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A review of the fisheries in the contiguous waters of the state of Washington and British Columbia Rathbun, Richard, 1852-1918 1899

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Assistant Secretary, Smithsonian Institution.
By Eichard Rathbun,
Assistant Secretary, Smithsonian Institution.
From 1893 to 1896 the fisheries in the boundary waters between
Canada and the United States were made the subject of inquiry by
an international commission, composed of Dr. William Wakeham, of
Ottawa, as the representative of Great Britain, and the writer acting
on behalf of this country. The interesting region at the western terminus of the boundary line, where the fishing industry, though still
comparatively new, has already attained a marvelous development, was
visited in the summer of 1895, and several weeks were spent in examining its principal features. The results of this investigation, so far as
they were directly pertinent to the objects of the commission, were
embodied in its report submitted to the two respective governments
on December 31, 1896.* Since then the writer has again gone over the
voluminous notes made in the field not only by Dr. Wakeham and himself but also by various parties of the United States Fish Commission,
including the work of the steamer Albatross, and has consulted the
long series of reports published by the Canadian Department of Marine
and Fisheries. The present paper is based upon the materials derived
from these sources, and is limited in scope chiefly to those fishery
questions of the region which are of international concern.
The fact most strikingly brought out in the assembling of these data
is the great paucity of accurate or detailed information regarding the
aquatic products of the region, such as is requisite in providing for
their preservation while still permitting them to be utilized without
needless interference. * With exceptional opportunities for their study,
resulting from the favorable conditions of environment, the field is one
that would richly repay the inquiries of the naturalist and fishery
expert, if properly directed, in the practical benefits they promise.
After this explanation it is to be expected that the following pages will
prove more serviceable in pointing out lines of profitable investigation
f Message from the President of the United States relating to report of joint commissioners relative to the preservation of fisheries in waters contiguous to the United
States and Canada. House of Representatives, Fifty-fourth Congress, second session, Doc. JNo. 315, pp. 178, Washington, Government Printing Office, 1897.
253 254
than in setting forth the conditions which are actually known to exist,
and while attention is called to the great variety of resources, these
are enlarged upon only in the directions where their development has
already made them prominent. It has also been possible in these same
directions to indicate a few plausible means of safeguarding such
resources, the suggestions in that regard being made in the full belief
that ways can be found for rendering the fisheries as permanent a
feature of any region as that of farming.
As the circumstances attending the rapid growth of the salmon
fishery in the Puget Sound region of Washington since 1895 have not
been made the subject of scientific investigation, and as only meager
information regarding them has been obtainable, coming often from
sources of doubtful authority, it has been impossible to deal with the
recent history of the question in other than a very general way. The
deductions here presented have, therefore, been chiefly based on the
conditions found to exist in 1895, with such additions as seem certainly
to be warranted.
At the western end of the international boundary line formed by the
forty-ninth parallel of north latitude is a nearly landlocked sea, having
especially noteworthy characteristics, the most important of which at
present is its fishery wealth, shared in somewhat equal proportions
by both Canada and the United States. This sea is elongate in shape
and extends in a general northwest and southeast direction a distance
of over 200 miles. Its southern end penetrates some 50 miles or more
into the State of Washington, while its middle and northern parts lie
between Yancouver Island, on the west, and the mainland of Washington and British Columbia, on the east. Having nowhere a width of
over 35 miles, it is in some places much constricted and contains many
islands which occupy the greatest relative area south of the boundary.
Two passageways connect it with the ocean, a shorter and broader one,
the Strait of Juan de Fuca, opening on the west, and a long series of
irregular and mainly narrow channels leading northward.
There is no name, unfortunately, by which this body of water can be
designated as a whole. Its northern part, chiefly in British territory,
is called the Gulf or Strait of Georgia; the middle pqrtion, largely
occupied by the San Juan Islands, appears on the hydrographic charts
as Washington Sound, although locally this name is scarcely recognized; while the southern part is known as Puget Sound, a term which
is often popularly but incorrectly applied to the entire area within the
limits of the State of Washington, exclusive of the Strait of Juan de
Prominent characteristics of the sea are its abrupt shores, great
depths and relatively low and equable temperature of water. The
shore line is exceedingly irregular, being broken by innumerable bays,
harbors, and deep inlets, is high and rugged in many parts, and backed
by tall mountain ranges and occasional isolated peaks, all of which
combine to produce a region of exceeding picturesqueness. The more
open areas are the Gulf of Georgia and the waters at the inner end of
the Strait of Fuca. The greater part of Puget Sound is divided into
long, more or less winding passageways and inlets of medium to very
narrow width, which, especially in its southern part, ramify in all
The depth of water exceeds 200 fathoms in a few places, is above 100
fathoms over a wide extent, and seldom falls below 30 or 40 fathoms. "Hi
This deep water is not alone characteristic of the open areas, but
extends through the various channels at the south and reaches close
upon the shores. In fact, there is practically no shallow water anywhere, except upon the few shoals and submerged rocks and upon the
banks formed about the mouths of rivers by the sediment brought down
at flood time. Its temperature seems never to reach 60° F., even in
the summer, except in some of the more sheltered bays, the records
showing mainly from 53° to 58°, and in the winter it is relatively high
as compared with similar latitudes on the Atlantic coast. Under these
conditions little is to be feared from local sources of pollution or other
generally harmful agencies, and the effects of its rivers, however
swollen and muddy during freshets, are for the most part quickly
In its ruggedness, its depths, the temperature and purity of its
waters, this sea partakes of the characteristics of the adjacent ocean,
with which its strong tides maintain a constant interchange. It naturally follows that its fishes are those of the outer coast, which find
here only somewhat greater shelter and perhaps a more convenient
source of food. To the local fishermen it gives many advantages, convenient grounds, nearby harbors and markets, and those opportunities
for fishing which belong especially with a broken sheet of water.
The region, both from its resources and from its natural advantages,
is destined to have an important future. Its local products, which
have thus far been most developed in the line of the fisheries, are
sufficient to secure it great prominence, but its harbor facilities and
convenient position with reference to Alaska and the Orient insure its
becoming one of the most important commercial districts on the Pacific
coast. The surrounding country is, in many sections, being rapidly
settled, and while much unwarranted booming has taken place, a number of towns and cities have been established under conditions which
make certain their future growth and prosperity. The most important
of these in Washington are Seattle and Tacoma, whose commercial
activity is already well marked. In British Columbia, Vancouver is
the point of transshipment between the Canadian trunk line and the
finest fleet of Pacific steamships; New Westminster, on the Fraser, is
the headquarters of the salmon fisheries and canning, and Victoria is
the principal British seaport. The development of trade and of local
resources, not many years now past the stage of infancy, has been 256       REPORT  OF   COMMISSIONER  OF   FISH   AND   FISHERIES.
phenomenal, and is progressing year by year in an ever-increasing
ratio. The recent gold excitement at the north has given a new impetus,
but the fisheries, so long as they are preserved, will figure as one of
the most valued features of the region.
This landlocked sea has only one large tributary stream, the Fraser
River, which belongs entirely in British territory. With a single exception at the north, all other streams which enter from the east belong
to the western drainage of the Cascade Range, and are therefore short
and correspondingly unimportant. The Fraser is derived from several
sources on the western side of the Rocky Mountains in the neighborhood of Yellowhead Pass. Flowing northwest about 190 miles through
the deep valley between the Rockies and the Selkirks, it rounds the
northern edge of the latter and thence continues southward about 470
miles, when it bends^ toward the west, completing in that direction the
remaining 80 miles of its course. The total length of the Fraser is
therefore in the neighborhood of 740 miles. There is one principal
affluent, the Thompson, which joins it about 145 miles above its mouth,
but of minor tributaries it has very many, ranging from medium size
down, which are distributed throughout the system. Belonging with
these, as a conspicuous feature of the system, are numerous lakes, generally elongate in shape, placed singly or in chains, which are mostly
enlargements of the water-courses and have originated in the obstruction of channels by silt and coarser debris brought down by freshets
derived from melting snow on the mountain sides.
The variable nature of the country through which the Fraser flows
gives it a great diversity of characteristics, and in its passage through
the Coast Range it has produced the celebrated canyon which bears
its name. Its surroundings are in many places extremely wild and
picturesque, but its lower 80 miles are through a flat, alluvial plain
mainly deposited from its own silt, and about 10 miles above its mouth
it divides to form a delta through which it reaches the Gulf of Georgia
by two principal channels and several lesser ones. This plain affords
rich farming land, much of which is under cultivation.
The river is navigable for vessels of ordinary draft a distance of
about 80 miles from the sea, and for smaller craft about 60 miles farther. Its current is strong, increasing greatly in the season of freshets,
the late spring and early summer, when it overflows its banks to a
greater or less extent in the lower levels. This flood condition is
chiefly caused by melting snow in the upper and tributary waters, and
while varying in extent it seldom causes any appreciable damage, as
dikes have been built around the farming lands. There have, however, been occasional extraordinary floods since the region has been
settled, the most severe one on record having occurred the last of May,
and the first of June, 1894, when the river burst all bounds, covering
the lowlands and valleys, sweeping away houses, and devastating
crops. At this season the fishing is not important and its interests are
not materially affected. FISHERIES  O'F   WASHINGTON   A.ND   BRITISH  COLUMBIA.     257
The upper limit of tidal influence in the river is in the neighborhood
of Sumas, about 55 miles from the mouth, but brackish water i» said
not to be perceptible much if any above New Westminster. These
limitations are for the spring tides during the periods of low water.
The freshets counteract the influence of the sea in proportion to their
height, and at their maximum carry the fresh water, at least on the
surface, as far as the river mouths and into the Gulf of Georgia beyond.
The ordinary rise and fall of the tide is about 12 feet at the mouth of
the river and 4 or 5 feet at New Westminster.
A marked feature of the freshet season, having an important bearing
on the salmon fishery, is the intense clouding of the river by sediment,
a fine grayish silt, which remains long in suspension and gives a light
slaty color to the water. The deposition of this material is going on
continuously throughout the lower level portion of the river, causing
shifting bars and banks, which, with their accompaniment of snags,
are a source of great annoyance to navigation. But the silt is also
carried out beyond the river, where it is adding to the delta formation
and building up a wide bank or shoal along the shore, from Point Grey
to Point Roberts. This bank is broadest directly in front of the river
mouths, of which the principal ones maintain their channels through
it into the deeper waters of the Gulf of Georgia.
In the early spring, when the quinnat begin to run, the river is comparatively clear, so that in the daytime the gill nets can be more or
less plainly detected by the fish. Later the sediment appears and
continues in all its intensity during June and July and into August,
when the river begins to clarify. In the opaque water the nets may be
used as effectively by daylight as at night, and it is during this season
that the great sockeye run takes place, the run on which the canneries
mainly depend for their immense pack. Day and night the nets are in
the water, not only within the boundaries of the river, but over the
outside bank and sometimes beyond its margins where the discolored
water extends for several miles in all directions.
Aside from the Fraser there are numerous small rivers belonging to
this drainage, of which the greater number and the larger ones are on
the east side, taking their rise on the slopes of the Cascade Range.
Those north of the Fraser are little known, but they end in large inlets.
In Washington the most conspicuous is the Skagit, which is navigable
for 60 miles, the other more important ones, beginning at the north,
being the Nooksack, Stilla'guamish, Snohomish, Dwamish, Puyallup,
and Nisqually. These reproduce on a small scale the principal characteristics of the Fraser, the mountain features, the terminal lowlands,
the deltas, and the flood season with its turbid waters. On the west
side of Puget Sound and along the Strait of Juan de Fuca the streams
are still smaller, scarcely more than creeks at the most, the highlands
lying closer to the coast and greatly restricting the width of the drainage area. The inner side of Vancouver Island has only two rivers of
any moment, the Cowichan and Nanaimo.
The fishery resources of this region comprise a wide variety of products belonging to both the sea and its tributary fresh waters, many of
which are exceedingly abundant and some of high commercial value.
As is naturally to be expected, however, in a comparatively new country,
still having a small population, the development of these resources has
so far been directed mainly toward a few "forms especially adapted for
export trade.
In this respect the activities have been very marked during recent
years and substantial progress has been made in building up a remunerative industry whose permanency may be insured by wise and conservative measures of control, even though its further growth should
cause somewhat heavy drafts upon the stock. Still other lines promise
good returns for the successful preparation of certain products suited
for distant sale, but not until the region shall have become much more
thickly settled can its rich fishery opportunities be measured at their
full value. There is a host of species requiring near markets to be
utilized, whose abundance is sufficient to contribute in due proportion
toward the sustenance of an extensive population. As the time when
such conditions may be expected to prevail is probably far distant, a
large share of these resources must continue long in reserve, a guaranty
for the future.
Besides its local resources the region should also have credit for its
advantageous position in regard to fishing-grounds farther north along
the coast, for which it is the nearest outlet, and with whose development
it is sure to become most intimately associated. Its convenient harbors
and railroad facilities give it superior facilities for the handling and
transshipment of any catch that may be landed on its shore.
The salmon here, as elsewhere along the northwest coast, are the
principal objects of fishery, no other group of species comparing with
them in the extent and value of the catch. This results from their
phenomenal abundance; the perfection to which their preparation has
been carried, and, above all, from the firm hold which the canned product
has secured in the markets throughout the world. Five species of
Oncorhynchus and one of Salmo are represented, the quinnat, sockeye,
silver, humpback, dog, and steelhead salmon. The quinnat is first in
quality and, with the steelhead, stands most in favor for the fresh
trade. Canners prefer the sockeye, and would use no other species
could this one be obtained in sufficient numbers to satisfy their wants
The remaining forms, after the common understanding of to-day, should
probably be graded in the order given above. The silver salmon is
most sought after, but all are utilized for canning—especially on the
Washington side—and in other ways. It is a peculiarity of the sockeye
or blueback salmon that it enters very few of the rivers of this region,
while the other species distribute themselves quite generally and may
be taken nearly everywhere.
The halibut should probably be accorded next place after the salmons, x FISHERIES  OF  WASHINGTON AND  BRITISH  COLUMBIA.     259
not so much on account of the local industry a s for the fact that the
entire halibut fishery from Cape Flattery to Alaska centers here. The
local grounds are mainly distributed through the Strait of Juan de
Fuca, and from its inner entrance north to Boundary Bay and south to
the mouth of Hoods Canal. The most important nearby bank, however,
is in the open sea off Cape Flattery, and other smaller banks lie directly
south from there.
With the recent increased demand for halibut, the search for more
extensive grounds was carried northward.   The nearest one was located ; J||
off the northern end of Vancouver Island in the vicinity of Cape Scott,
but its area is restricted and its capacity relatively small. The most
important grounds so far discovered are in Hecate Strait and its vicinity, and it is here that the principal catches have been made in recent
years. They consist of numerous banks and patches, generally near
the land, on both sides of the strait, the largest extending 60 miles
along the northern side of Graham Island from North Island to Rose
Point, and thence down the eastern side of Graham Island to the
vicinity of White Cliffs. Among the islands of southeastern Alaska and
about the southern end of Prince of Wales Island, small quantities of
halibut are taken, but the Alaskan region is still open to development
as regards this species.
While halibut fishing has always been one of the chief occupations
of the Indians in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the inner sea, the
present status of the fishery has been the result of rapid growth dating
back only about ten years, or to 1888, when it received its principal
stimulus through the advent of two Gloucester vessels, which began
fishing on Flattery Bank and in the adjacent region. Although the
work of these vessels was not long continued, it gave evidence of
abundant resources and led to the opening of markets even as far
distant as Boston and Gloucester oh the eastern coast, where the
western product came directly into competition with that from the
great Atlantic fishing-grounds;
In 1890 the total catch from all sources landed in this region amounted
to 1,376,800 pounds; in 1891 to 2,124,500 pounds; in 1892 to 2,768,000
pounds, and in 1895 to 4,251,000 pounds. The fleet, which had doubled
in four years, consisted in 1895 of 48 boats of 5 to 10 tons measurement, of 10 vessels measuring from 18 to 40 tons, and of 3 steamers.
Only the larger vessels and the steamers ventured as far as Cape Scott
and the Queen Charlotte Islands. The steam vessels have belonged
entirely in British Columbia, their catch being landed at Vancouver,
Victoria, and Tacoma, and in 1895 having comprised a very large proportion of the total catch, but their operations are controlled by companies originating in the Eastern States.
Port Townsend was the first headquarters for the halibut fishery,
but during the past few years Seattle and Tacoma, with their direct
. railroad communication, have absorbed nearly the entire business on
the part of United States fishermen.   Within two years, however, a Iff
few small shipments have been made from Fairhaven and New Whatcom. Fishing is carried on most extensively in the winter, and nearly
all the catch is landed fresh, only an occasional trip being made for
fletched halibut.
