ing Winyah Bay.In most cases the fishermen were from northern localities, going south to engage in the industry before the season opened in Delaware Bay, and sending their catch to the Savannah market, or to New York and Philadelphia, via Charleston or Savannah.
In other localities, however, the sturgeon was somewhat slower in being rid of the strong prejudice against it, to which was added in many cases the bitter enmity of the fishermen because of the damage done to their nets by this powerful fish. The salmon fishermen of the Columbia River despised it as a worthless, destructive fish, and for many years whenever taken in the nets a sturgeon was usually killed or thrown out on the bank. Along the shores of the Great Lakes sturgeon were not used very much for food until after smoking of the flesh began at Sandusky about 1860, experiments in making caviar having been tried at that place five years earlier.Before that time they had been so little valued that when it was possible to sell them they would not bring over 10 cents apiece, while in most cases they were regarded as a nuisance, usually being taken out and thrown away. As late as 1872, in fact, sturgeon were taken in great abundance every autumn in the nets of the Green Bay region and were almost universally pulled into the boats and consigned to the offal heap. From Virginia, also, comes the statement that less than three decades ago the roe was thrown away or used for fish bait, and such great quantities of meat were taken in the Potomac that there was absolutely no sale, the fish being piled like cordwood on the shore and farmers called on to cart them away for fertilizer. In the face of these conditions, however, the sturgeon fishery by 1880 had become an important branch of the fishing industry in the Middle and South Atlantic States and in the Great Lakes. Successful smoking of the flesh and its use as a good substitute for smoked halibut had overcome much of the early prejudice and established a small, but growing, market for sturgeon meat, while the manufacture of isinglass from the bladder and, most potent of all, the increasing European demand for caviar, aided materially in establishing the industry on a profitable basis. Instead of being thrown out in heaps to rot as before, the multitudes of sturgeon in the Great Lakes were now turned to profit by the fishermen. Where in 1860 the sturgeon had supported only a tottering industry, confined largely to the Delaware River region, the year 1880 marked an industry widespread in its range and yielding nearly 12,000,000 pounds of products annually.
- Goode, Vol. V., Sec. 1, pp. 617-625.
- Goode, Vol. II., p. 506.
- U. S. Fish Commission Report, 1887, p. 249.
- Loc. cit., p. 263.
- U. S. Fish Commission Report, 1872-73, p. 10.
- Fishing Gazette, January 20, 1906, p. 56.