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 "Wall-eyed Pike" (Lucioperca Americana, Gunther; Stizostedium Vitreum, Jordan & Gilbert), called in Canada Dore, from his golden yellow sides, is also rather too abundant in these waters. Though the lakes in the Saguenay region and the upper parts of the rivers tributary to Lake St. John and the Saguenay abound with Trout, there are none in Lake St. John itself, nor in the lower portions of its tributaries and the Grande Decharge. In the latter there seems to be too much water for them in the rocky parts of the river, and in the calm reaches the bottom and banks are too clayey. Another reason for their absence is probably the high summer' temperature of the water in Lake St. John, which is simply a vast evaporating-pan, being comparatively shallow in proportion to its area of about six hundred square miles, and with a bottom of sand and silt washed down by the dozen rivers, three of them very large and over two hundred miles long, which discharge into it.
That a true Salmon like the Wananishe inhabits such water, is another instance of its curious variation in habits, and a proof of adaptation to changed conditions. This is a subject which I should have liked to discuss here, especially in view of the growing idea I have, which is confirmed to some extent by the results of the accurate and instructive experiments in artificial breeding by Sir James Maitland, at the Howietoun establishment in Scotland, by the results at the Canadian Government's fish hatchery at Tadoussac, and by observation of Salmon rivers, that the Salmon may not be necessarily an anadromous fish, but is only so from choice, just as the Trout of Long Island and many other places are, and that, under certain circumstances of difficulty of descent, combined with abundance of food in large bodies of fresh water, it-or at all events its offspring-may prefer to remain in fresh water, the change in habits and in appearance taking place much more quickly than has hitherto been supposed, and the dwarfing in size not taking more than a generation or two.
The variation in the size of Trout bred, under different conditions, from the same batch of ova, and the well-known difference in the size of Salmon in different rivers, are other arguments for this view, which would dispose of the "land-locking" theory, already shown above as being quite contrary to the facts. This subject would, however, require a paper to itself. I will only add that Sir James Maitland has found that Salmon bred in lakes and not able to go to the sea, if there were no charr for them to feed upon, seldom exceeded four or five pounds in weight, and that Quinnat Salmon, from the Pacific Coast, bred by Mr. Samuel Wilmot at the Canadian hatcheries, when confined all their lives to the narrow limits of the breeding-tanks, have become mature Salmon and reproduced their species, though not attaining a greater length than eight or nine inches, while others more favorably situated have reached the ordinary size.
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, to which the careless greed of settlers and the apathy of the government of the Province of Quebec are contributing greatly. Already it is hard to get a day's sport in water which formerly teemed with them. From what I have said of their habits, it will be easily understood that the so-called "pools" were always very few in proportion to the actual extent of water in the forty miles length of the Grande Decharge. One consolation in this is, that, as all the best water is private property, it can be and is guarded carefully. But this does not preserve the spawning-grounds.
Only ten years ago there was no limit to the number of fish one might get in a day. I have seen forty to fifty taken by a single rod. Nowadays it is rather amusing to see enthusiastic American anglers publish a score of. ten or twelve as something surprising. The average size has also decreased notably, which shows that anglers are catching younger fish. In the times I speak of, four and five pounders were common enough, but now they are scarce in the best waters.
In 1883, twenty days'fishing gave a score of three hundred and seventeen fish to one rod; or, deducting Sundays, nineteen a day; and this was not fishing all day, by any means. Let me hasten to say that there was no desire to make a record; that there were some very small day's catches, owing to the enormous number of flies on the water, which gorged the fish; that a good deal of time was spent in work and loafing; and that all but the few needed for food were liberated either at once or after a few days' detention for observation in a pretty fish pond engineered among the rocks.
On one of these days fifty-three fish were taken by another angler in the same pools at the Grande Chute. The highest score I have ever made was forty-two, and I only mention it to put on record the abundance of fish then existing. But the solitude and the charm have now gone forever from the Upper Saguenay, together with the possibilities of those times.
I think I have said enough about the nature and ways of these little Salmon. Let me try to describe a typical but a real day's sport with them, and I hope you may, my reader, have just such an one with as good a companion and as true an angler as I had that June day in 1888, in our Saguenay Club waters.
We start with a "Bonne chance, Messieurs " from the guardian's pretty wife, a black-eyed, olive-complexioned girl "of sixteen.
Two of the canoe-men, putting their canoes on their heads almost as easily as their hats, have gone on; their mates wait for the rods and traps. A fine quartet they are-French Canadians all, of the voyageur type, with all the skill of the Indian in wood-craft, and ten times his courage; brown and strong from trapping and lumbering all their lives, grave and serious-looking, but with a keen vein of humor; shrewd and hard-bargaining, but thoroughly honest; unable perhaps to write their names, but with a genuine polish of manner which compels respect by its dignified deference. One can make companions and friends of such men as these. Their costume iS simple enough: home-made trousers of the home-woven gray woolen etoffe du pays, tucked in the wrinkled legs of the long moccasins tied below the knee, which, in contradistinction from town-made bottes francaiscs, are known as bottcs sauvages; a flannel shirt with a gay kerchief in a broad fold over the chest; a soft felt hat of Protean shapes and uses, with a cherished fly or two stuck in the crown-perhaps, if la blonde is near her cavalier, a feather or wild-flower in the band.