The main outlet for the Pacific catch is furnished by the Eastern
markets, and is thus controlled by the large Eastern dealers, the shipments being mainly made at seasons when the Atlantic catch is smallest. The cost of transportation across the continent greatly reduces
the profit to the catchers,* who have to be satisfied with low prices, and
who sometimes suffer considerable losses by producing more than the
trade can handle. The demand, both at the East and in the interior of
the country is said, however, to be constantly increasing, and, if heed
be given to the condition of the market at different seasons, there is
every reason to suppose that the development of the fishery may go
forward steadily and without reverses.
While this fishery is assured a much larger growth, that it will ever
approach the Atlantic fishery in extent or stand the same test of time
seems improbable. The grounds in the Gulf of Georgia, Puget Sound,
and Strait of Fuca, with those off Cape Flattery, have all together only
a relatively small capacity, which has already been overtaxed. Along
the British Columbian and southern Alaskan coast the continental
platform is everywhere narrow, precluding the occurrence of extensive
offshore grounds. On the Alaskan banks still farther north, made
known through the cod fishermen and the investigations of the United
States Fish Commission, halibut have not yet been found in the abundance characteristic of the North Atlantic, though further researches
may show the conditions to be more favorable than now appears. But,
however uncertain may be the future status of this important branch of
fishing, the supply of halibut is undoubtedly sufficient to satisfy the
demands of trade for a number of years to come.
While the true cod is of no importance as a local product, yet this
region affords convenient shipping facilities in respect to the Alaska
banks and will doubtless soon come to dispute with San Francisco for
supremacy in their development. Two or more stations for curing and
handling this species have already been established in Puget Sound.
Two species of sturgeon occur in these waters, the white sturgeon
(Acipenser transmontanus) and the green sturgeon (A. medirostris), the
former being the superior in quality and the only one utilized as food.
It is exceedingly abundant, attains a very large size, and is regarded
as one of the most important fishery products of the region. While
probably ascending most rivers, it is best known on the Fraser, where
alone it is now fished for regularly. Elsewhere in British Columbia
and in the waters of Washington it forms only an incidental feature
of the catch, so far as could be learned, a few finding their way to
neighboring markets and some being sent inland. Many are sometimes
captured in the salmon traps at Point Roberts, by which a part of the
schools pass, apparently on their way to the Fraser River.   The season FISHERIES  OF  WASHINGTON  AND  BRITISH  COLUMBIA.     261
of their movement there, however, seems to be mainly before the traps
are set, in May and June, and those obtained are mostly secured during
the latter month. The facilities for shipping from that place are so
poor that no disposition was made of them until recently, but now a
part of the catch is marketed.
Sturgeon are said to be present in the Fraser River at practically all
times of the year, but to occur most numerously from midwinter until
in June, during which period the fishery is carried on, the largest
catches being made in April and May, when the principal run is understood to take place. The fishing-grounds most commonly resorted to
are in the main river between New Westminster and Mission, and in
Sumas and Harrison lakes. Formerly the sturgeon were taken on the
Fraser River solely by the Indians for their own use, and incidentally
in the salmon nets. It is only within a few years that a separate
fishery has been established, but at present quite a number of persons,
whites and Indians, engage in the business, using gill nets and hooks
and lines. Both the meat and roe are utilized. The demand for export
is increasing, and in the course of a few years it may be expected that
the catch will be considerably enlarged.
The herring (Glupea pallasii) is one of the most abundant of the
exclusively marine species of this coast, but is described as generally
inferior in size and quality to the well-known Atlantic form. For this
reason probably it is not in much demand for food, a limited quantity
only being pickled and smoked, and a few disposed of fresh. It is, however, one of the most important baits of the region, and its value for
that purpose may be expected to increase greatly with the development
of the sea fisheries. It has also long been utilized for the manufacture of
oil, but, while a considerable industry of this character was at one time
carried on, the business seems at present to be of slight importance.
The dogfish is another species which has been extensively captured
for its oil, and in this case, as with the herring, the fishery has declined,
owing to the decreased value of this product, the fish being probably
as abundant now as ever.
The eulachon or candle-fish enter the Fraser River in the spring in
large numbers for spawning, and although the run continues for only a
few weeks, a considerable fishery is carried on. They also resort to
other rivers of the region, and may be taken in the salt waters, but the
catch in the State of Washington is small. The amount obtained on
the Fraser, owing in part to the shortness of the season, is said to be
insufficient to meet the demands of even the local markets, which have
to depend largely for their supplies upon the more northern rivers of
British Columbia, where the species occurs in much greater abundance.
Those obtained locally are mostly disposed of fresh, while the salted
and smoked fish come mainly from the north. The Indian practice of
extracting the fat or oil of the eulachon for domestic use is well known.
The smelt (Osmerus thaleichthys) and surf smelt (Hypomesuspretiosus)
are both plentiful.   The former, which measures only about 6 inches I
in length, is not of much importance for food, but the latter grows to
the length of a foot, becomes very fat, and is greatly esteemed. It is
already fished for quite extensively, but apparently for local use only.
Both the sardine (Clupanodon cceruleus) and the anchovy (JEngraulis
mordax) are inhabitants of these waters. The former, which has
attracted considerable attention on the California coast, seems to be
present here only during a brief period in the warmer part of the year.
The anchovy, however, remains from May to November, is more
abundant, occurring in immense schools, and is considered to offer an
exceptional opportunity for the preparation 6i " sardines." A few,
which were canned experimentally at Port Townsend, are said to have
given great satisfaction. The species is now utilized to some extent
both as food and bait.
The beshow or black-cod (Anoplopoma fimbria), which has received
the high approval of many epicures, and for which an extensive fishery
has been predicted by some, occurs in the inland waters, but is more
abundant off the outer coast, where it also attains much the larger size.
Up to the present time, however, it has been marketed only in small
quantities and with no regularity, the catch being partly made in connection with the halibut. The very oily nature of the flesh makes its
preparation difficult, and has undoubtedly retarded its introduction.
The cultus-cod (Ophiodon elongatus), although not ranking as a high-
grade fish, has excellent qualities at certain seasons, is very abundant,
and is one of the most common features of the catch among the exclusively salt-water species, being commonly sold in all the local markets.
It has a wide range in the North Pacific Ocean, and attains a weight of j
60 to 70 pounds. In this region it often goes by the name of cod and
ling, to neither of which species, however, is it closely related.
The tomcod (Microgadus proximus), a small species, is also in considerable demand locally, and in some places is taken by the fishermen
in large numbers.
Of the numerous species of rockfish (Sebastodes) which inhabit this \
region, several are of excellent quality and much esteemed.   They are
very plentiful, and during the winter are among the principal fishes sold
fresh in the local markets.   With the increase of population this group I
is certain to be largely drawn upon.   The perches, as some of the
viviparous surf fishes are called, are a cheap grade of fish, very common j
about the shores, and extensively utilized.   Among the flounders with
which these waters abound are several species of great excellence for j
food, but the demand for this class of fish is still limited and the catch j
is small.
The Atlantic shad, which has become well established on the Pacific!
coast through plants of fry made in the Columbia and Sacramento!
rivers, has worked its way north into Puget Sound and the Gulf of I
Georgia, where it is known to enter at least the Fraser and Skagit 1
rivers. Not being specially fished for, information regarding its presence is chiefly based upon specimens caught incidentally and mainly inl
the salmon nets, which are not well adapted to its capture.   It was first J FISHERIES  OF WASHINGTON AND  BRITISH  COLUMBIA.      263
noticed in 1888 on the Fraser River, where in 1896 it had become sufficiently abundant to induce the fishery inspector to suggest regulations
governing its capture. It seems bound to occupy a prominent place
among the food-fishes of this region at no very distant time.
Trout of several varieties are distributed in abundance throughout
the fresh waters, an attraction to anglers and a prospective source of
profit when the country shall have become more thickly settled.
Aside from the sea otter, now extinct, the marine mammals have
never figured prominently among the local fishery products, although
some whaling has been carried on. The pelagic fur-seal fishery of the
North Pacific Ocean, however, has chiefly centered in the ports of this
region, furnishing employment to many hunters and producing a considerable revenue, but its continuance is no longer profitable, in whatever way its future may be settled by negotiations.
Among invertebrates this region is quite rich in edible mollusks and
crustaceans. The small native oyster, while occurring in many places,
is especially abundant in the shallow extensions of the southern part of
Puget Sound, where the beds have recently been given some care and
where quite an extensive business has been established. The introduction of the Atlantic species has been agitated and a few small
plants have been made, but none of these has yet turned out successfully, so far as can be learned. Of clams there are several species of
small to large size, some of which are exceedingly abundant and quite
generally distributed. Although constituting an important resource,
and esteemed both for food and bait, they have not been very extensively utilized up to the present time. Small quantities have been put
up from time to time at one or more of the canneries. A large scallop
and a cockle are also conspicuous among the useful mollusks.
Large crabs belonging to the genus Cancer are very common, and at
certain seasons come up on the shores, in some localities in large numbers. They are in great demand for food and are eagerly sought for,
although the total catch is small. The principal if not the only
ground where they are now regularly fished for is the shallow bottom
along the south shore of the Strait of Juan de Fuca between Dunge-
ness and Port Williams. From there they are sent chiefly to Seattle,
Tacoma, and Victoria, but not being fitted to stand a long shipment
they are scarcely known at a distance from the coast.
Shrimps and prawns of good quality seem to be plentiful, but they
are not much fished for, and little information regarding them could be
obtained. The habits of these forms are such as to place them generally outside the ordinary range of observation, so that fishermen may
be scarcely aware of their presence, when an active search might disclose them in abundance. At least two species of prawns are brought
to market, one of rather large size, the other smaller. They have so
far been taken principally about Victoria and in the southern part of
Puget Sound, the catch being generally quite inadequate to satisfy
the demand.   The shrimps are much smaller and are not fished for. 264      REPORT  OF  COMMISSIONER  OF  FISH  AND   FISHERIES.
The sockeye salmon, as the blueback salmon or redfish, the Onco-
rhynchus nerlca (Walbaum) of naturalists, is known in this region, is
here much the most important of its tribe, being especially in demand
for canning purposes, owing to the depth and stability of its color and
the firmness of its flesh, although in edible qualities it ranks below the
quinnat. It has, moreover, quite regular and well-defined movements,
and, beginning to run at a comparatively early date, it affords a considerable fishery so far in advance of the spawning season as to insure
an excellent quality of catch. Its size is also in its favor, being quite
uniform. In the Fraser River it generally averages about 7 to 8 pounds,
though sometimes weighing not over 6 pounds, and occasionally, but
rarely, reaching 10 and even 12 nounds.
The sockeye which frequent the Gulf of Georgia and Puget Sound
are supposed by the fishermen to enter from the ocean exclusively
through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and such few facts bearing upon the
subject as have been collected tend to confirm this view. The species
has never been observed in the upper part of the Gulf, and very rarely,
if at all, to the north of Point Grey, at the entrance to Burrard Inlet.
Some sockeye, which are said to average smaller than those of the
Fraser River run, enter the passageway at the northern end of Vancouver Island and ascend thp Nimkish River at Alert Bay, and possibly
other small rivers in that locality, but none of these fish appear to
reach the Gulf of Georgia.
On the outer coast, both to the north and south of the entrance to
the Strait of Juan de Fuca, there are still other runs which are also
distinguished by the smaller size of the fish, averaging from 4 to 5
pounds apiece. Very little is known regarding their abundance or
habits, as the region is sparsely settled, but they are reported to enter
only certain rivers, those having lakes in their upper courses. All of
these rivers are small, but some of them, on the Vancouver Island
coast at least, are apparently resorted to by sufficient quantities of fish
for the maintenance of canneries on a small scale. Operations of this
character were started in 1895 on Kennedy River, a short clear stream
draining a lake of the same name and emptying into the southern end
of Clayoquot Sound. The season there is said to correspond with that on
the Fraser River, extending from early in July until the last of August,
but south of Cape Flattery an earlier period is given for the commencement of the runs, though on somewhat doubtful authority.
All of the evidence collected goes to show'that the sockeye entering
the Gulf of Georgia and Puget Sound constitute a distinct run, which,
approaching from the sea, throws off no schools toward the north or Route of the
|r River from tx Sketch Map showing Approximate Route of the Sockeye  Salmon
in approaching the fraser rlver and skagit rlver from the  strait of juan de fuca _3&L
"RT?>T>rkT?rp   rktn   rtrnv/rTv/rToa-r/-\-vrr: FISHERIES  OF  WASHINGTON AND  BRITISH  COLUMBIA.      265
south, but passes directly and in successive bodies through the Strait of
Juan de Fuca toward the spawning-grounds. During their passage up
the strait at least the bulk of the fish appears to keep in the deeper
water or below the surface until approaching the vicinity of Victoria.
At any rate, notwithstanding some statements to the contrary, no reliable evidence has been secured indicating that this species has been
seen or captured farther west. In view of the number of fishing and
other craft which navigate this channel, and the diligent manner in
which the sockeye have been searched for in several localities, it would t ffl j
be strange if their occurrence in any numbers could have been overlooked. Further observations, however, may disprove this conclusion.
A run of sockeye is said to enter Port San Juan, opposite Neah Bay,
but it evidently belongs to the coastwise schools of smaller fish.
The place where the fish are first known to disclose themselves is at
the southeastern corner of Vancouver Island, between Sooke Inlet and
Becher Bay, and here tlie Indians begin their capture, though their
fishery is a very small one. This point is regarded rather in the light
of a signal station from which the approach of the first as also of the
succeeding bodies is heralded to the more important stations farther
along their course. News from Becher Bay is anxiously awaited, and
its receipt hastens the final preparations for the large and active fishery
which immediately follows.
They next appear off Race Rocks, where, however, the tidal currents
are so strong that fishing operations have never been successfully
carried on.
Having'completed their journey through the strait the great bulk of
the sockeye turn northward, having the Fraser River as their destination, the number which enters the fresh waters in the State of Washington being relatively small. In their movement north the schools
divide or separate, so as to make use of the two principal channels on
either side of the San Juan Islands, the Canal de Haro and Rosario
Strait, but they avoid the narrower passageways between these islands.
In the Canal de Haro the sockeye have been noticed at several points
along the shore of San Juan Island, especially off Kanaka Bay and in
the neighborhood of Henry Island, but all attempts at fishing in this
section by the whites have so far met with indifferent success. The
Indians take them in their reef nets about Stuart Island, and they have
been recorded from off Saturna Island. It is probable that the main
run works into the Gulf of Georgia through the wider channels
between these islands, but it is also certain that a considerable body
makes use of Plumper or Active Pass, between Mayne and Galiano
islands, which is the most direct route to the Fraser River mouths. It
is said, however, that no sockeye pass to the west of Salt Spring or
Admiral Island, and the species is understood to avoid entirely the
eastern coast and eastern rivers of Vancouver Island.
The sockeye making for Rosario Strait strike in abundantly off Cattle
Point, at the southeastern corner of San Juan Island, furnishing oppor- 266      REPORT  OF  COMMISSIONER  OF  FISH  AND  FISHERIES.
tunities for trap-net fishing, and also off the southern end of Lopez
Island, directly east of San Juan Channel entrance, where for many
years the Indians have made successful catches on the kelp-covered
reefs. From near this point an offshoot of the run makes through
Deception Pass into Skagit Bay and thence reaches the Skagit River,
which, so far as known, is the only stream in this part of Washington
which the sockeye enter in appreciable numbers, but the quantity is
much smaller than in the Fraser River. Some sockeye work farther
south, but where they leave the main run is not known and the quantity
that moves in that direction is insignificant. They have never been
reported from the salt waters of Puget Sound south of the neighborhood
of the San Juan Islands, but have been observed in one or more of the
small rivers which empty into it in that region. 4
The main eastern run, after passing around the southern end of the'
San Juan group, proceeds up through Rosario Strait and along the
mainland of Washington to Boundary Bay and'Point Roberts. During
the first part of this movement, however, the fish seem to keep mostly
out of sight, to the great bewilderment of the fishermen, who have
been much puzzled at their failure to find good places for intercepting
them. They have been reported in small quantities at .the entrance
to Bellingham Bay, but in Rosario Strait there are no distinctive
places where they have been noticed abundantly before reaching the
northern end of Luinmi Island. Here they strike directly on the outer
shore south of Village Point, where there is an important fishing-ground,
both for reef nets and traps, which has long been resorted to by
the Indians. Thence northward along the mainland shore %as far as
Boundary Bay they appear at intervals, but while nets have been set
for their capture on some of the more prominent points, none of these
had given satisfaction up to 1895, but whether on account of faulty
construction or the scarcity of fish was not learned. The fishermen,
however, have been encouraged to renewed attempts in this section and
may yet succeed.
Boundary Bay and the waters about Point Roberts constitute a
grand parade-ground of the sockeye, as it is here that the species
uncovers itself in the greatest numbers in the salt water and to the
best advantage for its pursuers. The quantity that appears at times
is very large, and the catch may be enormous. The abrupt bending of
the coast line toward the west in this locality interposes a barrier
directly across the pathway of the fish, suddenly checking their progress toward the north and obliging them to make a sharp detour in
order to complete their passage to the Fraser River. They enter
Boundary Bay apparently in a broad front, and then turn westward,
sweeping around Point Roberts. The nearness of their approach to
land depends upon the depth of water and the direction of the wind.
