Among the lakes, rivers and brooks of our country, the lover of the "gentle art" has rare opportunities for indulging in his favorite amusement. Yet how few there are, comparatively speaking, that feel an interest in it. Considering that angling, and trout-fishing particularly, usually leads us among the wildest and most beautiful scenes of nature, it is indeed, remarkable that this delightful recreation is not more generally indulged in. It is not our intention, however, to enter into a treatise upon this manly sport, but merely to embody within the limits of a single article information, that may be useful to an unpractised hand, in regard to fish which properly come under the angler's notice.
In the United States there is but one distinct species of the salmon. He is a bold biter, a sly and handsome fish, and, on account of his strength and build, possesses great leaping powers. He is a voracious feeder, and may be taken by the angler with his favorite food, minnows, the sea-sand eel, or any small and delicate fish, but the surest bait is the common red worm. The rivers of California, Oregon, and Washington Territory, are the only streams within the limits of the United States where the salmon is numerous, and the angler can have good sport. They may also be taken with rod and line in considerable numbers in nearly all the streams which flow into the St. Lawrence from the north, below Quebec, and those which empty into the Gulf of St. Lawrence and into the Atlantic, along the coast of Labrador. Anglers usually take the salmon with the artificial fly and use an elastic-pointed rod, about 18 feet in length, with reel capable of holding from 300 to 500 feet of twisted hair and silk line. The fishing season in Canada and New Brunswick commences about the 10th of June, and in Nova Scotia about one month earlier.
This beautiful fish, with the exception of the salmon, is the most superb game-fish in the world. There are several species. In nearly all the pure cold-water streams of the Northern, Middle and Eastern States the speckled trout abounds. The best bait, in early spring, is the red dungworm, but in June and July the fly is probably the most killing. In many of the States a very proper law is in force for the protection of the fish, allowing them to be taken only during the spring and Summer months. Of the artificial flies the "red hackle" is usually preferred. The outfit of the trout angler should consist of a light, elastic rod and small reel, with 50 or 60 feet of plaited hair and silk line, and a silk worm "leader" 6 feet in length attached. At the end of this, when bait is used, fasten a long-shanked Kirby hook of small size, and, if the current should be very swift, attach a split buck-shot to the leader about a foot above the hook. Put a whole live worm on the hook, allowing the head and tail to be free, so that it will make as natural an appearance as possible in the water. A small woollen bag pinned or buttoned to the pantaloons is the best receptacle for worms. As it is usually necessary to wade the streams, a large and easily-fitting pair of shoes with nails projecting 1/4 inch from the soles to prevent slipping, should be worn. Trout are usually found beneath falls, in eddies, or in portions of the brook where the current is not very swift. The stream should be waded very cautiously, and the fly or bait thrown as far as possible, as the trout is the most timid of all the finny tribes. When you feel the fish biting, draw the line slowly towards you 2 or 6 feet, and if it seems to be securely fastened draw him directly out of the water if small; when otherwise, allow him to remain in the water, giving him as much line as he desires until sufficiently exhausted to be drawn to the shore and lifted out. In Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland trout are but seldom caught exceeding a pound in weight. In a day's sport in the most favored localities in these States, the weight of fish in the angler's reel would not exceed 1/4 lb. each. In New York and the Eastern States the run of trout is much larger. In many of the lakes and tributaries of Maine they are exceedingly numerous and of very large size. On certain days they will not touch the most tempting bait, while at other times they rise savagely at any kind of artificial flies, and the angler frequently kills 3 at a cast weighing 2 or 3 lbs. each. They are often caught weighing as much as 8 lbs., and are most numerous in Maine, in Moosehead, Memfremagog, Mubagog and Sohudic lakes, and their tributaries.
The most agreeable months to visit these lakes are August and September. Earlier in the season black flies, gnats and ticks are very annoying. Even early in the spring, before the snow has melted from the mountains, they trouble the angler. Insects of any kind, however, may be kept at a respectful distance by covering the hands and face with a preparation consisting of 1/3 oil of pennyroyal and the remainder sweet oil.
