Malacopterygii abdominales

Malacopterygii abdominales  (Abdominal soft-fin).

The abdominal Malacopterygii include the Pilchard, Herring, Pike (fig. 38), Salmon (fig. 39), Anchovy, Trout, Roach, Chub, Tench, and many more of the Fish which inhabit our streams and the sea.

FIG. 38.—PILCHARD (Clupea pilchardis); 2. HERRING (Clupea Harengus); 3, PIKE (Esox Lucius).

The following account of the Salmon, is extracted from Dr. Baird's Cyclopædia of the Natural Sciences:—"The Salmon is exceedingly abundant in all the northern oceans. It is found in France, England, Germany, Bohemia, Switzerland, Scandinavia, Iceland, and Greenland. It exists also in Labrador and Canada, and down the American coast to the Connecticut river, in latitude 41½ deg., and either it, or a species so closely allied as not to be distinguished except by close comparison, abounds in the Arctic seas washing the northern shores of the American continent. It does not frequent the rivers falling into the Mediterranean, and, though it has been stated to be the case, it does not occur in the Persian Gulf, or the Caspian Sea. In entering the mouths of rivers in order to spawn, the females are always observed to precede the males, depositing their ova in little pools or sort of nests, which they form in the sand at the bottom, for the males to fecundate. The young grow very rapidly, and at the present time, the subject of the changes which they undergo in their progress to maturity is one exciting much interest. When first hatched they are about an inch in length, and during the first year are called "Parr." When they remove to the sea, they receive a more brilliant dress, and then become the "Smolt," varying from four to six inches in length. After a residence in the sea of from two months to ten weeks, they revisit the fresh waters, and are then from two-and-a-half to four pounds' weight, and are called 'grilses' or 'gilses.' During the ensuing winter they spawn, and are then known as Salmon. Salmon grow to a large size, full-grown specimens weighing about forty pounds, though individuals are mentioned which have weighed seventy or even eighty pounds. Such are now excessively rare, owing to the perfection of the means of capturing them at the mouths of our rivers, by which the chances are very greatly against any fish escaping the various dangers by which it is environed for such a succession of years as is likely to admit of its attaining to its full dimensions. The power these fish have in overcoming obstacles to their progress up large rivers at spawning time is very great; they shoot up rapids with the velocity of arrows, and clear considerable waterfalls, leaping a height of ten, twelve, and even as much as twenty feet. The usual time at which the Salmon leaves the sea is the autumn; it remains in the rivers during the winter, and returns to the sea, after having deposited its spawn, in the spring. The fishing of this excellent and universally admired fish gives employment to many thousands of people, throughout the whole of the north of Europe. Salmon fisheries, it has been said, rank next to agriculture. In this country the Scotch rivers supply by far the greater proportion of the salmon brought to market. The total value of the Scotch fisheries has been calculated at £150,000 a year."

FIG. 39.—THE SALMON (Salmo salar).

Many salmon are caught by stake nets, and also by the practice of "spearing;" this is a very picturesque sight, as it is conducted by torchlight.

The Herring (Clupea Harengus) makes its visit to this country about September, in enormous shoals, extending many miles each way; they are caught in great quantities and salted in the boats immediately; when brought on shore they are suspended in the smoke of wood fires, and become "red herrings." The Herring fisheries are very important, and afford—like the Salmon fisheries—employment to thousands; the greatest quantities are caught off the coast of Norway, where it is calculated about 400,000,000 are taken yearly. A great many are caught off Lowestoffe, and Wick, in Caithness. The Pilchard (Clupea pilchardus) is a kind of Herring, and is caught in enormous quantities off the coasts of Cornwall. The Sprat and Whitebait are species of "Clupea."