A southerly wind tends to drive them farther in the bay, while a
northerly wind holds them out. They may enter the bay as fa.r as the
edge of the flats, thus crossing the boundary line to a slight extent, but FISHERIES  OF  WASHINGTON AND  BRITISH  COLUMBIA.      267
the small catches made in the inner traps, and then only under the
most favorable conditions, indicate their natural tendency to avoid
the shallower water. Along the southern side of Point Roberts the
much bolder shore permits the fish to come within a few yards of the
beach, and this is also true for a short distance on the outer side, after
rounding the southwest corner; but then soon begins the shoal or flat,
which widens rapidly to form the extensive bank commanding the
approaches to the Fraser River.
Much remains to be learned regarding the later as well as the earlier
stages in the movement of the sockeye which pass through Rosario
Strait. While the appearance of extensive schools in Boundary Bay
and about Point Roberts is definitely established through the experiences of the fishermen, it can not be said that the entire eastern run
approaches those localities so as to come within the range of observation, and it is very possible that some of the schools make the passage
to the Fraser River at some little distance from the land. In fact,
judging from the statements of the fishermen, when large bodies of
fish are moving around the point they occupy a wide zone, extending
some distance off shore and beyond the limits of the trap nets. The
latter are, therefore, said to intercept only a very small proportion of
the run, notwithstanding the amount of ground they cover. The
schools on which the fishermen depend are chiefly those which enter
well within the bay and, then circling, pass directly in front and within
a mile or slightly more of the southeast corner of Point Roberts, called
Cannery Point, which carries them over or around the large kelp-
covered ledge south of that point. Their course is thence along the
southern side of Point Roberts, keeping well in until they have rounded
the southwest corner, when they begin to follow the edge of Roberts
Bank (so called), over the deeper parts of which they soon become
The meeting-place of the two divisions of the sockeye run—one
coming through the Canal de Haro, the other through Rosario Strait—
is not known. Both are seeking the fresh water of the Fraser River
and begin to feel its influence some distance off the shore. The flood
which begins in the late spring continues during most of the summer,
so swelling the volume of the river and charging it with fine sediment
that the brackish and discolored water is carried a long way out into
the Gulf of Georgia and covers, during practically the entire sockeye
season, a relatively wide area. In this mixed water both runs assemble
preparatory to ascending the river. It is also a common belief among
the fishermen that they rest here for several days, or at least that all
do not immediately begin the inland journey. While there is as yet no
positive proof of this, it is not out of keeping with the habit of some of
the salmon species elsewhere, and the prolonged periods of fishing
which are enjoyed in this position make it appear at least reasonable.
The extent of this assembling-ground, as brought out by the'recent
drift-net fishery, is from the neighborhood of Point Grey to about the 268      REPORT  OF  COMMISSIONER  OF  FISH  AND  FISHERIES.
boundary line, while off shore it seems to reach beyond the margin of
the bank and even at times to the middle of the gulf, if the fishermen's
accounts can be regarded as reliable. It is also reported, though the
fact is not definitely confirmed, that occasionally a few of the fish work
around Point Grey into Burrard Inlet.
Scarcely anything has been learned of the general habits of the
sockeye in salt water. They take neither food nor bait and therefore
lack the game qualities of the quinnat and the silver salmon. Unlike
those two species, their salt-water home is exclusively in the open
ocean off the outer coast. When they enter the Strait of Fuca they
are bound by the shortest routes to their spawning-grounds, and if they
tarry on the way it is only for short stops in the manner described
above. The Strait of Juan de Fuca, Puget Sound, and the Gulf of
Georgia are to them practically only enlargements of the river, through
which they must necessarily pass, but in which they have no special
functions to perform. The adult fish occur there only during the period
of ascent, the season when they are fished for, July and August mainly.
They appear to move in compact, defined bodies, of smaller or larger
size, sometimes very extensive, another evidence of their transitory
presence. Occasionally these schools appear at the surface, as* has
been especially reported at Point Roberts, but usually they remain
lower down, although they may even then be seen at times in the clear
waters, particularly when they are passing over the shallow kelp-
covered ledges, which seems to be one of their delights, and which
exposes them to capture by the Indian nets.
Statements regarding the rate of their movement in the salt water
are greatly at variance, as is to be expected from the crude opportunities for observation up to the present time. Varying conditions, due to
the season and the weather, are very likely to cause a difference in this
respect. Schools reported at Becher Bay are said sometimes to make
the Fraser River in five days, while again they may be as much as two
weeks on the way. They may be taken at Point Roberts twenty-four
hours before they are noticed off the Fraser River, or they may first be
observed simultaneously at both of these places.
The Fraser is the only river of British Columbia emptying into the
Gulf of Georgia which the sockeye are known to ascend. In Washington this species seems to enter only the Skagit River in sufficient
quantities for commercial purposes. It has been reported in very small
numbers from Lake Washington at Seattle, but elsewhere in the fresh
waters of the Puget Sound region its occurrence has never been positively recorded.
Skagit River,—The number of sockeye ascending the Skagit River
seems to be considerable, although the run is in no way comparable with
that oil the Fraser River. They enter the former river by way of Deception Pass and Skagit Bay.   Fishing is mainly carried on in the bay, 0
where both trap nets and gill nets are employed. In the river the principal fishermen have been the Indians, whose operations have been
chiefly limited to the vicinity of Baker Falls, but some fishing is also
carried on by the whites. Up to 1895 this species was taken only in
relatively small quantities either in the bay or river, but the establishment of canneries'at Anacortes since then has-greatly stimulated the
efforts for its capture, causing a rapid development of the fishery. No
details of its growth are at hand, but the size of the catch has apparently been much increased.
The only spawning-grounds which have so far been located in the
Skagit River are at Baker Lake, on the tributary of the same name,
having its origin on the slopes of Mount Baker. It is the general opinion that the entire run turns up Baker River and that it ascends no
farther than the lake, but this supposition is not yet entirely confirmed.
The inquiries already made, however, indicate that Baker Lake contains
one of the most important spawning-grounds of the sockeye known to
exist in the United States, and advantage has recently been taken of
that fact to begin its artificial propagation in that locality.
It is reported that the sockeye begin to be taken at Baker Falls, near
the mouth of Baker River, as early as the middle of June, but this so
far antedates the time of their appearance elsewhere in the region that
the evidence seems to be in error. They are also said, to reach Baker
Lake chiefly during July, and to begin spawning the last of August or
early in September. The hatchery on Baker Lake was established by
the State of Washington in 1896. The first eggs were taken on September 6 of that year and the last on October 8, when the capacity of
the hatchery was reached, the total number obtained being 6,500,000.
The season had not closed, however, by the latter date, and it was
thought that fully twice that number might have been secured had thef e
been means for caring for them. The number of fry obtained from the
above eggs and planted in the spring of 1897 was 5,500,000. The output of fry in the spring of 1898 was 6,000,000, and 7,500,000 eggs were
collected in the fall of that year.
In his account of this subject for 1898, the fish commissioner of
Washington states that Baker Lake is about If miles long by 1J miles
wide, and has two principal inlets, Sutter River and Noisy Creek. The
spawning-places of the sockeye occur in the lake and in both of these
streams. The silver salmon and steelhead also run up to this locality
in large numbers, and the quinnat appears here, though to a less
Fraser River.—From the bank in front of the delta, where they first
assemble, the sockeye pass into the Fraser Jfciver through both entrances,
the main channel and the north arm, including also Canoe Pass, a short
offshoot of the former. The relative proportion which enters each is
said by the fishermen to vary considerably in different years, as well
as in different parts of the same season, but their evidence in this
regard is quite indefinite.   They claim, however, that at times as good 270      REPORT  OF   COMMISSIONER  OF  FISH  AND   FISHERIES.
fishing may be had in Canoe Pass as in the main channel, through
which the greater number might naturally be expected to make their
way, as probably they do.
The species seems to distribute itself very generally throughout this
river system, attaining the headwaters of its principal branches and
entering a large proportion, if not the greater number, of its side tributaries, both large and small. During the years when the larger runs
occur they make their appearance in many of these streams in extraordinary abundance. Pitt River, not far above New Westminster, is said
to contain their nearest spawning-grounds to the sea, but the quantity
which enters this stream is relatively small. Other lower tributaries
which later runs ascend are Harrison River and Lake, Morris River,
and Silver Creek.
Our knowledge of the season and movements of the sockeye in the
Fraser River is based mainly upon the experience of the fishermen and
canners, supplemented by the evidence of officers of the Canadian
government connected with hatching operations and the fishery police.
Scientific observations are wholly lacking, and it is therefore impossible
to speak with confidence in regard to more than the main features of
the subject. There is considerable variation in the date of beginning
and ending of the season, the fish appearing and completing their
movement earlier in some years than in others, although there may be
more or less agreement in this respect during two or more succeeding
years, followed by a marked change. It has been reported that a few
sockeye sometimes work up the river in the latter part of May, but the
testimony to this effect is of doubtful value. The fact is well established, however, that the species occasionally appears in small numbers
during the last few days of June. Moderate runs may occur as early
as July 4, but they are not generally expected in sufficient quantities
to start fishing operations before the 10th of July, and even up to that
date they may still be practically absent. By July 20 they should be
running as heavily as they will at any time. A large run may occasionally take place at the very end of August, but the average fishing
season ends somewhere about the 20th to the 25th of August, and years
are recalled when nothing could be done after the first week of that
month. Small numbers usually continue present during more or less of
the early part of September, but with the near approach of the spawning
period the fish rapidly deteriorate in appearance and condition and
lose their commercial value.
The fishermen are inclined to recognize two distinct runs after the
movement has fully begun, these being separated by a few days of poor
fishing. This view, however,sis not in accordance with the facts. There
is, from the beginning of the season, a more or less constant fluctuation
in the abundance of the fish. Larger bodies come from time to time,
the quantity diminishing more or less in the intervals between, while
frequently the fish become very scarce or may be entirely absent.
There is no regularity in the matter and nothing on which the fisher-
men can depend. There are good years and off years, as they are
called, following one another in a certain order, as elsewhere described,
but even in an off year very successful catches may unexpectedly be
made. The year 1895 belonged in the latter category, and during short
periods some single boats took as many as 450 sockeye daily with their
one drift net, while catches of 200 to 300 fish a day were made by many
boats. During most of the season, however, the catches averaged no
more than 25 sockeye daily to a boat, being often smaller, and frequently
none was secured.
When the number of boats engaged in this fishery is taken into consideration, one comes to realize how great is the quantity of sockeye
entering this river system, and how relatively compact at times must
be the distinctive bodies moving upstream. With the appearance of
the latter the catch suddenly increases, often to such an extent as to
give the canneries much more than they can handle, and the excess is
occasionally so great as to cause an enormous loss of fish. No other
species of salmon is so abundant in the Fraser as the sockeye.
Observations which seem reliable indicate that, in a general way at
least, the earlier runs proceed farthest up the river. The fish composing
them are less mature when entering from the sea than those of the later
runs and are better prepared to make the longer journey. Sockeye
have been seen in abundance in the streams which empty into the
South Thompson and in the Shuswap Lakes about the middle of July,
yet on returning to the Harrison and other lower tributaries their total
absence there was determined. It is on the later fish, eagerly seeking
the nearest spawning-grounds, and with their reproductive organs well
developed as they move upstream, that the Canadian hatchery relies
for its supply of eggs. These are the runs which have been most closely
observed and are best known.
The soekeye retains its freshness in the river longer than any other
species of salmon except the quinnat and the steelhead. This must be
chiefly due to the fact that its movement begins quite far in advance
of the spawning season, and during nearly the entire period of its run
through the lower part of the river the catch is always of a superior character, the flesh being firm and of good color, while the external surface is
clean and inviting in appearance. Beginning the latter part of August,
however, the fish rapidly deteriorate in condition, and the close season,
which begins on August 25, is as much in the interest of the consumer
as for the protection of the species. In 1894, by request, the Canadian
government extended the open season a week longer on the plea that
the sockeye were late in beginning to run, owing to the heavy flood
which occurred in the early part of the summer. Such was probably
not the fact, although the high water interfered with fishing operations,
and the spawning season began no later than in average years. The
extension was therefore deprecated by those having the best interests
of the fishery at heart, and it is not likely to be repeated. r
Whatever may be their stay in the brackish water outside the delta,
when once inside the river their progress upstream appears to be quite
rapid and continuous, if one may judge from the experience of the gill-
netters, especially in connection with the weekly close time, which permits the rate of movement to be roughly measured. These observations
relate to the main part of the river, and more particularly to that
portion where commercial fishing is carried on, but the movement
doubtless continues at much the same rate until the fish are in the
neighborhood of their spawning-grounds.
The depth at which they swim while ascending the lower part of the
river, where its volume is greatest and where the water is sometimes
deep, is said to vary with the conditions. When the water is very
muddy the fish are expected to keep nearer the surface than when it is
more or less clear, and as the former condition prevails during practically the entire sockeye season, the depth of about 50 meshes adopted
for the drift nets has been found to be as great as can both profitably
and conveniently be used. In deep parts of the river more fish are
taken at the sides than in midstream, and the same is true during times
of flood. In shallow sections and during low water they spread out
more widely, becoming more generally distributed or finding their way
where the contour of the bottom affords the depths preferred.
The sockeye and quinnat are understood to have substantially the
same spawning season, which, in the Fraser River, is mainly from the
middle of September to the middle or latter part of October, although
beginning, in some seasons at least, a little earlier and continuing to a
somewhat later date. It is supposed that the season is about uniform
in all parts of the system, although nothing positive is known about
the dates in the upper waters.
According to the late Thomas Mowat, for some time fishery inspector
for British Columbia, the sockeye, as a rule, spawn in the small creeks
that flow into the lakes and larger rivers, very few depositing their eggs
in heavy, rapid streams, as the quinnat do. This is essentially in keeping with observations made elsewhere. At Karluk, Alaska, Dr. Bean
found this species spawning in the main lake and in the short and rapid
streams connecting each of its arms with smaller lakes. The spawning-
grounds at the headwaters of the Columbia River, in Idaho, which have
been carefully studied by Professor Evermann, occur only in streams
tributary to the lakes or in the lakes themselves.
In 1884 the Canadian Government began the propagation of salmon
on the Fraser River, at the solicitation of local canners and fishermen,
who suggested a system of license fees and of taxes on the prepared
products as a means of obtaining revenue for the purpose. The hatchery was established in the neighborhood of New Westminster, being
completed in time to lay in a stock of that season's eggs, and was
retained at the original site until about 1894, when it was removed to a FISHERIES  OF  WASHINGTON AND  BRITISH  COLUMBIA.
place nearer the collecting-grounds. Attention was paid in the beginning to both the sockeye and quinnat. With regard to the former
species, it was hoped to more nearly equalize the annual runs, the great
diversity of which is described further on. As to the latter, it was
desired not only to increase the supply, but also to introduce the more
desirable grade from the Columbia River. The propagation of the
quinnat was continued during only five years, however, and was
restricted to native stock, the output of fry never exceeding about
2,000,000 in any one season.
The hatching of sockeye, started at the same time, has been continued down to date. The eggs have been mainly secured in Morris
Creek, a tributary of Harrison River, the parent fish being caught and
held in captivity until the spawn ripened. While the quantity of eggs
to a female has been calculated at about 5,000 on an average, the number actually obtained from each has averaged only about 3,000 to 3,500,
owing to the fact that, being mostly taken during the progress of the
spawning season, many of them are more or less spent when they reach
the pens in which they are confined.
The collecting season has varied in different years, beginning in
some as early as the middle of September and in others not until about
October 8, and ending all the way from October 15 to the first part of
November. The period of incubation is relatively short, the fry being
produced and planted during March and April following. With few
exceptions the plantings have all been made in lower tributaries of
the Fraser River, such as the Harrison, Stave, Little Lillooet, Pitt, and
Coquitlan rivers. Between 1885 and 1890 relatively small numbers of
fry and of semi-hatched eggs were placed in the Cowichan and Nanaimo
rivers, of Vancouver Island, neither of which are natural sockeye
streams, but so far as can be ascertained this effort at transplanting
has met with no success.
The total number of sockeye eggs collected and the number of fry
deposited in the Fraser River during each year since the establishment of the hatchery are shown in the following table, in connection
with which it will be understood that the fry planted in any one year
were derived from the eggs of the previous year:
Table showing the total number of eggs of the sockeye salmon collected and the number of
fry deposited in the Fraser River from 1884 to 1897.
Number of
Tear.                   eggs collected.
Number of
fry deposited
in the
Fraser Elver.
Number of
eggs collected.
Number of
fry deposited
in the
Fraser River.
1884        250,000
6, 237,000
6,880, 000
6,752, 000
6,830, 000
6, 770, 000
6,472, 000
5, 600, 000
6, 390,000
5,928, 000
5, 500, 000
1885      1,487,000
1886     4,780,000
1887     9,325,000
1888     4,000, 000 ?
