Is it certain, then, that the salmon do not feed when in fresh water ?
Among the few naturalists to whom it is familiar, this question, as has been mentioned, finds an answer almost unanimous. It is said that during the period of the year which is spent in fresh water before spawning salmon have no need for food. The reasons for this opinion are impressive. In his Report for 1880 to the English Fishery Board, Mr. Huxley notes that salmon taken after having left the sea are never found to contain food. He thinks that salmon, like herring, enter upon a long fast at an early stage in the development of the roe. Between 1877 and 1880 Professor Reusch examined 2162 clean salmon taken from the Rhine, and did not find any remnant of food. He, like Sir Robert Christison, held, after careful study of many fish, that " surrounding the digestive organs, as well as within and around the muscles of every part of the body," there is " an abundance of stored-up and transposable fat which fully explains the ability of the salmon to sustain life for many months, as it evidently does, without food while in fresh water." The Scottish Fishery Board have arrived at the same conclusion. Noting these testimonies and many others, Dr. J. Kingston Barton, whose thoughts are set forth in The Country Life Library work on Fishing, is puzzled at the unbelief of the multitude. "The sportsman," he writes, " seems to be the most difficult person to convince, because he more than any other sees the fish vigorously take his fly or bait, and, consequently, stoutly denies that salmon wilfully starve themselves." Dr. Barton accounts for the sportsman's opinion, and endeavours to explain it away. " Fishermen," he says, " never seem to grasp the fact how few fish come to the temptation of a bait compared with the number of fish that may have the bait proffered to them." Sir Herbert Maxwell, also, is assured that when they leave the sea salmon become abstinent from food. He enforces the doctrine by an entertaining analogy. While studying " Salmon and Sea Trout" in The Anglers' Library, we are to imagine him at his writing-table. What would he do if he beheld a strange and brilliant creature flitting about the room ? " Why," says he, " I should rise, and, being furnished with a serviceable pair of hands, should employ them for purposes of capture, or try and knock the intruder down with my hat, though the last idea that would enter my brain would be to eat the unfamiliar object. All this, provided the strange creature were not so big as to cause me alarm, in which case I should either leave the room or ring for the footman. Well, the salmon acts in a precisely similar way. He, too, rises, for the purpose of capture; but, having neither hands to grasp withal, nor a hat to fling over the stranger, he either snaps at it with his mouth, or tries to flap it with his tail, provided the said stranger is not too big to cause him alarm. If it is, having no bell to ring, he simply lies low."