New England Fisheries in April 1885.

By W. A. Wilcox.

April is usually one of the dullest months in the year with the fish trade, and also one of the busiest with the producer, the past month proving no exception.

The demand for all kinds of fish has been very light and prices nn- precedentedly low. The producers have been busy in preparing for the seasou's work, largo additions have been made to the fleets, and the close of the month finds the larger part of the vessels actively engaged or nearly ready to sail, The Grand Banks cod fleet is leaving later than usual; will not number as many sail; most of them will make only



one trip. The mackerel fleet now numbers 184 vessels, of which 102 are from Gloucester; during the next two months it will be largely in creased. The fleet has worked north slowly, the result being very un- satisfactory.

MACKEREL. From the taking of the first mackerel; on March 2{i, to the latter part of April, the catch was confined to a few vessels, the fist of medium and small size, quality poor, and marketed fresh at low prices. On April 23 and 24, in longitude 740 to 750, latitude 37~ to 38u, the fleet found mackerel in great abundance, and over 100 sail secured fares. On April 25, 26, and 27, ninetythree sail arrived at New York and 14 at Philadelphia, with from 100 to 300 barrels each, the aggre- gate amount landed at Now York from Saturday to Monday noon being estimated at 11,000,000 fresh mackerel and 500 barrels of sea- packed.

This is by far the largest amount of fresh mackerel on record as having been landed at any one port in so short a time. This immense amount, arriving at once, overstocked the market; prices quickly fell from $2 to $6 a hundred, to 50 cents to $2 a: thousand fish; large quantities were given and thrown away. The salt mackerel, being of poor quality, sold at from $2.25 to $2.75 a barrel, in all cases the fishermen realizing very little from the catch.

The fish averaged 90 per cent from 10 to 12 inches in length, the remainder from 12 1/2 to 14 inches, and give promise of good fish later in the season, a decided improvement in size over that of last year. The mackerel were quite well filled with the fine red food called by the fishermen "cayenne."

The following from the Fishing Gazette, of New York, gives some interesting items connected with the great catch:

"A sight was witnessed in our market on Monday morning last that is without a parallel in the history of the fishing business. One hundred sail of mackerel vessels were in port, either unloading or waiting for an opportunity to do so. The slip at Fulton Market has a capacity for only forty sail, and the vessels of the fleet were obliged to seek wharfage wherever it could be obtained, and all along the East River docks, around Washington Market and the docks of the North River, at docks in Brooklyn, the vessels were unloading.

A close estimate made from the actual catch of a number of vessels warrants the statement that there were from eight to ten millions of fish either in process of unloading or waiting to unload. The greater portion of these fish were caught about 120 miles southwest of Barnegat, and were supposed to have formed one immense school. So numerous were the fish that in several instances single hauls of the seine netted 250 barrels; the Mollie Adams, Captain Jacobs, brought in 400 barrels taken in four hauls. This enormous supply of course ran prices down to almost nothing, the fish being sold at from 50 cents to a dollar per thousand; it also affected the price of all kinds of fish, and the cry was 'Down, down.'

The Elizabeth M. Smith, Captain Black, in making a haul for mackerel,



got a large number of tunny fish (also called horse mackerel and albacores) into the seine. These fish tore the seine very badly, but they succeeded in taking about 500, of an average weight of 35 pounds each, and brought them into market and sold them at from 10 to 25 cents each. The Mollie Adams also brought in about 8 barrels of this fish. The tunny is not a popular fish; the flesh, however, resembles lean pork, with a fine mackerel taste, and the time will probably come when it will form a more important feature of marketable fish.

"The inevitable results of such an excessive oversupply of fish began to be manifested on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. The fish began to spoil before they could be disposed of, and Inspector Hamilton was kept busy in condemning such as were unfit to sell. Over 300,000 were dumped on the pier, their ultimate destination being Barren Island, where they will be converted into fertilizers."

After disposing of this large amount of fish, the fleet, on going to sea, encountered a severe gale on April 29. Some twenty seine-boats were lost. As yet only one vessel has reported loss of life. The schooner Neponset, of Boston, lost her seine boat and four men.