1889      9, 233,000
3,870, 000
4, 046, 500
5, 540, 000
3, 603, 000
1890     3,861,000
1891     6,485,000
Of the young of the sockeye little could be learned, and nothing of
special interest. After hatching they are said to remain in the several
tributaries until about June of the following year. A few grilse are
reported to be taken occasionally in the river as well as in the salt
water, but some question must attach to the identification of the specimens thus captured until they have been critically examined.
The initial steps toward the propagation of the sockeye on the Skagit
River have been described in connection with that river, while the
question as to what benefits ma>y have been derived from the hatching
on the Frazer River is discussed under the heading of periodicity,
which follows.
A periodicity in the abundance of the sockeye in alternating cycles
of four years' duration has- been recognized in this region ever since
the first settlements were made upon the headwaters of the Fraser
River by the Northwest Company in 1806. The species has been
shown to attain its maximum abundance in every fourth year. The
next season's run, while inferior, is expected also to be a good one, but
those of the two following years should be relatively small. There is no
question but that this fluctuation has occurred and that the sequence
has been in accordance with the explanation given, but no standard
can be fixed for measuring the extent of the variation. The differences,
however, have been sufficiently great and regular not only to attract
attention, but also markedly to affect the fishery and the canning
industry. The canners have been enabled to anticipate in large measure the conditions of each approaching season, and to plan accordingly,
thus regulating the extent of their preparations.
The statistics of the fishery alone do not furnish a suitable basis for
determining either the occurrence or the regularity of this periodic
variation, owing to the fact that the extent of the catch has often been
influenced by the state of the market or the depression of trade. Thus,
in the good years packers may have been led to greatly reduce their
output, causing a shortage in the catch, while in poor years an active
demand may have induced the fishermen to largely increase their
operations. From information given in the official Canadian reports it
has been possible to supplement the statistics by evidence as to whether
the fish were actually abundant or scarce in any year, irrespective of
the amounts captured in the nets, and while fine distinctions can not
be drawn from this source the data seem to be sufficient to test approximately the correctness of the alleged periodic changes.
These facts have been brought out in the following table, in which
the anticipated and actual conditions are shown for each year from
1877 to 1898. For reasons already explained it has been impossible to
use other than very general terms to express these conditions, but they
will undoubtedly serve the purpose here desired. The recurring cycles
are indicated by the numbers in the second column, number one in each
cycle standing for the year of maximum abundance. FISHERIES OF WASHINGTON AND BRITISH  COLUMBIA.     275
Table showing the anticipated and actual conditions regarding the relative abundance of
sockeye salmon for each year from 1877 to 1898, in illustration of the subject of periodic
... do	
Fell short.
Very poor.
From an inspection of the table a correspondence will be noticed in
the anticipated and actual fluctuations for every year down to 1885,
inclusive. In 1886 the quantity fell much short of expectations,
although the catch was kept up by an increase in the number of nets
employed, and in 1887, which should have been a poor year, the run was
better than in 1886. In 1895, also theoretically a poor year, the run was
above the average, while in 1896, expected to be the poorest of its cycle,
the catch is recorded as the third largest in the Fraser River fishery
down to that time. As a whole, there were few measurable differences
from the anticipated conditions down to 1892, since which time good
runs have occurred during practically five continuous years. In 1898,
however, which should have been a good year, the catch was relatively
The run of 1897 was one of the largest if not the largest in the history
of the region. Preparations had been made in anticipation of a good
year, both on the Fraser River and in Washington. The great body
of sockeye first made its appearance about the middle of July and
continued until about the end of the first week in August, a relatively
short season, but during this period the cannery pack was completed
and in addition an immense amount of fish waS thrown away, the daily
catch being often much larger than could be disposed of. It has, in
fact, been claimed, though this is probably an exaggeration, that more
fish were caught and wasted than were utilized. Where contracts had
not previously been made, the canneries soon found it necessary to-
refuse much of the fish offered them, thus depriving many fishermen of
their occupation through the very abundance of the objects of their
pursuit. At Boundary Bay it is said that the traps filled faster than
they could be emptied, while some of the gill-netters caught fully 1,200
salmon to a net in a single night, and many from 500 to 1,000 each.
On the Fraser River the individual catches were in proportion.
While in 1897 the bulk of the catch was made early, the height of
the season varies in different years. In 1890 and 1896, both of which
were good years, the boats all made very small catches on the Fraser
River until about August 10, when the fish began to run abundantly,
raising the average daily catch per boat to from 200 to 500.   In those 276      REPORT  OF  COMMISSIONER  OF  FISH  AND  FISHERIES.
years also, as well as in some preceding ones, the canneries became
overstocked and many sockeye were destroyed. The catch of 1889 was
likewise an unusual one, some of the contract fishermen earning as high
as $1,500 during the season.
Several theories have been advanced to account for the periodicity
in the abundance of the sockeye, which all seem willing to admit has
continued, with at least some measure of regularity, down to within
about a decade, but none of them is yet supported by conclusive evidence. An explanation is rendered easier if it be assumed that the
sockeye makes but one spawning run, which seems in the main to be an
established fact, and that its age at that time is four years, a point,
however, which has not yet been determined from other evidence. On
this basis, the size of any run having been established, the run of four
years later, composed of its own progeny, might be expected to be of
corresponding size; a large run to give origin to a large one, and a
small run to a small one. The size of the initial runs, at whatever
dates they are started, and the subsequent fluctuations in their size may
readily be accounted for by the many vicissitudes which belong to fish
life from the egg and embryo stages to adult age. Years of favoring
conditions alternate in irregular sequence with those in which the conditions are adverse, and both at sea and about the spawning-grounds
contingencies arise which may seriously affect or change the volume of
any season's run.
Some of the greatest dangers of destruction undoubtedly exist in
the spawning areas, where the eggs and the embryos are subject to
much damage through the cold of winter, the force of freshets, and the
washing of silt and gravel in upon the beds, and from one or other
of these causes a large mortality must occur. Other agencies to be
considered are the fisheries, both commercial and by the Indians, which
remove a large amount of fish, but it seems improbable that either of
these could be made to account for the periodic fluctuations. This is
especially so as regards the white man's fishing, which did not become
extensive until many years after the variations had been recognized,
and in spite of which the sockeye seem to be no less abundant now
than in early times. While the Indian methods and the extent of their
captures are more likely to have had a bearing on the case, it seems
more natural that their fishing should have affected all runs alike.
As before noted, one of the principal objects in establishing a hatchery
on the Fraser River was to attempt to equalize the runs of sockeye, to
make this species more abundant in off years, and thus, if possible,
to provide good fishing every season. From the testimony of the local
officers and fishermen, and even from the statistics of the last few years,
it would appear as though something may have been accomplished in
this direction.
In 1889 Fishery Inspector Mowat reported that the parent sockeye
had become more plentiful in the small creeks where the fry had been
deposited, and thought the increase in Morris Creek had been tenfold, FISHERIES  OF  WASHINGTON AND  BRITISH  COLUMBIA.     277
as in 1885 and 1886 they could scarcely secure any fish there, while in
1889 they caught them numerously. This explanation of the increase
is scarcely tenable, as the number of fry set free in 1886 was not above
1,000,000—less, had they all survived, than one-third the total Fraser
River catch of 1887. Mr. Mowat, moreover, attributed the good catch of
1887, which ranked as an off year, to the same cause, but this would have
allowed for only three years' growth from the time the first eggs were
taken (not hatched), and the total number of those eggs was only 250,000.
It is to the last few years that we must look for the most positive
evidences of the success or failure of hatching operations, following
the steady planting for a decade and over, and while the quantity of
fry deposited in the Fraser has not much exceeded 6,000,000 annually
at the most, being generally less, with a high percentage of survival
it is possible that an impression has been made. Not only were the
conditions improved in the poor years of 1895 and 1896 by some cause,
if not by this one, but the effects were also felt in the years of greater
anticipation which immediately preceded and followed them, though
the greatly reduced catch of 1898, which should have been a good year,
is to be noted in this connection. The present inspector of fisheries
accredits these results to the combined influence of the hatchery and
of better protection in the upper waters, where the Indian methods of
barring the passage of spawning fish have been suppressed wherever
possible. He also claims the recent establishment in Morris Creek,
where the hatchery supplies have been obtained and where much of the
fry has been deposited, of a type of sockeye which spawns later than any
of the runs observed during the earlier operations in that locality, and
these he supposes to be the product of artificial propagation. These
late spawners are in great abundance every year, even when there is a
scarcity at other breeding-grounds. The observations of Mr. McNab
in regard to this matter are of much interest, and if the facts are substantially as he states them it raises again the old question as to
whether salmon alw#ays return to precisely the same ground where they
were hatched and make their run at the same relative time of the
season as the parent stock from which they were derived. There are
no data at hand for reaching a conclusion in this matter, with respect
especially to such a complicated system as is presented by the Fraser
River, but should the proposition so often raised be the true one, then
the hatching work on this river would be productive only of late-
running fish, those from which the eggs have been taken. These late
runs probably occur, in part at least, after the close season has begun?
and are of little or no benefit to the fishermen, but until the subject is
better understood we are perfectly justified in giving the experiment
the benefit of the doubt, and in regarding with favor the work
During our inquiries of 1895 no new positive information was
obtained regarding the extent to which the sockeye return to the
ocean after accomplishing the object of their journey into the fresh 278      REPORT *OF  COMMISSIONER  OF  FISH  AND  FISHERIES.
waters. The testimony secured on this subject did, however, emphasize the fact that the mortality after spawning is very great, and is
shared by all the species of Oncorhynchus. The waters about and
directly below the numerous spawning-grounds become charged with
great numbers of dead salmon, whose decaying bodies fill the air with
the odors of putrefaction, but, while the stench becomes almost unbearable, no widespread pollution of the Fraser or Skagit rivers seems to
result from this cause. Detailed observations to determine the proportion of deaths are wholly lacking. Those who have observed the
conditions are not in accord in their deductions, though all agree in
placing the death rate very high, especially as regards the humpback,
dog, and silver salmon, as well as the sockeye. Some feel confident
that of these species none survive, while others are equally certain that
only a part meet death.
The only serious attempt at a solution of this problem inTBritish
Columbia was made by the late Thomas Mowat, whose experiments,
however, were cut short by his unfortunately early death. The most
complete account of his observations and deductions that we have seen
are contained in an unpublished letter written in 1890, from which the
following is an extract:
I have much pleasure in informing you that I have proof without doubt that the
Oncorhynchus or Pacific salmon do in many cases return to fresh water annually
for the purpose of reproducing their species. I have proof of this in the case of the
quinnat (0. tschawytscha) and sockeye (0. nerka), and I am confident from observations I have made that the coho (0. kisutch) do return in larger numbers than those
first mentioned.
During the seasons of 1884, 1885, and 1886, I made use of a leather or harness-
maker's punch to mark the quinnat salmon after they had been partially stripped of
their eggs and were obliged to be returned to the pens. The marking was done by
punching one or more holes through the adipose dorsal fin, then passing a piece of-,
colored cotton cloth or twine through the hole, so as to distinguish them from the
fish that had not been handled. Sometimes we cut a portion or the whole of this
fin off, and those fish were returned to the water after we had finished stripping
them. Two successive years later a few of the fish so marked passed through our
hands and were recognized, and I learned that some had been taken by the netters.
It must be understood that the strings were not left on the fish. The fin was found
to be withered somewhat, with the hole partially grown up. Since the season of
1887 we have been operating on the sockeye, and, as I have already described, some
of these were marked in a similar way,, but owing to having so many in the pens we
had to keep different marks on them, so that the tails of some were bent or doubled
up, a piece being taken out. Two of the fish marked in this manner were taken by
netters this season and sent to me.
My contention has always been that at least four species of our salmon return to
the rivers to reproduce. The fourth, including those alluded to, is the steelhead, of
which none die except by accident. My opinion is that 75 per cent of the quinnat
salmon survive that ascend from 75 to 100 miles inland; those that ascend from 100
to 1,000 miles, or reach the summit of the Rocky Mountains, are reduced from
various causes down to from 5 to 25 per cent. The percentage of the sockeye that survive are slightly under the quinnat, while those of the cohoes are over, as they do
not ascend so far inland and have a better chance of returning. The qnalla and
humpbacks die in larger numbers, as they are more pugnacious, spawn in shallow
water, and are more liable to disease.   I quite agree with you as to the views FISHERIES  OF  WASHINGTON  AND  BRITISH  COLUMBIA.     279
held in reference to the salmon returning. They no doubt descend very rapidly,
and either in the deep water of the center of the streams or along the shores, where
they are less apt to come in contact with nets. I have on several occasions noticed
the spent sockeye salmon swimming down this river toward the gulf, and I ha\ e
been informed by the netters that they have taken them; but of course there is not
the same chance of capturing them on their return to the ocean.
Observations made elsewhere in Pacific coast rivers do not confirm
Mr. Mowat's conclusions regarding the sockeye. Dr. T. H. Bean, who
made a study of the Karluk River, at Kadiak, Alaska, in 1889, expresses
the opinion that no spawning sockeye leave that river alive, although
they may live in the lakes at its source during more or less of the winter.
Prof. B. W. Evermann, who has given much attention to the salmon
question in the headwaters of the Columbia River in Idaho, and whose
statements are based on most painstaking observations, says of the
sockeye in that region:
What becomes of the redfish after spawning? Our observations, made at Alturas
and Payette lakes in 1894 and 1895, and particularly those at Alturas Lake in 1895,
which have already been given with considerable detail, leave no doubt as to the
answer to this question. The redfish which spawn in the inlets to the Idaho lakes
never return to the sea, but all die at the close of the spawning season. The evidence
is conclusive.
Had Mr. Mowat been spared to continue his inquiries during a
longer period, it is to be expecte I that he would have succeeded in
throwing much light upon this still perplexing question. In the face
of the other evidence just cited, it can scarcely be admitted that his
deductions are conclusive as regards the sockeye. While Professor
Evermann's observations relate to waters at a long distance from the
sea, the Karluk spawning-grounds are much nearer to the ocean than
any in the lower tributaries of the Fraser River.
An argument may be based upon the uniformity in size of the fish,
but not safely without support from other evidence. Thus the sockeye,
silver salmon, and humpbacks each run quite uniform in weight, the
majority of those which enter any river averaging about the same.
Did they make repeated ascents, the older fish might be expected to
attain successively larger sizes^ but as the sizes vary little, it is natural to
assume that, with possibly few exceptions, they make but the one journey—are adapted to spawn but once. That a few escape might explain
the occasional capture of larger sizes, as reported from time to time.
The quinnat and dog salmon, on the contrary, exhibit a considerable
variation in size, suggesting the survival of a greater proportion of the
fish after each spawning, a greater power of longevity, and the opportunity of making two or more runs. Notwithstanding this argument,
however, the dog salmon have been counted among those which die
most readily after spawning.
From a practical standpoint the question of mortality may be
assumed as having some importance for consideration in connection
with regulations for the protection of the salmon. If all the individuals of a species composing a season's run die at their spawning- 280      REPORT  OF  COMMISSIONER  OF  FISH  AND   FISHERIES.
grounds, why is it necessary to provide for the escape past the nets of
the fishermen of more than are required to insure the perpetuation of
that species by spawning? If, on the contrary, the mortality is small
and the same fish ascend through two or more seasons, then those
which escape capture one year may be regarded as saved for the benefit of the fishermen in succeeding years.
In either case, however, the distinctions to be drawn are very fine,
and it is difficult to conceive of a regulation based upon such conditions in view of the uncertainty attending all fisheries, and especially
one whose operations are so extensive and whose resources are still so
untried as the salmon fishery of this region. A sufficient quantity of
salmon should be permitted to pass the nets to insure with absolute
certainty the maintenance of the supply. The proper number for that
purpose can never be accurately determined, but prudence demands a
very large margin.
The quinnat, Oncorhynchus tschawytscha (Walbaum), known also in
this region as the tyee and spring salmon, is recognized here, as elsewhere, as the finest in quality of the Pacific group of salmon, its flesh
excelling that of all the other species in richness and delicacy of flavor.
It is not, however, nearly so important commercially as the blueback
or sockeye salmon, being much less favorably regarded for canning
purposes, mainly on account of the lighter color of its meat. Still, for
other uses, and especially for the fresh trade, it is most highly prized,
and, excepting the peculiar white-meated individuals hereafter to be
described, there is demand for all that can be taken.
While with this as with the other species, it has been necessary to
depend chiefly upon the market fishermen and sportsmen for a knowledge of its movements, enough has been learned to establish several
points of interest and to indicate that this region offers an exceptional
opportunity for rounding out the life history of this conspicuous member of the salmon tribe.
The quinnat differs markedly in its habits from the sockeye, and is
apparently always present in the Gulf of Georgia and in Puget Sound,
where it may be captured at practically all times of the year. This fact
would seem to indicate that the inner salt waters of the region furnish
conditions suited to its welfare during all seasons, although, of course,
its entry into fresh water is essential for spawning purposes, and it
is to be presumed that a certain proportion finds its way to the ocean
every year.
