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 Blue-fish are believed to have had a very important influence upon the abundance of other species on some parts of the coast. This has been noticed especially on the north side of Cape Cod. South of Cape Cod the small fish occur in such enormous abundance that even the voracity of millions of Blue-fish could hardly produce any effect upon them. Capt. Atwood has recorded his belief that the advent of the Blue-fish drove away the Plaice or large Flounder from those waters, not so much by their direct attacks upon them as by destroying the squid upon which the latter formerly subsisted.
He is also of the opinion that the Mackerel, once, for a time, were affected by them. The Mackerel have since returned to those waters in their wonted numbers, but the Blue-fish are not now sufficiently plenty north of Cape Cod to interfere with them. The flight of the Mackerel is not an unmitigated evil, however, since, as Capt. Atwood pointed out, the number of lobsters for a time was very considerably increased. The Mackerel fed upon their eggs, and when they were driven away by the Blue-fish the lobsters had a better chance to multiply.
The Blue-fish sometimes make their way up the rivers to a considerable distance, the adults, however, apparently never entering the perfectly fresh water. They are found in the Potomac as far north as Acquia Creek, and also far up the Hudson; indeed, the young of the year are taken as high as Sing Sing on the Hudson and in other tidal rivers, where the water is entirely fresh.
Summing up all the evidence in regard to the periodical appearance of the Blue-fish, we find notice of its occurrence in 1672, or even 1659, and up to 1764. How long it existed in the waters prior to that date cannot now be determined. The oral testimony of Mr. Parker refers to its occurrence at Wood's Holl in 1780 or 1790; and it is mentioned by Mr. Smith as being at New York in 1800, and at Edgartown, Mass., about the same time, by Capt. Pease. Mitchell testifies to its occurrence in New York, of very small size, in 1810; and it is recorded as existing again in Nantucket in 1820, and about Wood's Holl and Buzzard's Bay in 1830 to 1831, and a little later at Hyannis. In 1830 it had become abundant about Nantucket, and in the fall of 1837 it was first noticed in Massachusetts Bay, and then year by year it became more and more numerous, until now it is very abundant. Several accounts agree in reference to the very large size (even to forty or fifty pounds) of those taken in the last century.
Further research into ancient records may tend to throw more light on the early history of the Blue-fish, and even materially to change the conclusions already reached. It will be observed that the references to its occurrence, from 1770 to 1800, are on the testimony of aged persons who have heard their fathers speak of it, although I find no printed records anywhere in reference to it between 1764 and 1810. The rate of progression to the north of Cape Cod I have at present no means of indicating, although they probably gradually ranged further and further north, and very possibly occurred much further east than we have any mention of at present.
During the present century the maximum of abundance of these fish off the middle coast of the United States appears to have been reached from 1850 to i860. The testimony elicited from various observers, as well as from printed records, indicates a decrease since that period, much greater in some localities than others. About New York they are said to have been unusually plenty in the summer of 1871, but farther east the diminution which had been observed in previous years appeared to continue.
Diligent research by numerous inquiries during a period of sixteen years has added little to what Prof. Baird has stated, and it may be regarded as almost certain that Blue-fish do not spawn in our inshore waters. The only important contribution to our knowledge on this subject is found in the notes of Mr. Silas Stearns, who believes that he has abundant evidence of their spawning in the Gulf of Mexico. His remarks are quoted in full below. The Hon. Robert B. Roosevelt records that he observed the Blue-fish fry less than an inch in length in the inlet of Far Rockaway, N. Y., on the 10th of July- Little is known of their reproduction. Dr. Yarrow does not give any facts in regard to this subject, at Fort Macon, except that spawn was seen to run out of a small female caught July 14. Dr. Holbrook is also silent on this head. Mr. Genio C. Scott says the spawning beds are visited by the parent in June, and consist of quiet nooks or bays. Mr. R. B. Roosevelt states that very diminutive young occur in immense numbers along the coast at the end of September or beginning of October ("Game Fish of America," 1862, 1859.) Prof. Baird found the young fish at Beesley's Point, N. J., in July, 1854, two or three inches in length, and more compressed than the adult; but farther east, on Vineyard Sound, although diligent search was conducted, beween the middle of June and the 1st of October, with most efficient apparatus in the way of fine-meshed nets, I met with nothing excepting fish that made their appearance all at once along the edge of the bay and harbor.
According to Capt. Edwards, of "Wood's Holl, a very accurate observer, they have no spawn in them when in Vineyard Sound. This statement is corroborated by Capt. Hunckley; and Capt. Hallett of Hyannis, "does not know where they spawn." The only positive evidence on this subject is that of Capt. Pease, who states it as the general impression about Edgartown that they spawn about the last of July or the 1st of August. He has seen them when he thought they were spawning on the sand, having caught them a short time before, full of spawn, and finding them afterward for a time thin and weak. He thinks their spawning ground is on the white, sandy bottom to the eastward of Martha's Vineyard, toward Muskeeget.