This section is from the book "American Game Fishes", by W. A. Perry. Also available from Amazon: American Game Fishes: Their Habits, Habitat, and Peculiarities; How, When, and Where to Angle for Them.
The wealth of fishes on the North American Continent known as game fishes-fishes taken for sport and for food with rod and line-is not equaled, nor is it even approached, by the fishes of any other of the grand divisions of the earth. Of Salmon and Trout alone-the chiefs of game fishes -there are, native and introduced, about thirty species, and that is but a beginning of the list of fishes which abound in the fresh and salt water of the United States and British Possessions. This grand array of fishes has been classified, and each has found its proper place in icthhyology. One or two men were equal to the task of accomplishing this scientific work, but no one or two men have attempted to give a thorough popular description of these fishes, their habits and habitat, and the manner of, and tools used in, taking them in a sportsmanlike way; nor are there one or two men on the whole continent qualified to do this work, and do it thoroughly. The country is too vast, and the waters too widely scattered, for any one man to have become on intimate terms with all of our fishes, and to have been brought into these intimate relations by actual and personal experience with them.
By mixing experience with the contents of text-books, a fair but superficial knowledge may be gathered together of the fishes of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf States and coasts; but it cannot be a complete record of the life and habits of the fishes such as would be acquired by a score of anglers, widely separated, each treating of one or two fishes that he has studied closely in all their relations, because they are his favorite fishes, and because such a study is necessary in order to be successful in their capture; for, be it understood, there are angling specialists, as well as other specialists.
Mr. Shields seems to have realized this fact in the preparation of his fine work, American Game Fishes, for in treating of a score and a half of our best fishes, and of the tools used in their capture, he has enlisted the co-operation of a score of the best writers upon the subject that are to be found in the land. They are men who are specialists as writers upon fishes, generally upon some particular fish, and their fame as such has spread wherever an interest is taken in angling or ichthyology.
The most comprehensive paper yet written concerning that fish about which there have been so many conflicting opinions, the Land-locked Salmon, or Winanishe, or Onianiche, is the one prepared by Mr. J. G. Aylwin Creighton for this volume. Its history, its distribution, its habits, and its peculiarities are treated by a master hand. The author quotes to some extent what others have said of the fish, but his own conclusions, drawn from an extended personal experience, are so clear and convincing that one accepts them unhesitatingly as authoritative, and the statement in the text that "the Winanishe and the Land-locked Salmon of Maine are identical, the only observable difference being a slight one in coloration," will be received by his readers as final. Anglers will read with regret that "any one who wants to study the Land-locked Salmon of Lake St. John and the Saguenay will have to hasten, for the opening of the region to fish-markets and to tourists,by a railway, threatens their speedy extinction."
Mr. Charles Hallock is one who years and years ago crossed the border with rod in hand to study the Salmon in its native Canadian rivers, and as he is one of the pioneer American writers about this kingly fish, his paper very appropriately opens the book.
Mr. F. H. Thurston's paper upon the fish favored of the gods-the Brook Trout-seems to sing an old, old song, with some new and delightful airs added, such as might be expected from so finished an angler and writer. He also tells us of the Grayling, another epicurean fish, which was only a short time ago apparently doomed to destruction, but which may once more become plentiful, as the woodsman and log-driver have done their worst in and about the streams where the "banner-bearer" makes its home, and must perforce permit them to return to something like their former solitude.
It is enough to say that Dr. Henshall writes of the Black Bass; it would be like gilding refined gold to say how he writes about the fish he has legally adopted and considers as his own offspring. His paper on the Mascalonge will be read with equal interest, because this is a theme upon which he has not often been heard. It will be found, however, that he has as thoroughly and carefully studied this fish as he has Micropterus.
Mr. Mather has selected the White Perch as his theme, a fish that is overlooked by too many anglers in summing up the game fishes, and the author has sung its praises so well that many will be tempted to seek this delicious little pan fish.
The Columbia River Salmon seems a far-away fish, and a fish in bad repute, because of the stories told of its ignoring the lure of silk and tinsel; but Mr. Perry brings the fish to our very doors, makes us better acquainted with it and increases our respect for it. He advises us that, though not aesthetic as is its Eastern cousin, it is equally robust and gamy, and that grand sport may be had in taking it on a trolling-spoon.
The Lake Trout is a fish that has had scant justice done it in the past, as a game fish, by very many anglers, and Mr. Pardee's scholarly paper is but a proper tribute to a most excellent fish on the rod and on the table. Let the angler put away heavy tackle, and seek the Lake Trout with such rod and line as one would use in fishing for Black Bass of two pounds weight, and when he fastens to a "Laker" of ten or fifteen pounds, he will have a very good opinion of the Mackinaw Trout. This fish has not been so much in fault as the angler and his tackle.
There is no better evidence that an angler is cosmopolitan in his fishing than to find such a confirmed Trout and Black Bass angler as Mr. Tomlin writing about the Pickerel; that this is not a fish after his own heart it is unnecessary to say, but he believes that justice should be meted out to all fish.
The Tarpon was comparatively unknown as an angler's fish half a dozen years ago; but Mr. Haldeman, from his familiarity with his subject, must have cultivated the Tarpon assiduously since it "came out."
As Mr. Mosher has had to do with bringing into the world and distributing Pike Perch, as well as many other fishes, he is an oracle upon them, and speaks by the book.
Mr. Harris has studied carefully the senses of fishes, and it is not surprising that he should be able to tell so well what they are and how they are exercised in detecting the wiles and lures of the angler.
There is a salty flavor about Mr. Endicott's chapter on Striped Bass, and it is generally supposed that it is the salt spray of the sea that has flecked his hair with white. When Mr. Shields was casting about for the man to write the best chapter that could be written about the "Salmon of the Surf," Mr. Endicott's name appeared to him something after the manner of the handwriting on the wall. I hope the ladies will read that portion of Mr. Endicott's chapter which tells of Miss Winans catching four Striped Bass weighing 177 pounds, and then try to emulate the score.
I presume every one that fishes with fine tackle has at least heard of the Kentucky reel, even if he does not possess one. Mr. Milam, who first made this reel, and who still makes them, for the first time gives, in this volume, the history of the reel, as well as an essay on reels in general. This chapter will be read with the keenest interest, and it is worth the price of the book. Fishing-tackle is also exhaustively treated, and the angler's camp outfit as well.
I shall not attempt to particularize further, for it will be labor lost to tell how Mr. Shields writes of the Rocky Mountain Trout, that he has caught in most of the waters it inhabits; or how Prof. George Brownt Goode, Dr. David Starr Jordan, and the veteran, B. C. Clarke, write of fish with which their names are associated the world over.
The book as a whole is unequaled in the history of angling literature, for the detail with which the various subjects are treated and grouped together, and no other volume presents to its readers so much valuable information by such a galaxy of star writers upon American Game Fishes.
Then, in addition to all this feast of intellectual pabulum, there is presented to the eye a rare treat in the way of accurate, truthful portraits of all the fishes treated in the volume, and besides these, there are many scenes that recall to the memory of the angler delightful dreams of days on lake, surf, or river, that will be green in his memory while reason holds her sway.
By A. Nelson Cheney.