The community does not believe that these interests may be protected by free competition, as is the case elsewhere.
As a rule, one part of the river (the lower) is intended to be fished out in the fall, the other (upper) portion in winter. The fall fishing begins about the 17th of September. On a certain day the "fishing army," as it is called, moves to the fishing places, which are sometimes very far from home. The Cossack carts contain not only nets and provisions, but also the boat used in this fishing. These boats, known by the name of boudara, are so light that two of them may be carried on one cart.
When the "fishing army" comes to the proper place, the boudaras are taken from the carts, and early in the morning appointed for commencing fishing they are placed at the edge of the water, right along the river for a distance hardly compassed by the eye. No less than three thousand boats, each containing two men, meet here. To maintain discipline, a chief, or "fishing ataman," is appointed, and several representatives of 'the fishermen are elected to assist tire chief. The ataman gives a signal to commence fishing by a cannon shot, and then the crowd rush to the boats, and in less time than you can realize what has happened all the fishermen are in their boats and a peculiar kind of boat racing commences. They put forth their utmost strength and ability to outrun each other, and to be first at the place where the fish have gathered in shoals, these places being known by the reports from the fish wardens. Once here, they throw out their small seines and haul them from two boats. Various kinds of sturgeon (from thirty to six hundred pounds weight), sander, carp, bream, and silurus are the principal fish caught at this fishing. The seines differ, of course, in the size of their meshes, according to the fish for which they are intended; but no one has the right to use any but the regular size, large seines being admitted only behind the "fishing army." Hence, as in a noble fight, the chances of all combatants are as nearly equalized as possible by the regulations above mentioned, fixed place and time, regulated tools, etc. Success depends only on the ability and strength of the fishermen.
The total catch during the fall seining is from fifty-four million to seventy-two million pounds, which includes two hundred and sixteen thousand pounds sturgeon and about twenty-one thousand six hundred pounds caviar.
When fishing, the fishing army always goes down the river, covering from twelve to twenty-four miles a day, and in this way moves after a time to the mouth of the river, which is reached, as a rule, at the end of October. At this time the ice begins to accumulate in the river and closes the fishing season.
Another army of equal magnitude, consisting of fish dealers with a large number of carts, accompanies the fishing army.