are scientifically termed the 'midwife,' and are said to follow the shad from the ocean to the spawning grounds in fresh water. This may or may not be the correct theory, but of one thing there is a certainty, and that is, we have untold millions of these little fish, which make their appearance in early spring and remain until well into autumn, and we believe they are destined to revolutionize the business of catching fish in the lake.

Since their appearance the catch of ciscoes has steadily diminished from $25,000 worth a few years ago to almost nothing now (the catch this fall is not over $200 in amount), and we predict less for next season. From the series of observations extending through the period of four years, we have arrived at the following conclusion: The attempt to add the shad to the food fish of Lake Ontario has proven a very doubtful experiment, and instead of that we are seeing the gradual and, to us, almost certain depletion from these waters of two of the most famous food fish that nature has given us. We also thing the quantity of whitefish taken in this lake is sensibly diminishing. Our theory is, that the food required for the sustenance of the ciscoe and whitefish is absorbed by the myriads of these little intruders and the ultimate result will be the extermination of the two former varieties. We shall be glad to hear the opinions of other parties on this question, and we think the question is one of no small pecuniary importance to Jefferson county.

p.3 Injured - We learn of the accident which Capt. I.H. Radford sustained by a rigging displacement on the schooner Prince Alfred, when running out of Chicago. Our contemporary says the captain is laid up at Milwaukee.

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Dec. 10, 1879
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Rick Neilson
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), Dec. 10, 1879