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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/366

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362
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

men at Trenton, then an important fishing center, packed sturgeon in barrels, shipping them to New York and to Philadelphia by ox team.[1] But until long after the colonial period, even in these places the roe was regarded as worthless except as feed for hogs or as bait for other fish. Furthermore, few people of the better class would eat the flesh, it being the food of servants and negro slaves.[2] The reason for this prejudice is not recorded, but it is not unlikely that it was similar to the early prejudice against the Connecticut River shad on the ground that it was food for Indians. It is true enough that this objection, though equally applicable, did not prevent the colonists from consuming large quantities of oysters. But the difference in the edible qualities of oyster and sturgeon combined with the no less great abundance of the more highly esteemed shad, might readily explain the inconsistency. At all events, that the strong prejudice did exist is beyond question, hence there seems to be room for some doubt about the importance of this Trenton fishery of the colonial period.

In the "History of the Fisheries and Fishing Industries of the United States," edited by G. Browne Goode, it is said that a large sturgeon fishery, employing a score of vessels in some years, was carried on in Maine during the early part of the eighteenth century, but was not followed continuously. The account does not state to what use the products were put nor where they found a market. Again in the first quarter of the last century a company of men located on a small island in Casco Bay and began fishing for sturgeon, sending the flesh in kegs to the West Indies. The business was soon suspended for unknown reasons, however, and although there was an abundance of sturgeon in the Kennebec there was no further attempt to utilize them, except for occasional home use, until many years later.[3]

Despite these various experiments at sturgeon fishing in different localities, the strong prejudice against the sturgeon flesh appears to have precluded the possibility of developing any regular market, and so prevented the growth of any important industry, until after 1850. It seems probable that the first approach to a regular and permanent fishery was developed in the Delaware River region. About 1830 and later, three Pennsylvania fishermen made a practise of taking sturgeon with nets and harpoons near the present town of Bristol, Pa. They also did some fishing about Dutch Island, near Bordentown, while on the other side of the Delaware a gill-net fishery was begun in 1853 at Penn's Grove, New Jersey.[4] That the occupation here was not very remunerative, however, can be seen from the fact that the fish rarely sold for more than 30 cents each and often as low as 1212 cents.

About the same time, a third attempt was made in the Kennebec

  1. Fishing Gazette, July 21, 1906, p. 679.
  2. U. S. Fish Commission Report, 1899, p. 370.
  3. Goode, Vol. V., Sec. 1, p. 699.
  4. U. S. Fish Commission Report, 1899, p. 370.