Harpers Weekly April 1872
In this edition of Harpers Weekly April 1872 we get a glimpse in to some of the lifes work for a man who’s name and work are embedded in fish-lore, fly fishing and sporting. Mr Seth Green in no an uncommon name to read when doing any type of research into the history of fishing. Whether it be stocking Tout or taking them on a fly Mr Green’s persona was only equaled by his lifes work and dedication to fishing.
APRIL 27, 1872.
In April, 1868, the Legislature of the State of New York passed a much-needed act for the protection of fish. The Hudson River was at the moment practically closed by various nets of so small a mesh that mature shad could not ascend to the usual spawning beds.
This act specifies four and a half inches as the smallest mesh to be used in a shad net, and provides, under penalty, for the opening of all nets or traps from sun-down of Saturday until sunrise of the following Monday. It also designate the season for shad fishery to be those days between the 15th of April and the 15th of June. Horatio Seymour,GEORGE G. Cooper, and R. B. Roosevelt
were appointed Commissioners of Fisheries.
These gentlemen at once engaged the services of Mr. Seth Green and set him at work to restock the Hudson River with shad, and save to the people a food source which bade fair to be presently exhausted.
Mr. GREEN selected for his work a location on the right bank of the Hudson, some four miles above the town of Coeymans. At this a low island affords protection from wind the wash of passing steamboats. It is convenient to some of the best fishing grounds of the river. The fish are taken by seine at night. The ova is gently pressed from the female (if ready for spawning) into a pan of water kept in gentle motion. Care is taken not to injure the shad before spawning it. The male shad is made to evolve sufficient milt to impregnate the eggs, which seem instantly to lose their opacity, and become crystals of more than double their un-impregnated size. From the pans they go to the hatching-boxes contrived by Mr. Green a simple wooden box of fifteen by twenty-two inches, fitted with a wire bottom, and arranged with strips of wood fastened on each side to float with the wire bottom at such an angle to the tidal current as will keep the eggs in continual motion, with the exception of a short time at the changing of the tides, when it is necessary to occasionally shake the boxes to keep the spawn from settling to the bottom, a thing fatal to the life of the ova.
From three to five days are necessary to hatch the spawn. The fry, at once capable of taking care of itself, is set free at night, when small fish with appetite for shad fry are close in-shore,and not swarming after the boat, as is the case during the daytime, when they accompany it on each visit to the hatching-boxes to secure the dead spawn, which must be frequently removed from the boxes. A full-grown female shad will spawn upward of one hundred thousand eggs, of which number it is said that no more than a few hundred will be hatched in the natural way, while by good handling upward of ninety thousand may be secured by artificial hatching. Mr.GREEN has already turned some hundreds of millions of shad fry loose at different points in the Hudson, and expresses a belief that three hundred millions of young shad may be hatched out SPAWNING The SHAD. and set free during the few weeks of time de-voted to the work. The expense is comparatively small; a few hundred dollars cover the entire outlay.
Certainly this is a judicious expenditure and only found its way only to the tables of the wealthy. Even now there seems to be great danger that foolish avarice and lack of foresight on the part of lower river fishermen will bring the work of expenditure of the people’s money, securing as it does a vast food source which would otherwise have dwindled to a supply inadequate to furnish more than a small quantity, which would have the Commissioners to naught. This shows the absolute necessity of a “close time,” suggested some years since by Mr. SETH GREEN-that is, the removal of nets from sundown of Saturday until the sunrise of the following Monday, giving free passage up the river to the spawners on their way to accustomed beds, which at present it is practicably impossible for more than a few to reach, with the river closed as it is with every description of net and trap. When, several years since, Mr. Seth,GREEN undertook to discover some proper apparatus for the artificial hatching of shad, he was working in the interests of the Fish Commissioners of the State of Connecticut, where he told the Connecticut River fishermen he had come with a view of making fish cheap.
He inadvertently used the wrong word: “plenty” would have saved him many a sore disappointment; for the fishermen were already indignant at some State enactments which to them seemed destined to ruin their business. Next Mr. SETH GREEN was to make fish a cheap thing they immediately took steps to prevent by making it next to impossible for him to proceed with his work. The men whom he engaged to help him in the night fishing (it being necessary to seine at night to secure the spawning shad, as they work on their beds at this time) would take his money, but render small return, unless flopping shad across. Mr. GREEN’s face, stumbling over the boat and upsetting the pans of impregnated spawn, or dropping the lantern into the water at a critical moment may be regarded as the kind of labor which Mr. GREEN desired in return for his money. But this was not all: it was working in the dark at best, and the effort an experiment. Most of the hatching-boxes were upset or destroyed at night; hidden ones were found filled with dead spawn. It was during an examination of these, by an accidental inclination of the wire bottom to the action of the current, that Mr. GREEN discovered the present box, since which time the fishermen were prevailed upon to permit the experiment, and the beneficial result paid the State hundreds of times the outlay which has been appropriated by the Legislature.Other States are devoting attention to the subject of pisciculture as a food source, stocking streams and lakes which have for years been tenanted only by small and comparatively valueless fish. In this work Mr. GREEN gladly assists, his great knowledge of the subject rendering his advice invaluable.
This season shad hatching will be commenced by Mr. GREEN as early as May 20, and the work will reach its most interesting point about the 20th of June, at which time, or earlier, parties interested in it will be welcome visitors, as it is desirable that the fullest and best information should be given to the public. To parties desirous of an experimental stock of shad fry the young fish will be delivered without charge. It will be necessary for them, however, to bear all cost of transportation, as the appropriation of the State’s funds is comparatively small, and, but for the rigid economy practiced, entirely inadequate for the work, and it will also be necessary for them to take their own provisions.