During the winter months good hook-and-line fishing is obtained in
several places, and probably would be found in many others were trials
made, but operations of this character are as yet restricted both as to
locality and number of men employed, the Indians being the principal
participants. The quinnat do not apparently then congregate together
in as large or compact bodies as during the period when their movements toward the rivers are taking place.   They are more scattered FISHERIES  OF  WASHINGTON AND  BRITISH  COLUMBIA.      281
and seemingly remain more constantly, if not always, below the surface,
and to some extent at least in comparatively deep water. It is accordingly impossible to judge of the general abundance of the species in
the inner salt waters at that season, or of the proportion which may
seek winter quarters in the open sea, if any do. They are observed and
may be taken at different places through the Strait of Juan de Fuca,
but it could not be learned that they move through this passageway in
such defined schools as are characteristic of the other species. Should
they do so, however, they may swim too low to fall under the observation of the fishermen. From all the data that have been collected it
seems not improbable that the species, in general, never goes far from
land, this view being strengthened by the fact that the river runs begin
very early in the year.
In the stomachs of individuals captured in the Gulf and Sound,
shrimps, herring, and other small pelagic fishes have very commonly
been observed, showing positively, if such proof were needed, that
they avail themselves of the opportunities for feeding afforded by the
inner waters, as good undoubtedly as could be found upon the outer
coast. It is this circumstance which leads to their taking bait and
makes them the object of a hook-and-line fishery, both for market and
for sport. Whether they continue feeding in the salt water during the
spring and summer was not learned. They are said to refuse both food
and bait during their passage up the Fraser River, which is in accordance with the general understanding of their fresh-water habit, but
exceptions to this rule seem to have been quite clearly demonstrated in
the case of certain small rivers which will be referred to again.
The line fishing or trolling is carried on mainly during November,
December, January, and February, by both Indians and whites. The
principal localities brought to our attention were off Nanaimo, Howes
Sound; off the estuary of the Fraser River; off Victoria, Becher Bay,
among the San Juan Islands 5 off Port Townsend, off Port Gamble, and
in Hoods Canal. One of our informants had often fished successfully for
the quinnat during these months at Nanaimo within 10 yards of the
wharves, using spoon bait. The fish occurring there would disappear
in February, beginning then to make their way up the rivers. Another
informant described the general fishery off Nanaimo as deep-water trolling with herring bait and spoon, which continues until into March or
April, after which the fish become scarce. At Victoria winter fishing is
carried on to a distance of 8 or 10 miles from shore, chiefly from December to February, inclusive, the Indians going out whenever the weather
is suitable. Supplies are also received at Victoria from Becher Bay.
Some fishing is done at Port Townsend close by the wharves and farther
off shore, but the fish do not seem to be as abundant there as in other
places. The San Juan Islands afford good winter grounds, and quinnat
are also taken among those islands in April and May.
The quinnat commence schooling and running as early as February.
On the upper part of the Washington coast the first run occurs in that L
month, the fish following the herring north around Point Roberts. A
second run is said to begin the latter part of April and to continue
during May and June, small numbers also passing Point Roberts during
the remainder of the summer, when they may be taken in the traps set
for the sockeye. The fall run starts in the latter part of September
and ends some time in October. Among the San Juan Islands the
movements were described as practically the same.
This species seems to enter many, if not most, of the rivers of this
region, the abundance in each being measured by the size of the stream.
A few, it is said, may be found in the lower 40 miles of the Fraser
River during the entire winter, but nothing is known of their habits
there at that time. Scattered individuals begin to enter and ascend
the river in February, and in some years, it is claimed, as early as
January, dependent upon the openness of the winter, but the species
remains scarce until in April. Some fishing may be done the last of
March, but not until the river becomes somewhat discolored by the
spring freshets are the conditions favorable for the extensive use of
drift nets. The main part of the spring run occurs in May and June,
being heaviest in the latter month, when the best fishing may be had.
As July comes on the supply drops off, and during that month and
August only a few are obtained, in conjunction with the sockeye. The
fall run, commencing generally in the latter part of September and
continuing into October, while of some importance, is much inferior to
the spring run.
The quinnat apparently distribute themselves quite generally
throughout the Fraser River system, and ascend the different branches
as far as conditions permit. The earlier or spring runs travel farthest
upstream, the fall fish, it is said, spawning in lower tributaries, one of
which is Pitt River, only about 50 miles above New Westminster, and
another, Harrison River, somewhat higher up. The spawning season,
according to Canadian authorities, is mainly in the latter part of September and during October.
The artificial propagation of the species was taken up on the Fraser
River in 1884, at the same time as- the sockeye, but was discontinued
after five years' trial. It had been the original intention to obtain at
least a portion of the spawn from the Columbia River, with the object
of attempting to increase the proportion of fish with more deeply colored flesh, but this part of the plan was never carried out, operations
being entirely confined to the local run. The parent fish were caught
with dip nets at night in swift water on the Harrison River rapids,
where they lay, and were held in cribs awaiting stripping. According
to Mr. Mowat, the species is hard to strip, and in some cases it is
necessary to handle the fish two or three times to obtain all their spawn.
The eggs are large and vary a great deal in color. Their number is
small in comparison with the Salmo salar, averaging only about 4,000
to each fish, and the period of incubation is very much shorter, this
being accounted for by the temperature of the water, which is higher FISHERIES OF  WASHINGTON AND  BRITISH  COLUMBIA.      283
in the Fraser River during the winter than in the salmon rivers of the
Atlantic coast. Parr kept to the age of seven months attained a length
of 3 to 4 inches. The total number of fry planted during the five years
was only about 6,000,000, an amount quite insufficient to have any
appreciable effect toward increasing the supply.*
Very little information was obtained regarding the runs in other
rivers than the Fraser, as not much fishing is done in any of them, but
the seasons are essentially the same in all, so far as could be learned.
We were told, by a close observer acquainted with the region, that in
the Cowichan and Nanaimo rivers of southeastern Vancouver Island
they begin running about the time the snow freshet commences in
February. During the early part of the season they ascend leisurely,
stopping in the pools, where good sport fishing may be had, and finally
reaching the lakes at the head of both rivers, where they remain until
the spawning time. Later runs occur up to and including the early fall.
In Washington the Skagit River furnishes the largest catches which
reach the Seattle market, but they are regularly fished for on several
other rivers.
Eighteen pounds is given as a fair average size for the quinnat on the
Fraser River, but in the Seattle market the average was placed between
20 and 25 pounds. In the market catch they range down to about 10
pounds, and individuals weighing 40 to 50 pounds are taken to some
extent. The extreme sizes brought to our notice were 60, 70, and 80
pounds, but these are rare.
Notwithstanding the generally high esteem in which the quinnat
salmon is held, it exhibits in this region a remarkable peculiarity,
only exceptionally occurring elsewhere, which seriously affects its sale.
While in some of the fish the flesh has its ordinary deep pink color, in
others the flesh is white, or only slightly tinged with pink. All intermediate gradations of coloration, as well as intermixtures of the two,
occur, and no degree of this variation is distinguishable from the outside. One end of the fish may be pink and the other white or the two
sides may differ in this respect. White stripes may extend through
the pink meat, or the reverse, and spots of one color may be disseminated through a mass of the other. In the paler fish the color may
greatly fade or disappear entirely during the process of cooking, salting, or canning. In a letter transmitting specimens to Washington for
examination, in 1887, Mr. Mowat describes the conditions as follows:
I find that some of the run are pure white; some are very pale pin&; some a little
darker, and others of a fair color, like the samples sent. I also find that some are
white on the outside near the skin for about 1 inch in depth, then gradually turn
a pale pink, deepening in color as the bone is reached.   A few fish of this description
* Since the above was written information has been received regarding a private
hatchery built on Samish Lake, near Fairhaven, Wash., in the tall of 1898, in which
about 200,000 quinnat eggs from the Columbia River were at once placed, and also
about 100,000 eggs of the silver salmon from local sources. An effort is being made
to have the State assume the expense of running this hatchery and to have its
capacity enlarged.
are found among the July run, but the majority of the quinnat salmon running now
are white or pale pink. Fish wanting in color are not canned, as cooking will draw
the balance of the coloring from them. On examining a number of these fish a few
days ago, I found some of them with a slight tinge of pink around the bone and that the
majority of them would spawn within a month. The ova, like the fish, also varied
in color; but the lighter they were, the larger and nearer to maturity. The same particularities as to color occur in eggs taken from the fish on the spawning-grounds.
The lighter or off-colored fish are said to be found at all times, but
their proportionate number may vary more or less at different seasons.
Thus, for instance, on the Fraser River the white-meated fish are reported
generally to form only a small percentage of the spring catch, though
their number may increase toward the end of the spring run. Beginning in August or by September 1, however, the number becomes very
large, and before the season closes may reach as high as 60 to 90 per cent.
In Puget Sound and the more southern rivers, on the contrary, it is
claimed that the percentage remains more nearly uniform throughout
the fishing season, although the average color may turn a little lighter
as the season advances, and that the percentage of the white-meated
fish is not so large as at the north. That so marked a difference as
is described should be manifested in a region of such limited extent
is striking if true, but it is not at all improbable that the statements
are somewhat at fault. There is no doubt, however, that a very large
number of the light-colored fish are taken. Epicures claim that their
meat is as rich and as well flavored as though it possessed the deeper
color, but by people generally the salmon are graded according to color,
whether fresh, canned, or salted, and a prejudice exists against any
which have not the prescribed shade. There is, therefore, scarcely
any sale for the paler fish. When placed upon the market fresh they
command a very inferior, price, while canned or salted they rarely find
a purchaser. It is hoped that this prejudice will soon be overcome,
permitting what is now essentially a waste product to be utilized in
accordance with its true value.
Leaving the question of color out of consideration, the quinnat are
said to be always in good condition when taken in the salt water, the
winter catch being the best. During their movements up the river
they are also in prime condition in the spring, but as the summer
advances, especially by August, they show considerable deterioration,
which increases as the spawning season approaches, until finally they
practically cease to have any market value.
The quinnat taken in this region are most highly valued for the fresh
market. There is, in comparison with the extent of population, a relatively large local sale, and in the spring a considerable export trade to
the Eastern cities of the United States. The latter begins at an early
date and continues on rather an extensive scale until about the 1st of
June, by which time generally the season for the Atlantic salmon has
fairly opened and the demand comes practically to an end. It may,
however, still be shipped for a time in small quantities to inland points FISHERIES  OF  WASHINGTON  AND  BRITISH  COLUMBIA.      285
as far east as Chicago. The spring trade is said to be constantly
increasing, and in a frozen condition the species is now being sent to
foreign countries. A considerable quantity is also salted for export,
and after the heavier shipments to the East have ceased, and the high
price then prevailing has fallen in consequence, they may be put up by
a few of the canneries, especially on the Fraser River. By the time
the canneries are in full operation, however, the quinnat have become
scarce, and in the fall their quality has depreciated, while the inconvenience occasioned by the number of light-meated fish in the catch
causes many of the canners to avoid handling them even at a season when
their condition might otherwise be favorable. The canned quinnat of
good color is graded about with the sockeye, the deeper and more
stable tint of the latter increasing its relative value as compared with
the quinnat, despite the inferior quality of its flesh.
On the Fraser River commercial fishing for the quinnat is restricted
to the use of drift nets. On the Washington coast the species is
obtained only to a limited extent in traps, which are seldom set until
after the principal runs are over, and the catch therefore consists
mainly of scattered individuals taken in conjunction with the sockeye.
No dependence is placed upon the species at Point Roberts, and it has
not been the practice to fish for it specially at that place. Nets are
used for its capture in some of the rivers of Washington. Its game
quality has led to a considerable fishery in the salt water with hooks
and lines, which is carried on mainly for profit, but also to a slight
extent for sport. The fishermen are chiefly Indians, and the season is
principally the winter, beginning in November. The method followed
is trolling with both bait and spoon at various depths below the surface,
dependent on the position of the fish. Herring is the bait usually
employed. The principal localities of this fishery have already been
enumerated. While no statistics on the subject are obtainable, the
catch by this means is probably very inferior to that made by nets in
the various waters of British Columbia and Washington.
The silver salmon or coho, Oncorhynchus kisutch (Walbaum), ranks
next in importance after the sockeye and quinnat. It is considered
the most handsome of the salmon tribe, and in the salt water has game
qualities in common only with the quinnat. The color of the flesh,
though much lighter than in the sockeye, is as deep as in the quinnat,
but it fades to such an extent in cooking as to make the species less
desirable for canning than either of the former. The flesh is also drier
or less oily, but of excellent quality for the table when fresh, and packs
nicely. The Indians prefer this species to the sockeye for their own
use, probably because it is more readily cured by tneir process of
The size, as observed in these waters, is reported to range from 2\ to
10 and 12 pounds, but to run generally from about 6 to 8 pounds. The
species is said to attain 30 pounds in Alaska.
There is some uncertainty regarding the length of stay of the coho in
the salt waters of this region. From what appears to be good authority
it was learned that individuals have occasionally been caught by trolling in the spring and early winter. It has a well-defined run, however,
and occurs abundantly only during a limited season, lasting generally
about six weeks. The date of its first appearance varies in different
years, as well as in different places during any one year. The schools
are expected to arrive between the middle of August and the first few
days in September, being reported earliest at points along the Strait of
Juan de Fuca, sometimes, it is said, before the middle of August.
In Puget Sound the earliest recorded catch for the Seattle cannery
was made on August 28,1889. In connection with the fishery in that
locality no preparation is made for taking silver salmon before September 4, and no reliance is placed on the species after October 23, though
large supplies have been obtained as late as October 28 in the vicinity
of Everett, while in other localities the fishery has continued until
November 1. A few may even be taken as late as between the middle
of November and 1st of December, after which they are rarely seen.
In the Fraser River, while the coho may begin ascending even before
the sockeye season has fairly closed, they are not expected to run abundantly until about September 10. Their movement continues through
most or all of October, but the duration.of the main run is said to be
only from four to six weeks. The date of running in the other rivers is
probably about the same. A few may appear in the Washington rivers
as early as August 15 to 20, but they do not become abundant until some
time later, and may continue ascending until the last of October.
The silver salmon become widely disseminated through Puget Sound
and the Gulf of Georgia, and enter many of the narrower channels
among the islands, in which respect they differ from the sockeye.
They ascend the smaller as well as the larger streams of the region,
but in the Fraser River they apparently do not proceed very far above
the sea. Much of their spawning-ground is just beyond the influence
of the brackish water, and for spawning purposes they may enter even
little creeks and rivulets in which the water seems scarcely deep enough
to admit them..
Their spawning season, according to the testimony of Canadian
experts, begins about the middle of October and continues until about
January, but it is supposed to occur mainly during November. In 1885
a few thousand eggs were hatched artificially at the Canadian hatchery
on the Fraser River, but no serious attempt has been made to increase
the abundance of the species by this means.
The silver salmon are described as active rovers in the salt water,
and their habit of leaping makes them readily distinguishable at the
surface. They occur in large bodies and also thinly scattered over
extensive areas, being erratic in their movements and often changing
their position rapidly. Near the close of October, 1886, after the fishing
season had apparently ended, schools were reported off the town of FISHERIES  OF  WASHINGTON AND  BRITISH  COLUMBIA.     287
Everett. Two purse seines were immediately put in operation, and in
one haul it was estimated that fully 10,000 fish had been surrounded.
The fishing was continued uninterruptedly during three days, the quantity assembled being the largest ever known, but on the fourth day
they had entirely disappeared, and none were subsequently observed
in this locality. This sudden disappearance from the salt water in the
fall is said to be the rule, and those fishing for the species find their
occupation abruptly terminated. The last of the large bodies must
therefore make a quick move toward the rivers and their spawning-
grounds. The important fishing-grounds in Puget Sound extend
mainly from the vicinity of Everett to Tacoma.
There is a considerable variation in the general abundance of the
species from year to year, and also as regards different parts of the
region. Thus, while they may be scarce in some localities and exceedingly plentiful in others during any one year, the following year these
conditions may be more or less reversed, and this applies to the rivers
as well as to the salt waters.
There is a reported decrease in the quantity of this species observed
in certain places, as in Semiahmoo Bay, Birch Bay, Bellingham Bay,
Samish Bay, and Elliot Bay, but if such a decrease has actually taken
place there is nothing to show that it is more than local in character.
In Elliot Bay and some other places the fishermen claim that it is due
to the amount of steamboating now going on. In the other bays above
named the decrease has been charged against the continued heavy
fishing by seines at the period when the coho are entering the rivers.
The silver salmon appears not to be canned on the Fraser River,
except in the case of. a shortage in the pack of sockeye. The same is
also true in principle with regard to most of the Washington canneries,
but in fact it has been so difficult to obtain sufficient supplies of sockeye at nearly all the latter that the silver salmon is extensively used
in place of it, and it also composes an important part of the catch
made for the Seattle cannery, where the sockeye is not put up. It is
extensively salted on the Fraser River for the export trade, and is one
of the favorite species with the Indians for their own use.
