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.
In the Labrador rivers there are ranges of falls near the sea, to get over which the Salmon have to await suitable stages of water; in some instances these falls are almost insurmountable, but in most cases there are large, deep lakes above them abounding in fish-food, and connected by stretches of swift water, broken by falls and rocky rapids.
"Land-locked," therefore, is rather a misnomer, if it is meant to imply any natural and involuntary restriction upon a return to the sea. But as all other designations are merely local names, and it is hard to find a satisfactory one, it may as well be retained.
It remains to be seen how far it is true that these so-called Land-locked Salmon would not go to the sea if they could. Mr. George F. Boardman, in a letter to Mr. Hallock, given in full in the Sportsman1 s Gazetteer, states that in his boyhood they were plentiful in most of the rivers of the Bay of Fundy, as well as along the State of Maine; that they were common to the tide-waters, and were taken as far down as there were fish-weirs. Mr. C. G. Atkins says:
"There is nothing at present to prevent any of these Salmon going out to sea from any of those waters where they are now found. There are no obstructions to their coming back if they once went to the sea; and these same obstructions would prevent the sea Salmon having access to the upper waters where the Land-locked Salmon now live."
As Dr. Francis Day observes, it is certainly remarkable that among the Scandinavian land-locked races some are found in a number of lakes with broad outlets into the sea. This exactly corresponds with my own observations in Labrador, where I found the Salmo Sebago in tidal but fresh water, as well as at the outlet of the lakes, and in company with the true Salmon and Grilse, which gave an admirable opportunity of direct comparison of the two varieties. I was fortunate in having with me a Saguenay canoe-man, in whose company I had caught many a Wananishe. The first of the Labrador specimens he recognized at once with great delight, as he had been entertaining his incredulous companions with stories of the fighting powers of the little Salmon of Lake St. John. The other men, natives of the coast, old Salmon fishermen, able to tell at sight fish from different rivers, were puzzled at the difference in color and general appearance of the fish, but never questioned i.ts being a small Salmon. The external difference between it and the Grilse, a large run of which we were then having, was equally noticeable.
In the Upper Saguenay there is nothing whatever to prevent the descent of the fish to the sea; the way is direct, broad, and easy, as compared with some Salmon rivers. There is a tremendous rush of water in the rapids, but the strongest of them all, the Grande Chute, is the one by which the fish descend from Lake St. John. As a matter of fact, large numbers of Wananishe are to be seen in the brackish water of the tide-way at Chicoutimi every spring at the time of the heavy freshets, and may be caught at the head of the tide just below the first rapids from that time till the ice sets in; stray ones are found in the Salmon streams tributary to the Lower Saguenay, in the salt water at Tadoussac, and a couple were taken in the St. Lawrence just above the Saguenay.
Whether these Saguenay fish reascend from the tide-way is as yet undetermined. In 1883 and 1885 I marked several hundred, but have never heard of them again. The modes adopted-cutting a hole with a punch in the dorsal fin, and snipping off a portion of the adipose fin-are unreliable, for the fins of fish grow like one's finger-nails, and lacerations soon heal, but they were the only means available at the time. A systematic series of experiments by marking fish with numbered tags of platinum, attached to the dorsal fin by platinum wire, is much to be desired. The recapture of a very few fish thus identifiable would probably solve the whole problem of their movements, and shed much light on the questions as to the origin and permanency of the species.
The rivers which flow into Lake St. John all contain Wananishe, which, however, do not ascend them in any great number till the autumn. The ova are well developed at the end of September, and the fish are then on their way to the spawning-beds, which are, as in the case of the Salmon proper, gravelly shallows with a steady current over them. The spawning season is at the end of October. The spring movement of the fish from Lake St. John down into the Grande Decharge, and the autumn movement up into the rivers flowing into the lake, correspond with the spring and autumn migrations observed at Schoodic Lake by Mr. Atkins. A number of the fish, however, remain in the Grande Decharge and evidently breed there and in its small tributary streams, for the adults can be caught through the ice, and I have taken parr and smolts at almost every part of the Grande Decharge. These, however, may possibly have come down with the spring freshets. On the other hand, I have repeatedly taken adults there in September with milt and ova well developed; the change of coloration, hooked lower jaw, indifference to food, sluggish movements, and all the other characteristics of Salmon near spawning-time, were well marked in them.
The Wananishe reach their greatest size in that region in the large lakes connecting with the rivers that flow into the north side of Lake St. John after long courses over numerous and very high falls. In Lake Tshistagama or Sautagama, on the Peribonca River, the water is deep, cold, and abounds with small food-fish. The Wananishe will not rise to the fly in the lakes, but are readily caught with bait, a spoon, or the artificial minnow. Specimens from this lake, weighing from five to seven pounds, were found gorged with young White-fish and another small fish, apparently a species of Smelt (Osmerus), but too much decomposed to be precisely identified. I observed a peculiar circumstance in connection with these Wananishe on the Peribonca River, in September, 1885, at the Chute au Diable, a fall of about eighty feet in height, divided by an island into two branches, one of which is perpendicular, the other broken into steps. In a small deep hole half-way up the latter, I caught five Wananishe of from two and one-half to four and one-half pounds in weight, which were apparently spawning. The ova and milt exuded when the fish were handled; the noses of the fish were abraded as when they turn up gravel to form their beds, and the ovaries of one of the females were half emptied. It was earlier than the usual spawning-time, and on the most unlikely spawning-ground that could be imagined. I should not even have suspected the presence of any fish there.