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.
As to shape, the Wananishe is a perfect Salmon, only a dwarf; and the highest ichthyological authorities on both sides of the ocean are agreed that there is no difference of anatomy between Salmo Salar and Salmo Sebago. I have myself dissected many specimens of sea Salmon and Wananishe, but can detect no permanent or tangible mark of difference between them.
The preoperculum, or small bone at the back of the gill cover, has the rounded corner characteristic of the Salmon. The system of dentition in the Wananishe is precisely that of Salmo Salar, but the teeth are larger and more numerous on the vomer and palatines. This is probably a case of specific adaptation, as the Wananishe lives much on small fish, and unlike the sea Salmon when the latter is in fresh water, is continually feeding. In some specimens I have found a few teeth on the hyoid bone, though Jordan & Gilbert ("Synopsis of the Fishes of North America," 1882, p. 311), following Gunther, give the absence of hyoid teeth as a characteristic of the genus Salar.
The number of spinal vertebras is 59-60; of caecal appendages, I have counted from 50-60 in different specimens.
There are 120 rows of scales along the lateral line, 11-12 in a line from the edge of the adipose fin to the lateral line, which, if continued, would pass just above the pupil of the eye, and is well marked.
The fins are proportionately much larger than in the sea Salmon, especially the tail, which is deeply forked in the young fish, but only slightly lunate in large adults. In a five-pound specimen it will have a spread of seven or eight inches; in a three-pound fish, six inches. The dorsal is high and broad, the pectorals long. The adipose fin is unusually large.
The number of branchiostegal and fin rays has long been abandoned as a specific criterion, but the following comparison shows the similarity in this respect between the various species:
LENGTH OVER ALL
TO END OK TAIL.
GIRTH AT DORSAL.
The eye is remarkably large, about three-quarters of an inch in diameter in the adult, with a pupil a quarter of an inch in diameter These measurements are much greater than in the sea Salmon of fifteen to twenty pounds weight.
In the young fish the back is of a bluish olive when just out of water, turning into a silverish steely blue, which changes to silver below the medial line. The belly is pure white. The back is thickly maculated with black oval spots, not ver-niculated as in Trout. On specimens under a half-pound, there are no X-marks on the sides, but seven small, round, bright scarlet spots evenly spaced along the' medial line, with an additional one just above the pectoral fin. The dark blue parr-bandings are eight in number, and about three-eighths of an inch wide; the head is deep bluish green, inclining to black; the gill covers silver, with olive and green shading. Upon the operculum are two or three irregular, dusky olive, purple and green patches, and two or three deep black, perfectly circular spots of small size. The throat and branchiostegals are white, shaded with dusky gray, inclining to lead color. There are some blackish spots along the base of the dorsal, but none on the tail. The adipose fin is blackish blue.
In the fresh-run adult the color runs from deep black on the back, through bluish green on the sides, to silvery green at the medial line, and silvery white below that. When the fish is just out of the water the body-color is very iridescent, showing green and purple bronze with a tint of rose. The oval spots on the back are so black and run so closely together as to be hardly distinguishable when the fish has been a short time out of water, but in the living fish, observed underwater in a good light, they show plainly upon the olive ground-color. The head is deep black on top. The ground-color of the gill covers is a deep-green bronze, with patches of dark purple and greenish and blackish bronze on the operculum, which has also three or four circular black spots of varying sizes, and generally one large irregular-shaped black spot on it. The lower jaw and throat, to the gills, are of a leaden gray in fine dots, thickly spread on a white ground. Adults are all marked on the body with black spots, either irregular quadrilaterals or double X's, not the single X of the Atlantic Salmon. These spots do not come much below the medial line, and vary a great deal in number and size in individuals. They do not show on the gill covers, tail or dorsal fin, but the latter is usually thickly covered with circular black spots.
The coloring varies somewhat with locality, age, and season, but there is no marked difference of it in the sexes, except at breeding-time, when the male, as in other Salmonidce, is much the brighter hued. In neither sex, however, is the change so great as it is in Salmo Salar. The body color becomes yellow or reddish, the white dirty, and the spots turn to rusty purplish brown. The hooked lower jaw, loss of condition, poor quality of flesh, indisposition to feed, and sluggishness of temperament, that characterize the spawning Salmon, are well marked in the Wananishe.
The qualities of the Wananishe as a game fish will interest brother anglers more than his scientific relationship and peculiarities. After a long and varied acquaintance with Salmon and Trout in Canadian waters, from Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia to the Pacific Slope, I say unhesitatingly that, though Wananishe-fishing has been absurdly exaggerated, it is unsurpassed either in charm of surroundings, its varied and exciting nature, the skill required, or the fighting powers of the fish itself. With a curious combination of the habits of both Salmon and Trout, he has ways of his own that require studying. As he lives in the strongest of water and has an omniverous appetite, his fins and tail are greatly developed, so that by constant training he is an athlete even among the Salmonidce. A two-pounder will fight like a Grilse, and a four or five pounder, fresh run, gives as much sport as a ten-pound Salmon.