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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/367

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363
THE PASSING OF THE STURGEON

by representatives of a Boston firm, their object being to put up the roe for caviar and manufacture oil from the bodies. No difficulty was experienced in securing a supply of fish, 160 tons being caught the first season. The oil obtained was of excellent quality, but the experiment with the roe, one of the earliest in the country, was a failure, and after two seasons this venture went the way of its predecessors.

The Delaware River industry, evidently as a result of its proximity to New York and Philadelphia, where more convenient markets could be found among the foreign population and poorer classes, appears to have struggled along with a more or less precarious existence until about 1860. A few years prior to that date, the smoking of sturgeon flesh had been begun on a small scale in New York, and was followed by a similar custom in Philadelphia. Smoked sturgeon made a fairly good substitute for smoked halibut, and in this way a more or less regular demand for the flesh was for the first time created in the cities, being supplemented by the growing "wagon trade" carried on by peddlers who carted fish through the country districts.[1] The preparation of sturgeon roe for caviar had also been done successfully on a commercial scale and was perhaps even a more important factor in promoting the growth of the fishery. But as an important industry, the sturgeon fishery of Delaware River and Bay can not be said to have originated much before 1860 to 1870, at which time, so far as the records show, the Hudson River was the only other place where it gave promise of attaining extensive proportions. Maine was once more the scene of a sturgeon fishery in 1872, when local fishermen engaged in it, giving place two years later to a regular crew, headed by New York fishermen, catching and buying for the New York smoking and caviar establishments.[2] Important fisheries in the Hudson River existed prior to 1880, supplying local demands or the markets in Albany and New York. The former city is said to have taken such quantities of the flesh that it came to be known locally as "Albany beef," like the sobriquet "Charles city bacon" applied to sturgeon meat on the James River, in Virginia.[3] The Maine fishery, however, ceased to be important after five or six years, and never was revived, and the Hudson industry had declined greatly before 1880, because of the scarcity of fish. During this same period, Delaware River fishermen had developed a regular fishery for sturgeon about the mouths of the larger rivers along the South Atlantic coast, the most important localities being Albemarle Sound, Savannah River and Winyah Bay.[4] But regular fishing was also prosecuted near the mouths of the Altamaha, Satillas, Ogeechee, Edisto, Santee and the various streams enter-

  1. U. S. Fish Commission Report, 1899, p. 370.
  2. Goode, Vol. V., Sec. 1, p. 699.
  3. Goode, Vol. V, Sec. 1, p. 659.
  4. U. S. Fish Commission Bulletin, 1891, p. 355.