The traps at Point Roberts, Lummi Island, and the San Juan Islands
are mostly removed before the run of silver salmon is fairly on, but
some may be left in place for the special purpose of obtaining this
species if the sockeye catch has been small, and it is also taken in the
traps in Skagit Bay. The main supply from the salt water, however,
has been obtained by means of purse seines, although drag seines and
reef nets are also used, the former chiefly at the mouths of the rivers.
On the Fraser River the fishery is by means of drift nets.
The silver salmon, like the quinnat, affords good sport fishing in the
salt water, and may be taken by trolling, either with or without a spoon.
This method is resorted to for commercial purposes in some localities,
but the catch is small. It is also said that they may be taken in this
way in tfte lower 2 or 3 miles of some of the small rivers. 288      REPORT  OF  COMMISSIONER  OF  FISH  AND  FISHERIES.
The humpback salmon or 4<haddo" of the Indians, Oncorhynchus
gorbuscha (Walbaum), is a small species, averaging only about 4 or 4J
pounds in weight, although the male may reach as much as 6 pounds.
From the sockeye, with which it is most commonly associated, it is
readily distinguished by the shape of the body, the much finer scales,
and the coarse spots on its tail. In the salt waters of this region it
occurs chiefly during August, though appearing generally the latter
part of July, and may continue present into the early part of September. Its season, therefore, practically corresponds with the last half of
the sockeye run, and the two species are often obtained abundantly
together in the trap nets, much to the annoyance of the fishermen, as
the humpback is in little favor either for canning „or other purposes. A
peculiarity of the species is the fact that it makes its appearance only
in alternate years, those indicated by odd figures, as 1895, when we had
the opportunity of examining many specimens. If any are present in
off years they are so few as to escape the notice of the fishermen.
During the years of their occurrence they are exceedingly abundant.
They are said to move slowly, in large schools, rolling in the water
somewhat after the fashion of the porpoise, with the dorsal fin showing at the surface. Dr. Bean says of them in Alaska that they are
much addicted to jumping out of the water, one of > the commonest
sights in the vicinity of St. Paul, Kadiak, being the breaching of the
humpback. In Puget Sound and the Gulf of Georgia this habit was
ascribed only to the silver salmon. Although quite a vigorous fish,
the humpbacks die quickly when taken in the nets.
In Puget Sound, where they are regularly fished for, the earliest
catches are generally obtained during the first week of August, and
fishing is expected to continue until the end of the month. Small
numbers have occasionally been taken as early as July 24, and large
hauls have been made as late as September 8. The season is probably
approximately the same for all parts of the salt waters, except that
they would be expected to appear somewhat earlier in the Strait of
Juan de Fuca, and occasional small captures by the drift nets have
been reported in the lower part of the Fraser River by July 20.
While the humpbacks enter at least most of the rivers and smaller
streams of the region, they are said to avoid certain ones, but the testimony in this regard is not conclusive. They apparently do not ascend
very far above the sea, although they may reach the headwaters of the
shorter rivers, to which class, in fact, belong most of the rivers along
this coast. They enter all of the lower tributaries of the Fraser River,
from Burnaby Lake at New Westminster to Harrison and Chilliwhack
rivers, and probably to a short distance farther up. They require but
little water for spawning, and even resort for that purpose to the narrowest and shallowest creeks, sometimes not over a few feet wide, and
a foot and a half deep. In their spawning-places they congregate in
such exceeding abundance that they are described as forming at times FISHERD3S  OF  WASHINGTON  AND   BRITISH  COLUMBIA.     289
almost a solid mass, from which the stench produced by the dying fish
is said to be intolerable. The spawning season on the Fraser River is
reported to be from the latter part of September to the middle of October, and the occasional association of the humpback with the sockeye
on the same grounds during this period has given trouble in securing
the eggs of the latter for the Canadian hatchery.
The flesh of the humpback is of a very light pinkish color and much
softer than in the sockeye and quinnat, for which reasons the species is
not highly regarded for canning, and has been regularly used for that
purpose only at Seattle. The fish deteriorate rapidly, especially when
caught in large quantities and heaped in scows from the traps or seines.
Those in the lower layers, especially, soon become damaged and misshapen and lose their scales, greatly detracting from their appearance.
Nevertheless, the humpbacks are considered by many as having excellent food qualities when taken in the salt water, particularly during the
early part of the run. In some of the local markets they are sold fresh
in small quantities. On the, Fraser they are salted and smoked for
export to China and other countries demanding a cheaper grade of
salmon, and many are taken and prepared by the Indians for their own
use, both in the fresh and salt waters.
The output of the cannery at Seattle consists largely of the humpback, which, selling at a low price, finds a ready sale in the southern
part of the United States. The supplies for this cannery are obtained
mainly in the salt waters near and to the north of Seattle, by means of
. drag seines hauled on the beaches. Small quantities are also brought
from some of the rivers. In the season of 1891, four seines operating
for this cannery made a total catch of 275,000 fish, but this represents
only a part of the fishery that was in progress that year.
The local demands in other places along the shores are also chiefly
supplied through the agency of drag seines, while on the Fraser River
the commercial fishery is by means of drift nets. The trap nets would
appear, however, to afford the best means for the capture of the humpback in the salt water, and they are sometimes so taken in immense
quantities during the sockeye run. In fact, they often compose by far
the larger part of the catch, and as it is generally impracticable to do
the sorting in the water at the net, the entire catch may be emptied
into scows and the overhauling take place at the wharves. Here the
humpbacks are culled out and discarded, causing a wholesale destruction of the species. There seems to be no immediate solution of the
problem as to how this loss might be prevented, but the question calls
for serious consideration, as incalculable harm may be done the supply
of humpback in the course of a few years, by which time its market
value is certain to be much increased.
The dog salmon, Oncorhynchus keta (Walbaum), comes next after the
quinnat in size, but differs greatly from that species both in habits and
in the quality of its flesh, while its peculiar color markings readily dis-
tinguish it from all other forms. On the Fraser River it is said to
weigh mainly from 12 to 15 pounds, although many are taken up to
25 pounds, and individuals have been caught weighing 40 pounds and
Very little has been learned regarding its movements. A few may
occasionally be secured as early as the middle of August among the
other salmon. The regular run, however, is stated to begin in September and to continue through October and more or less of November,
sometimes not ending until about December 1. In the purse-seine
fishery tributary to Seattle the first catches during the six years from
1889 to 1894 varied in date from September 10 to October 17, and the
last from October 27 to November 17. These figures, however, can not
be assumed to indicate at all positively the duration of the run in any
of those years without other information, as in some seasons the fishery
may have been started late or may have terminated before the run had
ceased. In January, 1897, dog salmon were reported present in the
salt water, being then in good condition and having the appearance of
just coming in from the ocean.
This species, like the humpback and silver salmon, seems generally
not to ascend the rivers far above the sea, but it enters all streams,
large and small, going even into the little creeks for spawning. Its
distribution in the Fraser is limited to the lower tributaries, but while
it is there considered one of the least abundant species, in some of the
smaller rivers elsewhere it appears in relatively very large numbers,
the fish crowding together in narrow and shallow places, which become
badly polluted by their dead and decaying bodies. According to Mr.
A. B. Alexander, in the fall and winter all the small creeks, lagoons,
and sloughs near the Dwamishand Cedar rivers, Washington, are filled
with dog salmon, and boys find great amusement in killing them with
clubs and stones. In the rivulets by the roadside, where the water is
not over 2 or 3 inches deep, dog salmon may be seen trying to get
farther upstream. Mr. Mowat says that they spawn principally in quiet
creeks and in the shallow waters along the river banks, even doing so
in water so shallow as to leave part of the back exposed.
The dog salmon are not generally held in good repute, although
when taken in the salt water, especially soon after coming in from the
ocean, their flesh is firm and they are handled to some extent in the
fresh markets of Washington. They are regularly canned at Seattle,
and small quantities have been put up at one or more of the other
Washington canneries, the supplies for this purpose being obtained in
Puget Sound by means of purse seines. The color of the flesh, which
is always light, is said to grow paler as the season advances. The fish
deteriorate rapidly after entering fresh water, and the jaws in the
males become very much hooked. The Indians on the Fraser River and
elsewhere make use of the species to some extent, more particularly
when the other salmon are scarce. FISHERIES  OF  WASHINGTON AND  BRITISH  COLUMBIA.     291
This large trout, the Salmo gairdneri of Richardson, is commonly
classed as one of the salmon by the fishermen of this region, and is
customarily sold as such. In different localities its average weight
was placed at from 8 to 15 pounds, while extreme sizes reach 25 and
more pounds. The excellent quality of its flesh causes it to be highly
prized for the fresh market, but the color is too pale to suit the requirements for canning, although it is said that small quantities have at
times been prepared in that way. It does not seem to be as plentiful
as any of the species of true salmon, pr at least does not congregate in
such defined schools in the salt water, and in other respects its habits
are evidently also quite different. It appears to ascend the rivers in
small numbers during an extended period, but the main run begins in
November and continues through more or less of the winter. The
species is not captured abundantly at sea unless it be in a few places,
the principal fisheries being carried on in the rivers and lakes during
January, February, and March, when the fish are in excellent condition,
but they subsequently deteriorate and are not in favor in the spring.
The steelhead will take the fly in the fresh water where it is clear,
and are looked upon by the fishermen as especially ravenous feeders,
not deserving of protection in a region where their presence is considered harmful to the young salmon of other species, especially the
quinnat and sockeye, on whose spawning-grounds in the Fraser River
they are reported to have been observed. The Canadian regulations.,
however, have greatly restricted their capture at the season when they
could best be taken. The spawning season is said to be in the early
spring, and possibly begins in the latter part of winter.
There is a sale for all the steelhead that are caught in the winter,
and they are especially in demand for shipping fresh to the eastern and
inland markets. This is largely owing to the firmness of the flesh,
which permits them to be kept longer in storage in good condition than
any other species, but as regards the quality of the flesh they do not
occupy the first place. The total annual catch, however, has been relatively small compared with that of most of the other salmon. The
fresh-water fishing-grounds are widely distributed, Sumas Lake being
one of the most important in the Fraser basin. In Washington the
principal fisheries are on the Skagit River, but in nearly all other rivers
of any size the species seems to be taken in greater or less quantities.
According to the report of the State fish commissioner of Washington for 1898, this species has been the mainstay of a large portion of
the Washington fishermen during the winter months, and the fishery
has been fairly lucrative. The run, however, had on the whole greatly
diminished, and the output for the present season, from the best information possible, is not 50 per cent of what it was two or three years
The Indians were fishing in this region when it was first invaded by
the whites. They were then, however, solely concerned in supplying
their own domestic wants, using apparently the same appliances they
do to-day, reef nets and hooks and lines in the salt water, and spears,
dip nets, and weirs in the rivers. Traders reached the upper Fraser
very early in the century, thence working to the sea, and the salmon
became one of their most important foods, being obtained partly by
their own efforts and partly of the Indians. The latter gradually
developed into commercial fishermen, and to-day constitute a prominent element in the fishing fraternity.
The white man's fishing seems to have been first definitely organized
in British Columbian waters, as exemplified by the Fraser River,
where its growth has been most rapid and systematic, and where its
extent is probably still the greatest. Under Government supervision
its methods there have practically been restricted to the use of a single
form of apparatus, the drift net, which is especially adapted to the
conditions prevailing where fishing is most actively carried on, and
which also provides that the industry may be shared by the greatest
number of individuals.
There is less definite information regarding the history of this subject south of the boundary line, although the whites possibly began
fishing in the salt waters, where their catches have chiefly been made,
some time during the sixties. Their methods have become much more
diversified than in British Columbia, but it is only within about a
decade that their industry has attained prominence. Their output
seems destined very soon, however, to outstrip the Canadian fishery in
amount and value, if it has not already done so at the time of writing. Fishing on a greater or less scale is carried on throughout most
of the salt waters of Washington, but extensive operations are mainly
concentrated in a fewr localities, as about Point Roberts, in Skagit Bay,
and in the upper part of Puget Sound. Trap nets have become the
most important means of capture. Before their introduction purse
and drag seines and gill nets were the principal appliances and they are
still used. There is some hook-and-line fishing, and reef nets continue
to be employed by a considerable number of Indians.
In the Strait of Juan de Fuca there is comparatively little fishing
for salmon. Small quantities are taken about Becher Bay, on the Vancouver Island side, chiefly by Indians, who also fish at the outer entrance
of the strait, off Cape Flattery and Neah Bay, where one or more
species are said to be sometimes quite abundant. On the south
shore fishing in a small way, mainly for the fresh market and local
use, has been carried on for some years, seines, gill nets, and hooks
and lines being used. It is engaged in by both whites and Indians,
who operate at several places along the coast, and also to a slight
extent in the Elwha and Dungeness rivers.   The sockeye is not known Report U. S. F. C. 1899.    (To face
Plate 10.
to appear on this shore, but all the other species are reported to be
Point Roberts has figured most conspicuously in the Washington
fishery, and the largest catches have been made in its vicinity. The
principal reef-net ground of the entire region lies directly off its southeast corner, a large kelp-covered ledge, to which the Indians have
undoubtedly resorted for many generations, and which has always been
the cause of much contention among the several neighboring tribes.
The perpetual right to fish upon it, in common with other inhabitants
of the territory, was secured to the Indians by treaty with the United
States in 1855, and while formerly regarded solely in the light of a rich
collecting-ground, where their own needs could readily be met, it
afterwards became the source of much revenue in their dealings with
the whites. So far as the records show, the Indians have at no time
resided permanently on Point Roberts. It has been their custom to be
present there only during the fishing season, chiefly of the sockeye
salmon, from about July 1 until early in September. In recent years
their number has varied from 150 to 200, though sometimes reaching
250. Their canoes in active operation have been as many as 15 to 20,
but lately the number has greatly fallen off through the intervention
of the whites. Their drying racks formerly covered a considerable
area, but they are now small in extent and have been entirely driven
from Cannery Point, their principal location in more prosperous days.
After the completion in 1894 of the continuous line of traps commanding
the approaches to the big reef, its value for reef-net fishing seems to
have been in great part destroyed, and the Indian catches declined so
much in consequence as to render the old-time occupation practically
unprofitable. The primitive methods are making way for those of civilization, and the process has not been wholly devoid of certain elements
of injustice, which are by no means peculiar to this locality.
While the visits of the Indians to Point Roberts have had reference mainly to the salmon, they were at one time in the habit of going
there in March, during some years but not continuously, in search of
dogfish, of which they are said to have secured large catches. Those
who went at that time might remain until the salmon season opened.
They made use of a rude sort of gill net set along the flats, in which
the dogfish became entangled, and also of trot lines having perhaps
from 150 to 200 hooks apiece.
The Indians have also taken sturgeon in Boundary Bay, have fished
therewith hook and line in the fall for the silver salmon, and have used,
by drying, the large clams which are very abundant along its shores.
There are no authentic records of the earlier fishing by the whites
about Point Roberts, though it is well known that they were attracted
there many years ago by the abundance of the salmon. In the beginning, however, it is probable that their supplies were chiefly obtained
by purchase from the Indians. During the.period when the Hudson
Bay Company was active on the west coast, agents of the company 294      REPORT  OF   COMMISSIONER  OF   FISH  AND  FISHERIES.
made annual visits to the Point for the purpose of adding to their stock
of salmon. In the early sixties, according to one informant, who has
had a long experience in the region, several men were engaged in fishing and purchasing at the Point in a small way. There was, however,
little expansion in the work for over a decade, and practically not until
about 1875, when parties from Seattle went there to engage more
regularly in the business, which then consisted chiefly in salting and
barreling fish. The canneries on the Fraser River also began to obtain
some of their supplies from this locality, but apparently never in large
The Indians furnished a part of the salmonj the remainder were
taken in drag seines measuring about 100 fathoms long by 35 feet deep
and with a 4-inch mesh. From 4 to 6 of these seines were in use from
about 1875. The seining-grounds were on the west side of Point
Roberts, extending northward from the southwest corner a distance of
about 1J miles, where the shore is free from stones and well adapted to
the purpose. These nets were operated during the sockeye season, and
later for the silver salmon, which species was taken in the greater
abundance. Humpback salmon could be secured in large numbers, but
they had no sale and were only used by the Indians. The quinnat were
never fished for, as they ran too early in the year, when the weather
was still stormy. Purse seines have also been employed about Point
Roberts for some years, and are still used there to some extent.
There are no figures showing the catch during this period, but it is
said to have fluctuated greatly, dependent upon the abundance of the
fish and the number of men at work, the latter having varied from
year to year. Between 1875 and 1889, according to the accounts
received, the maximum number of whites present in any season was
about 30. In some of those years the output would not have exceeded
450 barrels of salted salmon, while in others it reached as many as
3,000 barrels. This was in addition to what might have been sent to
the Fraser River.
Fishing on a greater or less scale is carried on in most of the Washington rivers which empty into Puget Sound and the Gulf of Georgia.
