The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, NY), Dec. 19,1870

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Chaumont- The fishing season is nearly ended; most of the nets have been taken up, and the barrels of ciscoes scattered over various parts of the bay and lake shore, where caught and packed are being gathered in and piled up in available places around the depot.

The whole yield of salt fish this year is hardly thought to be as large as last, while pound nets set in the bay have done better. Gill nets have done very little, owing to the heavy wind, and the nest becoming mossed at that time the supply of fish was abundant. No accurate estimate can yet be made, but probably about 6,000 barrels have been caught in this port of the lake.

Warner & Co. Will probably carry off the palm for having put up the largest number of barrels in proportion to the quantity of net used.

The amount of coarse fish, white, pike, pickerel, trout, etc., is larger than last. Horton Brothers and A. H. Dewey & Sons, who have been engaged in shipping fish, report a brisk business for a few days. The first named firm have shipped 30,000 pound and the last named as larger an amount or more. These kinds of fish will be caught all winter in small quantities.

Captain Marks, an old sailor and fisherman had invented an arrangement for catching fish through the ice, which he expects will greatly facilitate the operation. It will be put on trial the coming winter.

In round numbers I have heard it estimated that the fishing business will bring into Jefferson Country $200,000, annually, besides affording subsistence to many families a greater part of the year. It is natural therefore, that a natural failure at some point for two or three years past, as has been the cause should awaken forebodings in the minds of some and leave those unacquainted with the subject yo fear that at no late period there would be a total failure of the supply of fish. A knowledge of the habits of fish, and an acquaintance with the history of the fishing business from its commencement will dissipate these fears, I think, which arise from an erroneous assumption, something like this– if the same quantity of fish cannot be caught in the same places each year, as a consequence there must be less fish in the lake itself.

Horton Brothers, who have considerable capital invested, and have been closely connected with the business for years in and around Chaumont bay, even from its commencement, kindly furnished me with the following information, which applies to the point in questions and may be of interest in explaining the partial failure of the old fishing ground at different periods upon the proof that the fish leave to shun the nets, or else are driven to new places and affording evidence also that the great body of fish in the lake itself is still as abundant and productive as ever.

Fishing to any extent, was first begun with seines. These only drag over certain portion of the lake bottom, which has been previously cleared for the purpose Great quantities were taken for a time in those nets, but gradually the amount decreased, and few could be caught in this way. Gill nets were now introduced and by changing these from place to place, large quantities were again caught but as before, after a time, these nets proved inadequate. The supply of fish failed and it was thought they were gone. Pound nets were then tried and so successfully as to very soon suspend almost entirely the others nets. At tat time a gill net set by the side fo a pound net would catch very few while from the other 50 to 100 barrels a day would be caught. Now both kind of nets are used; pound nets mostly in the bay and gill nets outside.

Some kinds of fish, it is well known, run in schools, and may be turned away and almost entirely desert one place and frequent another, It seems preposterous to suppose that the fish will ever become exterminated while the spawn of one fish the white fish for example- contain 80,000 germs, each capable of being developed into a fish double the number that are taken out of the lake of that kind in a year.

Some fishermen have the habit after the fish are dressed at the shanties of throwing the spawn back into the water, which allow the increase of young to take place as well as though the fish had not been caught. If this plan should be universally adapted all danger would certainly be averted.

The cold weather of this week begins to chill the water of the bay. I notice some parts already frozen over.

Having a little work to be done on a harness last wee, I called in at the ship of George Swind. In examining and pricing his substantial nets of single and double harnesses, I found the price 10 to 20 per cent lower than last spring. Those who usually purchase themselves a new rig for the New Year, or those who contemplate doing so this year, would do well to take advantage of these low prices.

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Dec. 19,1870
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Richard Palmer
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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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Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, NY), Dec. 19,1870