The Salmon-trout is a fish of much larger growth than the speckled trout, and is less appreciated as an article of food, but nevertheless affords the angler capital sport. They are numerous in many of the lakes of New York and Maine, in Lake Superior and in the Straits of Mackinaw. The same tackle used for salmon fishing could be advantageously used for the salmon-trout or for the speckled trout in Maine.
The white perch is a bold biter and a decidedly pretty fish. It is found in nearly all the rivers of the Atlantic coast, from Boston to Norfolk. In the Delaware, Susquehanna, and Potomac, they are particularly numerous, and give the angler rare sport. On the Delaware a contrivance for catching them called a bow-line or deepsea, is much used. Usually about eight small sized hooks are attached to it. It can be obtained at the fishing-tackle stores. This style of fishing requires no skill whatever, and is much less interesting than angling. Along the edge of the water-brooks which skirt these rivers, or in among the leaves of the plants, when the tide is sufficiently high, fine sport may be had during the summer month, with rod and line. Dung-worms are the best bait for white perch; but they are often caught of large size with the minnow. This fish, when cooked an hour or two after being taken, in our opinion, is unsurpassed in flavor by any, with the exception of the salmon and shad. It is but seldom killed in the rivers by anglers, exceeding a pound and a quarter in weight; although in ponds, canals, and inlets fed by the rivers, it frequently attains a much larger size. Like the salmon, shad, and herring, they are a migratory fish; and when enclosed in fresh water ponds they never propagate, and often become emaciated shortly after the migratory season. Those that survive the first year usually grow to a large size.
The yellow perch, although a pretty fish and a strong biter, is considered rather inferior as an esculent. It inhabits nearly all the rivers and large ponds of the Eastern and Middle States. They bite at almost anything. Indeed, we were informed by a fisherman residing in a cabin on the banks of a beautiful pond, in Pike County, Pennsylvania, that he has caught them with a whortle-berry attached to a hook. This fish frequently attains a weight of from three to four pounds.
This superb member of the finny tribe is peculiar to the West and South. It is found in the greatest numbers in the tributaries of the upper Mississippi, in nearly all the lakes of New York and Canada, including the great lakes, with the exception of Superior, and in the river St. Lawrence. He is a fierce biter, and, unlike the trout is not a timid fish. He is particularly fond of romantic streams and dilapidated mill-dams. He bites freely at the red worm, rises readily at the fly or minnow, and may be taken as early as April and May, according to location.
This superb game fish, also known as the Striped Bass, is found in all the rivers from the Penobscot to Savannah, but is most numerous along the shores of Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Maine. Block Island, within four miles of the Rhode Island coast, is considered about the best locality. Just after a heavy gale is the most opportune time to troll for them, as the largest fish then come near to shore. Trolling from a boat with a rod, is the usual style of angling. For a bait, the skin of an eel attached to a "squid," is usually used. For still river fishing, minnows or the roe of any kind of fish, is most killing. The rock frequently attains a weight of 100 pounds.
This savage creature is considered the longest lived of all fresh water fish. In this country, as in England, it is also known as the Pickerel, but reaches its greatest perfection here. A peculiarity of this fish is its great voraciousness, about which there are many anecdotes told. He is not very particular in regard to food, but it usually consists of fish and frogs. He inhabits nearly all the lakes and inland waters of the Northern and Middle States. A simple and good equipment for pike fishing is a stout rod and reel, a strong linen line, a brass leader, a sharp Kirby hook, and a small landing net. For still fishing a live minnow is excellent bait, and for trolling a small "shiner" should be used. In the winter, when the lakes and ponds are frozen, by making an opening in the ice very fine pike are frequently taken with live minnows. For this purpose the bait should be obtained in the summer or fall and kept alive in springwater. Pike often attain the weight of from 50 to 60 lbs.
This fish belongs to the pike family, and usually weighs from 20 to 40 lbs. It is a favorite with anglers on the great lakes, the upper Mississippi, the St. Lawrence, and along the shores of the Ohio and the Tennessee. He is very fierce in his nature and attacks almost every species of the finny tribe. Small fish are excellent bait.