The Skagit is the principal of these rivers, and is especially noteworthy
as the resort of the sockeye as well as of all of the other species of
salmon. The runs are relatively large and excellent opportunities for
fishing are thus afforded. Previous to 1893, however, most of the
catch, such as it was, was disposed of locally to ranchmen, mill hands,
and settlers, but in the year mentioned it is said that 300,000 pounds
of salmon from this river were sold to the markets in Seattle. These
were caught between Sedro and the mouth of the river, and consisted
in largeipart of quinnat and steelheads. The number of fishermen was
about 50, of whom perhaps one-half made this business their regular
occupation. Above Sedro, including Baker River, the catch during
the same year, reported to have been about 136,000 pounds, was still
entirely utilized by the inhabitants of the neighboring country. FISHERIES  OF  WASHINGTON  AND  BRITISH  COLUMBIA.      295
Nets were employed up to 1893 only in the main Skagit River. They
were mostly gill nets of two kinds, one being set, the other drifting
when in use. The same year two seines, 100 fathoms long and 30 feet
deep, with a 3-inch mesh, were operated at La Conner at the mouth of
the river, and in the same neighborhood the Indians had four seines
of the same mesh, 30 fathoms long and 10 feet deep. A salmon wheel
was also built in that year a few miles below Sedro, but the results were
not satisfactory. Nearly all of the salmon taken in its two branches,
the Baker and Cascade rivers, up to 1893 were obtained by means of
spears and gaffs, both whites and Indians resorting to this method.
The recent rapid development of the salmon market at Seattle, the
establishment of canneries at Anacortes, and the demands from canneries
at more distant places have given a fresh impetus to the fishery in both
the Skagit River and the bay of the same name into which it empties.
In the latter especially has there been a marked increase in the amount of
apparatus employed, which consists of trap nets, gill nets, and seines.
The Nooksack River is also, in proportion to its size, becoming of
considerable importance as a salmon stream. The sockeye have been
said to enter it, but the evidence to that effect is not conclusive. Fishing is carried on directly off the mouth of the river as well as at several
places along its course. Gill nets have been chiefly employed, and it
has been proposed to introduce trap nets near the mouth.
The salmon fishermen on both sides of the line are of many nationalities, most maritime nations of Europe being represented and also the
Japanese. A large proportion consists of Indians and half-breeds, and
some negroes are also employed. The Chinese, however, while they
compose the bulk of the help in the canneries, have participated only
to a very slight extent in the fishing and not at all in Canadian waters.
Nearly if not quite all of the trap-netters are whites.
The use of trap nets in this region has been restricted almost exclusively to the United States and mainly to the capture of the sockeye
salmon in the clear salt waters, where no other kind of apparatus seems
to be so well adapted for taking this species in the large quantities
required by the canneries. With the few exceptions elsewhere noted,
therefore, we find these nets distributed only along the course taken
by the sockeye on their passage from the sea to their spawning rivers.
They have not been tried in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, however, nor
does it seem probable that the sockeye schools skirt the shores of that
channel closely enough to give occasion for their employment at any
place unless it be in the vicinity of Becher Bay, on Vancouver Island.
The first locality in the pathway of these fish where profitable trap-
net fishing has been found is at the southern end of San Juan Island.
Of the schools which turn southward after passing the San Juan group,
the only ones recognized commercially are those which enter through
Deception Pass into Skagit Bay and River.   Trap nets have been used 296      REPORT  OF  COMMISSIONER  OF  FISH   AND  FISHERIES.
in Skagit Bay for several years, but the catch there also consists in
large part of silver salmon and the quinnat.
As the main body of the sockeye moves northward through the
Canal de Haro and Rosario Strait, the finest opportunities for the capture of this species are to be expected in that direction. In the former
passage, however, no successful trap-net sites had been discovered up
to 1896, although trials had been made at Henry and Stuart islands
and probably elsewhere. In Rosario Strait, moreover, good fishing
with these nets has heretofore been found only in the vicinity of Village
Point, on Lummi Island. Trials have been made along the mainland
shore north of Lummi Island, but the principal trap-net grounds of
the region, and the last before the boundary is reached, are those furnished by Boundary Bay and the waters about Point Roberts. In this
locality traps have been in use the greatest length of time and in the
greatest number, while their catch has exceeded many times that of
all the other similar nets combined.
The Canadian government has constantly opposed the placing of
trap nets in British Columbian waters, although much pressure in favor
of their construction has been brought to bear. In 1894, however, it
yielded to the extent of permitting the building of one such net in
Boundary Bay, the number being increased to two in 1895. Taking
into consideration their position in the upper part of Boundary Bay,
where any fish they might intercept would be headed toward the group
of nets in the adjacent waters of the United States, this concession can
not be regarded as inconsistent with the general policy of the Canadian government in the matter of this class of fishing. The position of
these nets, however, is unfavorable, and it is doubtful if they can be
made to pay, especially in view of their distance from the Canadian
canneries. Except for a sort of fascine arrangement tried unsuccessfully in 1877, no traps have ever been used on the lower Fraser, and
the quantity of sediment and drift brought down by the current would
probably interfere with the proper working of such apparatus.
The total number of traps in operation during more or less of the
season of 1895 was 21, but not nearly all of these are known to
have made good catches, especially of sockeye, and several were
practically failures. Twenty-nine additional trap-net sites which had
been tried in previous years, but had been abandoned for one cause or
another, were definitely located the same year by the Fish Commission
party, but the actual number of such sites must have been much
greater. New traps were added in several places in 1896,1897, and
1898, but their exact positions have not been learned. The total number in 1898, however, was much greater than in 1895. The future
growth of the fishery can not be predicted. Despite its rapid development it has met with many reverses, and much capital has been sunk.
Only a certain proportion of the nets have realized the expectations of
their builders, and the location of successful sites has, in most cases,
been the result of actual trial, generally following one or more failures, t U. S F. C. 1899.    (Tofac
as little reliance can be placed upon the existing knowledge of the
movements of the fish. How the growth of the industry may affect
operations on the Fraser River and the abundance of the sockeye is
also an important matter which remains to be determined.
The salmon trap nets are constructed on the same general principle
as the pound nets of the Great Lakes, consisting of a crib, tunnel,
heart, and leader; but they are usually made of a larger size, and
experience has dictated some important modifications. The netting
is of cotton twine, and is supported by wooden stakes driven into the
bottom. Wire netting of galvanized iron, in place of the cotton, for
the hearts and leaders, has been suggested as probably more durable,
and experiments regarding it have recently been carried on at Point
Roberts. Floating traps, such as are successfully employed for salmon
and other species in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, have never been tried
in this region, but their relative cheapness and the ease with which
they can be shifted from place to place are advantages which might
commend them to the fishermen of Washington.
The fishing-sites in the track of the sockeye are largely in exposed
positions, many of them being open to the full force of any gale
sweeping across a wide expanse of water from more than one direction, as is especially the case at Point Roberts. This condition necessitates the building generally of stronger traps than are customarily
used in other regions. The stakes are unusually heavy and are often
backed by additional piling. The crib, moreover, is frequently
strengthened by a capping of timber which binds the stakes together,
and this capping may be continued along the top of the heart and
even of the leader to a greater or less distance. This construction
gives the appearance of great permanency, but it is designed only to
meet the requirements of a single season, and it sometimes fails even in
this respect, especially if the season be a stormy one. While some of
the upper timbers and the netting may be saved, the stakes are seldom,
if ever, available for a second season. The latter are rapidly honeycombed by ship-worms and it is not the practice to remove them.
They are liable to break in the attempt to pull them from the bottom,
and in the course of two or three months they become so thickly covered with barnacles as to chafe the nets badly.
The length of the leader varies according to location and the slope of
the bottom, but it is generally much greater than in the Great Lakes,
sometimes exceeding a half mile. The cribs are also generally of extra
size, rectangular, but not always square in shape, and measured in the
several traps examined from 35 to 80 feet on a side. Their depth
ranged from 3 to 9 fathoms, dependent upon the depth of water. The
hearts are, as a rule, proportionally large for the size of the crib, are
sometimes double, one leading into the other, and constitute the most
novel feature of the trap. They vary greatly in shape to meet the supposed exigencies of each locality, and often have a leader-like exten- 298      REPORT   OF   COMMISSIONER   OF   FISH  AND  FISHERIES.
sion of greater or less length, the entire arrangement being planned to
intercept and direct toward the crib-opening such of the salmon as do
not follow close along the main leader, and to minimize the chances
of escape of those which have entered. This construction, the outcome of much experimenting, is said to have very greatly increased the
effectiveness of the traps.
There may be an opening into the heart and crib on both sides of the
leader, but it seems to be the more common practice to limit the
entrance to one side, at least as regards the fishery for the sockeye, in
view of the steady and constant movement of this species in one direction while on its passage to the fresh waters. The customary double
opening would offer no advantages under these conditions.
The mesh of the netting is usually 3 inches in the crib and heart,
and from 3J to 4 inches in the leader. Mesh of larger size, from 6 to 8
inches, has been tried in the leaders, but it is said to have proved disadvantageous, owing, in part at least, to the large quantity of coarse
seaweed which is often found floating in the water, and which finds
lodgment in the larger mesh, tending to clog it and weigh down the
net. Observations on the general effect of using the smaller mesh in
both the crib and leader are lacking. The gill-net mesh for sockeye
on the Fraser River is 5J inches, and it would seem that the mesh in the
crib might be increased above 3 inches without danger of gilling adult
fish. There would be no object, however, in taking such a step, unless
it were found that the present mesh was destructive of young salmon
or of other species smaller in size than the sockeye. This fact could
readily be determined by careful examination extending through an
entire fishing season.
As elsewhere explained, the catches made in the trap nets are sometimes much larger than can at once be handled by the canneries, and
while one such catch might be held in the crib for several days, it would
prevent continuous fishing during a period when the salmon might be
running best. To meet this contingency an adjunct to the crib, called
a spiller, has recently been devised, and appears to be coming into quite
general use. It is, in fact, an additional crib, square in shape, and connected with the first by means of a tunnel, through which the surplus
fish of any catch may be driven. In this way large numbers of salmon
may be kept in good condition for a considerable time, fishing may go
on uninterruptedly and without loss, and the canneries continue in operation during intervals when the runs are small or have ceased.
The shores first approached by the sockeye which have furnished
sites for trap nets are those of the San Juan Islands, but none of these
has so far been more than very moderately successful. How many trials
have been made there as well as elsewhere throughout the region it
has been impossible to ascertain. In 1894 two nets of this character
were built on Lopez Island. < )ne was near Fisherman Bay, in San Juan
Channel, where it is now thought the sockeye never enter, or, if at all, in Report U. S. F. C. 1899.   (To face page 298.)
Plate 12.
ie Point
Trap No. Z
Trap No.l
-,8y*:ftn». SALMON    TRAPS
In Vicinity of Village Point
lummi   island
Summer of 1895
Details of Traps  1 and. 2  on scale of
quantities too small to be appreciable. The other was off the south
side of the island, in the vicinity of Long Island, where sockeye were
observed in 1893, though they failed to appear, or at least to be taken,
in 1894. The same year there was a trap at Reed Harbor, Stuart Island,
which also proved unsuccessful, and none of these three places has
since been tried.
In 1895 there were again apparently only three traps among these
islands, one of which was on Henry Island, near Roche Harbor, but as
the site was evidently unfavorable for the purpose it was soon abandoned. The other two were located off the south side of San Juan
Island, just west of Cattle Point light-house. The eastern one was
built on the northwestern edge of Salmon Bank, the other being about
three-fourths of a mile farther west. The western began near the beach
and extended off a distance of about 3,200 feet, while the eastern started
some distance from shore and had about 2,900 feet of leader. The
extreme depth of the cribs was about 7J fathoms. It is said that the
western net took but few sockeye, although the eastern did fairly well.
Many humpback salmon and small quantities of other species were
also caught. It was proposed in 1896 and 1897 to increase the number
of traps among the San Juan Islands, but no definite information as to
the sites occupied has been obtained.
As to the waters directly east of the San Juan group, trap-net fishing has been mainly limited to Skagit Bay and Lummi Island. In 1895
there were two traps in Skagit Bay, both of moderate size, one being
operated at Demock Point, the northwestern extremity of Camano
Island, the other at Hunot Point, near the southern end of Fidalgo
Island. In previous years the following sites, as well as others, had
been occupied: Alaki Point, at the northeast end of Whidby Island;
the west side of Kiket Island j Tosi Point and Hunot Point, on Fidalgo
Island; and the shore between La Conner and Goat Island. The traps
in Skagit Bay are placed to intercept the run of sockeye which, entering through Deception Pass, are making for the Skagit River. Silver
salmon and the quinnat are also taken here in abundance, and supplies
are shipped to canneries in other places as well as to the fresh market
at Seattle. By 1897 the number of traps in operation had been
increased, and the industry had assumed much greater importance
owing to the establishment of two canneries at Anacortes.
One small trap net was reported to have been fished in 1895 near
Edison, in Samish Bay, and another was projected for William Point,
Samish Island, in 1896. It was not learned for which species these
nets were planned.
On the west side of Lummi Island, south of Village Point, three
trap-net sites, about equal distances apart, had been occupied up to
the close of 1895, the farthest being about 1J miles from the point, the
nearest within one-fourth mile. They lead off from the shore from 637
to 725 feet into depths of 6£ to 8 fathoms. One was built upon for the
first time in 1895, but the others are of older date.   One of the latter, 300      REPORT  OF  COMMISSIONER  OF  FISH AND  FISHERIES.
the farthest from the point, has been abandoned. The remaining
two, however, are said to be favorably placed, but while both were put
to use in 1895, an injunction obtained against them by the Indians
prevented their employment during most of the season. This was due
to their location inside of and adjacent to one of the favorite reef-net
fishing-grounds, which the Indians claimed was being injured by their
proximity. Here also, in 1897, a marked increase was shown in the
extent of trap-net fishing.
An elaborate trap built in 1894 at Sandy Point, on the mainland, a
short distance north of Lummi Island, is reported to have taken no
sockeye; but while the site was not occupied in 1895, it was proposed to
utilize it again in 1896. Projected traps for 1896 were also to be located
at Cherry Point and Point Whitehorn, still farther north, on the mainland. One was erected in 1895 at Birch Point, but was used for only
a few days.   It was intended to rebuild it on a larger scale in 1896.
Point Roberts.—The advantages of the waters about Point Roberts
for trap-net fishing will be understood from the account of the movements of the sockeye after reaching Boundary Bay. The number of
fish which pass around the point and the regular course taken by the
schools combine to make this locality, as regards the species named,
the most favored of any in the salt waters of the region.
Point Roberts is about 3 miles wide'along its southern shore, which
is nearly straight, and between 4 and 5 miles long north and south,
about 2 miles in this direction lying south of the international boundary
line formed by the forty-ninth parallel of north latitude. On the east
side it is bordered by Boundary Bay, which, including Semiahmoo Bay,
has an extreme width of about 11 miles. North of the boundary this
bay is very shallow, being nearly everywhere less than 3 fathoms deep.
The width of the shallower water narrows in the direction of the
southeastern corner of Point Roberts, known as Cannery Point, south
of which, however, there is an extensive kelp-covered ledge, long a
favorite fishing-ground of the Indians. After passing this ledge the
3-fathom curve lies close inshore along the south side of Point Roberts
and until after rounding its southwest corner, when it again bends
offshore quite abruptly as the broad bank off the mouths of Fraser
River is approached.
The facilities for the building of trap nets in this locality are mainly
determined by the contour of the bottom. The shallow water off the
east side of the point gives opportunity for greatly multiplying their
number, but when the depths are slight, the conditions are generally
least favorable for the movements of the sockeye, and much of the
ground is practically valueless. More fish are said to be taken along the
edge of the deep water than elsewhere, and those nets fish best which
are in the deep water or lead into it. The winds also are a factor as
regards the shallow areas, as the nets up in the bay do nothing when
there is a northwest wind, while a southerly wind, blowing on the shore
and causing rough water, seems to drive the fish in.   Cannery Point is FISHERIES  OF  WASHINGTON  AND   BRITISH  COLUMBIA.      301
considered to present the best advantages yet discovered, and much
larger catches of sockeye have been made directly in front of it than
in any other part of the salt water. Along the south side of Point
Roberts long leaders are not possible, and the cribs are invariably
comparatively near the shore, but the fish also keep correspondingly
farther in, and after Cannery Point the next best sites are said to be
in the neighborhood of the southwest corner. West of the point, up
toward the boundary line, the bottom is again suited to long leaders.
Trap-net fishing was started at Point Roberts some years before it
was taken up at other places. The first net of this kind was built by
John Waller, about 1880, off Cannery Point, a short distance north of
the Indian reef, and this position appears to have been more continuously occupied for the purpose than any other. For nearly a decade,
however, such operations as were carried on were scarcely more than
experimental, and the results for the most part were small. While we
have little information on the subject, the traps as first constructed
seem not to have been entirely suited to the capture of the sockeye,
and the value of the different sites had yet to be learned. In Waller's
trap the crib is said to have been only about 20 feet square, while
the leader, measuring some 900 feet long, did not approach nearer than
300 feet from, the shore. It was. set only during the sockeye run, the
greater portion of the catch being sold to the canneries on the Fraser
River, while the remainder were salted. Mr. Waller was succeeded
about 1885 by a practical fisherman from the Great Lakes, who is still
at Point Roberts and who has done much to bring the net to its present
state of perfection. He made use of at least the same general position
as Mr. Waller, but in 1887 a second trap was added on the eastern side,
much nearer the boundary line. Until 1891 the number of these nets
does not seem to have been increased beyond two, the catch by this
means continuing small and being disposed of as in the beginning.
