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Bulletin of the United States Fish Commission 1887
June 1887 Pages 78-80

The Fisheries of Gloucester Massachusetts in June 1887, with notes on those of other localities
By W. A. Wilcox

The fisheries of Gloucester during the past month have not been as satisfactory as was anticipated. Vessels have sailed for the fishing grounds at frequent intervals, many of them starting on their first trips for the year, while others previously employed, after returning home with small fares, have refitted and again departed.

The receipts of cod at Gloucester during the mouth show a large increase over those of the corresponding month in 1886, but this increase is due to the large number of vessels from other ports landing their fares at Gloucester, and not to the greater abundance of fish. Codfish are reported to have been scarce on many of the distant fishing banks, and vessels have, as a rule, returned with only partial cargoes.


Page 79

On George's the catch was larger than during the preceding month, but not equal to the light catch of June, 1886.

The schools of cod frequenting the shore waters off Cape Ann during the spring months have disappeared, and the catch in this locality has been light. Of the Gloucester vessels employed in the cod fisheries on the off shore banks those using salt-clam bait exclusively have, as a rule, been more successful than those supplied with fresh bait.

Many vessels depending entirely upon fresh bait have returned from Western Bank with an average of only 25,000 to 40,000 pounds. Among the arrivals of vessels fishing on Quereau, Grand, and Western Banks with salt clams are: schooner M. H. Perkins, 140,000 pounds; schooner J. W. Collins,140,000 pounds; schooner Druid, 135,000 pounds; schooner Flash, 90,000 pounds; and schooner Legal Tender, 60,000 pounds.

Hake have been reported more abundant off the eastern portion of the New England coast, and on Cashe's and Jeffrey's Banks, during the month than daring any preceding June for some years. A large percentage of the catch has been landed at Gloucester, and the receipts show a considerable increase.

Halibut have been scarce during the month, the Gloucester vessels arriving with small fares: The bulk of these fish are landed fresh and at once iced in boxes and distributed by rail to the trade. At times of oversupply the surplus is sent to the smoke-houses.

Pollock have been found in usual abundance off Cape Cod, being caught chiefly in traps and purse-seines.

The mackerel catch, although an improvement over that of 1886, has not thus far been satisfactory. Almost daily additions have been made to the mackerel fleet, and the fishing grounds about Block Island, off the New England and Nova Scotia shores, and in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, have been well patrolled. At the close of the month the New England mackerel fleet numbered about 250 vessels, most of them cruising between Cape Cod and the Bay of Fundy, though about 30 sail had already entered the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.

The first American seiner to enter the gulf during the present season was the schooner A. R. Crittenden, which passed through the Gut of Canso on June 15. The schooner Albert H. Harding followed soon after, but after a short cruise, during which not a single mackerel was seen, she returned, reaching Gloucester on June 27, and landed a cargo of 126 barrels, part of these being taken before entering the gulf and the remainder on her return passage after leaving same. Mackerel have schooled freely all along the New England coast, and occasional good catches have been made; but most of the schools have been small, containing only a few barrels.

Much of the time the weather has been foggy, and seiners have been obliged to remain idle. The receipts have been light, and prices have advanced from $6 per barrel to $9 for sea-packed mackerel.

Herring of good size have been abundant along various portions of shore between Cape Cod and Eastern Maine.


Page 80.

The catch in weirs and traps, and the occasional catches by the mackerel seiners, have been ample to supply the fishermen with bait at satisfactory prices. The small or sardine herring have been scarce most of the season in the vicinity of Eastport, and the canneries have done but little.

As far as known, the first swordfish of the season was caught off Block Island, and landed at New Bedford on June 11.

There has been a steady and good demand for all the varieties of salt fish, the receipts being taken at more satisfactory prices than those prevailing a year ago. No stock is accumulating. Prices for fresh sea fish have fluctuated, but the demand has been good, and cod and haddock have brought better prices than during June, 1866.[sic]

On June 30 there were 480 vessels, aggregating 30,848.02 tons, belonging in the district of Gloucester. Of these, 380 (over 20 tons each) aggregating 26,666.12 tons, and 49 (under 20 tons each) aggregating 556.07 tons, were employed in the fisheries. The fishing fleet of the district, when compared with that of June 30, 1886, shows a decrease of 8 vessels, and an increase of 164.23 tons; this increase in tonnage showing that larger-sized vessels have replaced those lost or sold.

Fish landed at Gloucester by the fishing fleet in June, 1887.