COD AND HALIBUT. The George's Bank cod and halibut fleet have found fish abundant, landing good fares as compared with the corresponding month of last year. The catch of codfish was a little more than double; of halibut, three times the quantity.

SHORE FISHERIES. The shore catch of codfish, almost entirely from Ipswich Bay, was taken by gill nets and trawls. The fish were mostly caught from 2 to 8 miles from the shore, between Newburyport and Portsmouth. The amount landed was as follows: At Gloucester, from gill-nets, 144,000 pounds, and from trawls, 211,000 pounds; at Rockport and Portsmouth, from trawls, 175,000 pounds, and from gill-nets, 535,000 pounds.

With the exception of a few scattering sail, the Ipswich Bay cod-fishery closes from the last of April until late in the fall. A few sail from Provincetown have fished for cod and halibut on Nantucket Shoals. Ten miles southeast of the fishing rips they found halibut more plentiful than for many years; three sail landed at Gloucester 17,000 pounds. These fish were noticed as being exceptionally fine, large, and thick; would average something over 100 pounds each, some weighing near 300 pounds; were over two-thirds white.

THE BANK HALIBUT FLEET.-These vessels fished during January, February, and March on the southern edge of the Grand Banks. During the past month the catch was mostly made in what the fishermen call the "gulley," lying between Banquereau and Grand Banks, in 175 to 225 fathoms of water, landing 612,000 pounds, the catch on Grand Banks alone being 131,000 pounds. Vessels mostly arrived with good fares, which brought them fair prices.

WEIRS AND TRAYS. The close of the month finds this branch of the business just getting underway. Provincetown Harbor' between that



port and North Truro, is lined with sixteen weirs put down the past month; $30,000 being invested. They are of value in supplying the fishing fleets with plenty of fresh bait.

THE OUTLOOK. Prospects for the season now indicate another year of large production. Although the migratory fish have been late in arriving riving, they seem to have come in unusual abundance. The catch of alewives in the Susquehanna and Potomac has been the largest for years.

Very little preparation is made for the cure of these fish caught in that section; in consequence the price dropped from the customary one of 25 to 50 cents a hundred fish to the same price per thousand; during the last week in April even lower prices were taken.

THE WHALE-FISHERY. Whale-fishing off the New England coast by small steamers is getting to be quite a business. During the past two months four steamers have been engaged in this work, viz, Fannie Sprague, Mabel Bird, Hurricane, and Josephine.

They cruise off the Maine and Massachusetts shores as far south as Cape Cod. A bomb-lance, fired from a gun held at the shoulder, is used for killing the whales. Up to date about 40 whales have been captured. As the men become expert in the manner of capture, the whales become come shy and keep more in deep water. After being killed they usually sink, and it is doubtful if the business, as at present conducted, will last if the whales are driven off from near shore, it being difficult to recover them in over 40 fathoms of water.

The whales captured the past few weeks average 60 feet long and weigh about 25 tons each; they yield about 20 barrels of oil, 2 barrels of meat, 5 tons of dry chum, and 2 tons of bone, about $400 being realized from each whale, on the average.

THE SEAL FISHERY. During the past month the steamers from provincial ports engaged in the seal-fishery have been returning home, having had one of the most successful seasons ever made in that business. Full returns will be given later.

The following from the Island Press is of interest:

"The seal-fishery has been unusually successful this year. Many steamers have returned from the sealing grounds loaded down almost to the water's edge. Steamer Ranger, with over 200 men on board, re- turned to St. John's with 35,600 prime young harp seals, the largest catch for her tonnage ever taken into any port in the world, every nook and corner of the ship being jammed full. She was compelled to steam slowly from the time of leaving the ice, to prevent upsetting, and had to creep home inch by inch.

Fortunately the sea was calm all the way. Her deck, covered to the top of the rails with 7,100 seals, was a sight never before seen in St. John's. The companion-way was covered in, only room enough being left for a man to squeeze himself into the door-way.

The lazaret contained 720, and 250 were stowed under the bunks in which the men slept. Eight puncheons were filled with oil, and the rest was stowed in the hold."