These well-known members of the fish family are, with one exception, fond of muddy waters, and are numerous North and South. There are several varieties. The white catfish when not exceeding a pound or two in weight is excellent eating. He is usually found in streams affected by the tides, and is fond of clear water. He can be propagated, however, in all the Northern streams and ponds. The yellow catfish, we believe, inhabits ponds, lakes, and rivers in every portion of the Union. In the Mississippi they grow to the weight of a hundred pounds, but elsewhere they don't often exceed ten pounds. They may be taken with various kinds of bait. The white catfish prefers a piece of minnow or the soft portion of clams.
This beautifully colored fish is familiar to almost every school boy. They are usually found in shallow water, are very strong biters and tolerably good eating. They show great intelligence in constructing nests for the reception of their spawn. In the shallow streams of Maryland they can be taken in immense numbers. They are not very particular in regard to bait, but prefer either grasshoppers, crickets, or young bees. To catch them with the greatest satisfaction, a short rod, a light line with float, and small Kirby hook, are necessary. The sunfish but seldom exceeds a pound in weight The largest are taken in August and September, and can be as readily captured with the artificial fly as with bait.
This slippery fish inhabits nearly all the lakes, rivers and ponds of the United States. It is a singular fact, however, that the great Mississippi is destitute of it. When not exceeding 1 or 2 lbs. in weight they are capital eating. The most rapid way of catching them is with the "bob," composed of large earth-worms, strung together. For this purpose waxed homespun thread, with a long needle, should be used. Pass the needle and thread through the entire length of the worms, until a string about 6 feet in length is formed, which should be doubled up with loops a few inches in length, securely tied together, and fastened to a strong stick 5 or 6 feet in length-- an old broom-handle would answer very well. Keep the worms on the bed of the stream, and when the eels pull at them quickly jerk them up into the boat, or upon the shore, wherever you may happen to be. Frequently 4 and 5 fish are taken at a single haul. With rod and line a piece of minnow is excellent bait. Young eels, a few inches in length, are a very killing bait for perch, pike and rock.
Throughout the Eastern, Northern and Middle States this pretty fish is very numerous. He is a hold biter, and is often found in trout streams. He takes the fly readily, and is decidedly a game fish. Like the trout he is very shy, but for eating purposes is quite inferior. He sometimes weighs as much as 5 and 6 lbs.
Of this rather clumsy fish there appears to be two varieties. Those inhabiting cold water streams are more slender and more comely shaped than those found in rivers and ponds. The former are a better flavored fish than chub, and maybe taken with the red worm in deep water at any season. They are poor biters, but often show considerable fight after being hooked. A full grown fish weighs from 3 to 4 lbs.
This is the most numerous of all the migratory fish in the United States. He will take the red worm or shad-roe, and on clear days, with a southern wind, will jump at a gaudy fly or piece of red flannel fastened to a hook. For eating purposes, after going through a course of "curing," he is a very palatable fish. He don't often exceed a lb. in weight.
This fish is found in nearly every portion of the United States; is a fair biter, but the poorest of all as an esculent. He don't usually exceed 1/2 lb. in weight, and may be taken at any season with a little piece of dough attached to a small hook.
This pretty little fish, we believe, is scarcely noticed in any of the works on angling. He frequents many of the streams in the northern and middle portions of the United States, but grows large in cold-water brooks, and is often taken alongside of the trout. He but seldom exceeds 7 or 8 inches in length, and is an excellent pan-fish. Very light tackle, small, long-shanked Kirby hook, and red worms for bait, should be used. He bites only during the spring months.
We have given a brief account of all the principal fresh-water fish of the United States that are of interest to the angler. Of the salt-water fish, those that are most fished for, are the sheeps-head, Spanish mackerel, weakfish, bluefish, black-fish, croaker, flounder, porgy and sea-bass. Fishermen along the seaboard usually use the hand-line, but the true angler should fish with a strong rod with reel, and stout flax line with large hooks. The usual baits are soft-shell crabs and clams, large shrimps, fiddlers, young crabs and muscles The fishing season extends from June to October.
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