The Flying Fish (Exocoetus Volitans), the favourite food of the great ocean mackerels, is sometimes caught on a hook. In the ' Zoologist' a Mr. Smith described how, during a voyage from Peru to Callao, a variety of baits were employed in the capture of these pretty creatures, such as pieces of red bunting, artificial minnows, and small spoon baits ; the most successful being a small gilt minnow and a large red fly. Mr. Smith relates that, in following the minnow through the water, the fish would open their pectoral fins—the so-called wings - and poise themselves for a rush at the bait. Spreading the wings also had the effect of checking their progress, if their suspicions were aroused by a close inspection of the bait. When hooked they prove very game fish, taking out several yards of line in their first rush, and often making a flight in the air, line and all.
I suppose I need hardly say that flying fish do not fly in the ordinary sense of the word. When they shoot out of the water their large pectoral fins are not worked with the motion of a bird's wings, but seem rather to vibrate and act as parachutes, delaying their fall back into the sea. On dark nights flying fish appear to be unable to direct their course wisely, for they sometimes alight or tumble on the decks of vessels.
Captain Howell informs me that he used to catch a large number of flying fish between Aden and Ceylon by rigging out a net on the weather side of the ship, underneath the side lights. The net was about thirty feet in length, and by means of two supporting spars stood out from the side of the vessel three feet or so. It was about the same distance below the level of the deck, and formed a long, narrow, horizontal bag of netting, into which the fish fell.
In British waters flying fish are rare, but not unknown. Several have been seen on the coasts of Cornwall, Devon, and Ireland, and one was picked up on the beach at Helford, near Falmouth. Another was found on the quay at Plymouth.
There is a lesser flying fish known to naturalists as Exoccetus evolans. According to Pennant, a specimen was once captured in the river Towy ; but there is some doubt on the subject.