In the last-named year, however, a small cannery, the first one in the
region, was built at Semiahmoo, at the eastern end of Boundary Bay,
and arrangements were made to obtain the necessary supplies of fish
from Point Roberts. This led to the erection of one or two, possibly
three, additional traps. In 1893 a second cannery was built, this one
occupying the southeast corner of the Point, and the number of traps
was increased to 13,11 being operated by the two canneries, and 2
independently. Before the next season both canneries had passed into
the control of the Alaska Packers' Association, which made use of 12
traps during 1894, while 4 were under independent management, making
16 in all south of the boundary line. During this year the first net was
placed in the Canadian waters of Boundary Bay, being located close
to the line.
In 1895 there were 33 trap-net locations about Point Roberts, of
which 23 were east of the Point in Boundary Bay, and the remainder
south and west of it. This number included both the traps in use and
those of previous years whose positions were still marked by more or 302      REPORT  OF  COMMISSIONER  OF  FISH  AND  FISHERIES.
less of the old and generally much decayed stakes. One object in
leaving the latter in place, besides the trouble and expense of removing
them, was to show a preemption of the grounds they occupy, and thus,
as far as possible, to prevent encroachment by outsiders. The better
sites, to the extent that they have been disclosed or that a foothold
could be gained, are the ones now occupied, and the good grounds seem
already to be pretty thoroughly controlled by those in possession,
although further experience may suggest other profitable locations.
The extent of fishing at this point, however, will probably continue to
be largely regulated by the capacity of the canneries near at hand, or
rather by their output as dictated by market conditions, unless competition should arise to stimulate an active rivalry.
Eleven traps were in operation to the east of Point Roberts in 1895,
two of these being in Canadian waters and the majority of the others
directly off Cannery Point. Seven were controlled by the canne. es at
Point Roberts and Semiahmoo, while the catch from the remaining four
was disposed of on the Fraser River. These traps were irregularly
distributed to a distance of about 2 miles from the shore of the Point,
three being united in one continuous string and two in another, the
remainder being placed singly. The string of three traps extended off
from the shore of Cannery Point in a.southeasterly direction a distance
of about a mile, paralleling the northern edge of the Indian fishing-
ledge elsewhere described. The inner trap had a length of about 2,500
feet, the second of about 1,500 feet, and the outer one of about 1,000 feet.
The cribs were large and were located successively in depths of 5J, 6J,
and 7 fathoms. In none of the other traps on the east side did the
inner end of the leader approach near to the land, and in most cases it
was a considerable distance off, while the depth of water at the several
cribs ranged from 3 to 8J fathoms.
The direction given to the leaders is based upon the experience of
the fishermen that the sockeye appear to enter Boundary Bay well to
the east, make a broad sweep westward and then turn somewhat
abruptly southward so as to pass out quite close to Cannery Point. The
leaders in the outer and northernmost traps may extend north and
south, but they generally deviate from this course so as to trend more
or less northwest and southeast. Farther west and south, however,
they usually run more nearly east and west, but never exactly so, and
altogether there is a very great variation in the direction given them.
The Canadian nets are rather out of the course of the sockeye, and
their catch is largely dependent on the direction of the wind, which is
also the case with the more northern nets south of the boundary. The
expense of transporting fish to the Fraser River also works to the
disadvantage of the Canadian nets.
The two traps in operation off the south shore of the Point in 1895,
both single ones, were situated near its southwest corner, which is
considered to offer the best advantages next to Cannery Point. The
abrupt slope of the bottom in this locality necessitates the use of short  TRAP  NETS
Summer of   18 9 5
Scale 1600 feet = 1 inch
leaders, not exceeding 1,800 feet, which begin near shore and extend
into depths of 5 J and 7 fathoms. Off the west coast there were also only
two single traps in 1895, both being well up toward the boundary,
and off shore. They had comparatively long leaders extending over the
edge of Roberts Bank, the cribs being located in depths of 6J and 9
fathoms, respectively, and at distances from shore of about 3,200 feet
and 1£ miles.
In 1897 and 1898 many additional trap nets were in use about Point
Roberts, but their number and exact location have not been ascertained. The catch of sockeye in the former year was very large, and
the capacity of the region was shown to be much greater than had
been anticipated.
The canneries obtaining their supplies at Point Roberts desire only
sockeye salmon, and take other species only when the sockeye catch is
insufficient to meet their requirements. The trap nets at that place
are therefore built almost exclusively for the capture of the sockeye,
and, in view of the expense attending their construction and maintenance, it is doubtful if any would be used there except for the presence of this species. The season when they are set is mainly limited
to the period during which the sockeye run continues, generally beginning between the first and middle of July and closing between the
middle and end of August.
In 1894 and 1895 one or two traps are said to have been set for the
quinnat salmon, commencing between the 10th and 15th of June, but as
the weather about Point Roberts is likely to be stormy as late as that
time, the risks attending the working of the traps have discouraged
their use during the quinnat season. To maintain an active spring
fishery for the quinnat by this means would require a special strengthening of the nets, increasing the expense, while at the same time there
would be constant danger of their serious injury or destruction. The
prevailing summer winds are northwesterly, but easterly winds occasionally occur, producing rough water in the neighborhood of the nets
in Boundary Bay and making it difficult or impossible to lift them for
a day or two, especially the more northern ones in the shallower water.
If the sockeye season has been unfavorable, a few of the traps may be
left in position during a part of September, in order to cover more or
less of the run of silver salmon in case it is desired to fill out the pack
with that species.
As an indication of the recent rapid growth of the trap-net fishery
at Point Roberts, it may be noted that in 1892 the catch of sockeye by
that means was reported as about 37,000 fish, while in 1895 it had
increased to about 680,000 fish, of which by far the greatest quantity
was taken in the nets of the nearby canneries. The number of spring
salmon caught during the latter year was reported at less than 5,000.
Humpback salmon are taken in connection with apart of the sockeye run
in very large quantities, but they are seldom, if ever, used for canning. 304      REPORT  OF  COMMISSIONER  OF  FISH AND  FISHERIES.
Before the building of canneries at Semiahmoo and Point Roberts
the Fraser River furnished the only market for disposing of the fish in
fresh condition j but the establishment of canning operations near the
location of the traps has changed all this. In 1895 the river canneries
received out of the total catch of 680,000 sockeye only about 80,000, of
which 30,000 came from the nets in the Canadian waters of Boundary
Bay and 50,000 from three nets south of the boundary line. In good
years, when the Fraser River catch is ample, there has been no need to
draw on Boundary Bay, although contracts previously made may have
to be carried out, while in poor years there is a desire to retain at Point
Roberts as much as possible of the sockeye catch made in that vicinity.
The Fraser River canners are, as a rule, opposed to handling sockeye
from Point Roberts, except in cases of emergency, for the reason that
the fish are apt to deteriorate greatly in condition during transportation,
when they are piled in large scows and towed from the fishing-grounds
to the canneries. The season, being the height of summer, is unfavorable, and the fish are often so soft upon reaching their destination that
no use can be made of them. This happens most often in years of large
catches, when the competition for markets is very great, and when the
loss of fish from this cause has sometimes been very heavy.
There is a marked inequality in the size of the sockeye catch at Point
Roberts, as in other localities, from time to time during the same season,
due to fluctuations in the abundance of the fish, as elsewhere explained.
Small catches for a period may be followed by excessive ones (amounting
occasionally, it is said, to from 40,000 to 50,100 sockeye in a single day
by the principal nets at Point Roberts), the latter sometimes causing a
surplus which the canneries can not utilize immediately. In this respect
the trap nets possess an advantage over the gill nets, in affording
the means of releasing or keeping the fish alive, through the crib itself
or the spiller. The practice has also been followed of removing the
surplus catch to cold chambers awaiting use.
Notwithstanding the special advantages which the traps present in
this respect, there is what seems to be well-founded complaint of the
waste of many fish through their means, including even the sockeye in
seasons of great abundance. The charges recite that this species is
sometimes retained in the nets until no longer fit for use, and also that
at times only a small proportion, the choicest parts, of each fish are
utilized for canning, the remainder being rejected. As it is difficult
to imagine the willful destruction of so valuable a fish simply, as it is
claimed, to prevent their coming into the possession of others, it is to
be hoped that the circumstances are not so bad as represented. The
danger of the extermination of the species is too great to justify a
resort to any such methods and most stringent measures should be
adopted to prevent a waste in this direction.
The principal destruction is probably of other species of salmon and
of fishes belonging to other groups, which are trapped in conjunction
with the sockeye and in the removal of which no pains are taken to Report U. S. F. C. 1899.
Plate 14.
IP  Report U. S. F. C.
(To face page 304.)
Plate 15.
J  Report U. S. F. C. 18
(To face page 304.)
Plate 16.
1 I
return them alive to the water. This results mainly from the large
size, generally, of the catches and the difficulty of sorting them during
the operation of emptying the crib. With the exception of some of
the largest forms, it is customary to load everything on scows by
means of large dip nets or by reversing the crib net, after which the
desirable parts of the catch are selected out and the remainder thrown
away—nearly all being dead by this time. Experience with trap nets
in other regions shows that some discrimination can be made during
the progress of removal, especially when the species to be saved are
large and easily recognized, as is the case here, but in so doing the
work is much prolonged and the expense increased. In a new region,
so rich in resources as the one in question, where use can be found for
only the choicer products and competition is exceedingly keen, it is
questionable whether such exacting regulations of this character would
be either wise or expedient at present. In fact, regulations looking
to the release alive of any part of the catch of trap nets seldom contemplate in any region the assorting of the catch by hand, but only
the escape of the smaller fish through proper restrictions upon the size
of the mesh. This is a question which indeed deserves consideration
in connection with the traps of the Puget Sound region.
Among the species said to be destroyed in quantity are the quinnat,
when off color, humpback and other salmon, sturgeon, herring, smelt,
and flounders. As it is not possible to determine the color of the
quinnat until it has been cut, there seems to be no way of affording
the protection which it equally lacks when taken by other methods.
Dogfish, which are sometimes captured in large numbers, are returned
alive to the water, and a sale is springing up for the sturgeon, though
many have been wasted in the past.
Gill nets are the principal appliances of the salmon fishery in British
Columbia, but in Washington they are less important than the traps
and seines. In Canadian waters, in fact, commercial fishing for salmon
with nets is restricted to the use of drift gill nets, except in the upper
part of Boundary Bay, where traps have been allowed, and in one
or two northern localities, where seining is permitted because of the
clearness of the water. The drift-net grounds are mostly limited to
the Fraser River and the adjacent part of the Gulf of Georgia, where the
advantages for fishing are much greater than in any other section of
this entire region. .Not only does this river and its approaches have
the largest runs of all the species of salmon, but during the most important months for fishing they present together an exceedingly large area
of highly discolored water in which gill nets may be used as effectively
in the daytime as at night. This discoloration, which results from the
floods caused by the melting snows among the mountains, commences
generally about the, middle of April and lasts until early in the fall,
thus covering a large part of the quinnat run and all of that of the
sockeye. Before it becomes sufficiently marked to obscure the nets, the
quinnat fishery is mostly carried on at night.
This drift net fishery was being carried on in a small way as early
as 1875 at least, but in the beginning it seems to have been entirely
confined within the river. Finding, however, that good fishing by this
means could be obtained outside the delta, the fishermen began by 1885
to resort to the "sandheads" off the south arm, from which point the
area of their operations has been extended until by 1891 it reached
as far offshore as does the intensely muddy water of the Fraser.
Wherever this condition exists the sockeye can be taken in drift nets
as readily and in as great abundance as in the river itself. This extension of the grounds has given opportunity for a greatly increased catch,
and has caused the bulk of the fishery to be centered within a radius
of 6 or 8 miles of the river mouth, upstream in one direction and out
in the Gulf of Georgia in the other.
. Drift-net fishing in the Fraser is restricted by law to that part of its
course which is influenced by the tide, the upper limit being placed
at Sumas River, between 50 and 60 miles above the mouth of the main
river. Comparatively little, however, is done above New Westminster,
though there are in this upper section a few good drifting-places
during high water, where the quinnat are taken in the spring and the
sockeye in July, but generally in August the river becomes so low as
to interfere with operations. During a short period in each week of
July and August, immediately following the weekly close time, drifting
may be carried on largely about -New Westminster and thence downstream, but as a whole by far the greater part of the fishery is limited
to the lower 6 to 8 miles of the river and the outside grounds. This
is explained by the fact that the current is not so strong below, there
is more room and more certainty of a sailing breeze upstream to renew
the drift, and competition naturally impels the fishermen to seek the
grounds nearest to where the fish first appear, in their efforts to secure
some advantage. The canneries have also become mainly concentrated
along the lower part of the river, especially in the vicinity of Ladner,
and at Steveston, where they are convenient to the fishing-grounds now
mostly resorted to. Fishing is carried on in all three branches of the
delta, the main channel, the North Arm, and Canoe Pass.
Outside the river there are no legal restrictions upon the extent of
the grounds, their limits being solely defined by the opportunities for
securing fish. As explained in the account of that species, the sockeye
assemble in front of the delta, coming apparently both from the south
aud westf and occupying a considerable area both on and off the edges
of the bank which stretches from Point Grey to Point Roberts. The
discolored water permits the use of drift nets as far north as Point
Grey, as far south as the boundary line, and to a distance of at least 5
or 6 miles offshore in the direction of Vancouver Island. The heaviest
part of the fishing is done off the main entrance and Canoe Pass, FISHERIES  OF  WASHINGTON AND  BRITISH  COLUMBIA.
toward which the fish are working, but during a trip from the delta to
Point Roberts, at the height of the sockeye season in 1895, the boats
were observed to be also scattered elsewhere in all directions as far as
one could see, to near the boundary line, south of which they do not
go. There were at least 400 or 500 boats outside on that occasion, and
the scene presented was one of great animation. While the nets are
set with reference to the current, they soon take devious courses, and
in places were so close together that the tug on which we were had
difficulty in picking its way among them.
Owing to the generally unfavorable weather in the spring, there has
been practically no fishery for quinnat on the outside grounds at that
season, but in the fall this species may be taken there to a small extent.
The length of the drift nets in British Columbian waters is limited by
law to 150 fathoms, and the most of those in use are probably of about
that size. There is no restriction upon their depth, but custom fixes
it at 50 to 55 meshes, though some are narrower. Two sizes of mesh
are recognized by law. The larger, intended for the quinnat salmon,
measured 7f inches in extension, until 1897, when it was reduced to 7
inches, and may be used from March 1 to September 15. The smaller,
designed for the sockeye, silver salmon, etc., measures 5J inches, and
may legally be employed from July 1 to August 25, and again from
September 25 to October 31. Between September 15 and 25, and
between November 1 and March 1, all salmon fishing with nets is prohibited. The quinnat nets are employed mainly in the spring and early
summer, but also to some extent in September, when the quinnat run is
smaller and the fish are not in so good condition. The smaller mesh is
used mostly during July and August, when the sockeye are present
and the canneries are in active operation. The close season, beginning
August 25, is to permit the last of the sockeye schools, in which the
fish are well matured, to reach their spawning-grounds unmolested. The
fall season of the small-meshed nets allows for the capture of the silver
salmon, but the fishery at that time is not extensive, as the demand for
this species is very much less than for the sockeye.
The twine of which the nets are made is of the best flax, but being
loosely laid has a very coarse appearance compared with that used for
gill nets in the Great Lakes and elsewhere in the East. The nets constructed of it, however, are said to be better adapted to the large
catches of heavy fish so generally obtained on the Fraser River,
although the fine hard twine is best for clear water. The cost of the
nets fully rigged is about $100 apiece. They are lightly tanned and
sometimes a little tar is used upon them. With care they can be made
to last three or four years, but with the ordinary hired fishermen their
life is generally measured by a single season. They are fitted with
lead sinkers and wooden floats. The buoys are sometimes of wood, but
square tin oil cans are very commonly employed for this purpose.
The boats are mostly small skiffs, about 20 feet long, generally
manned by two, occasionally by three, persons.   In recent years the 308      REPORT   OF   COMMISSIONER  OF  FISH  AND  FISHERIES.
Columbia River boat has been introduced and is now used to a considerable extent in the lower part of the river and outside. Its breadth
and centerboard make it much safer for the more exposed places.
All gill nets in British Columbian waters are, in accordance with
law, used adrift. This method appears to be best suited to most of the
requirements of the region and has given entire satisfaction. The current in the Fraser River is generally too strong for set nets, and with
the large number of nets there employed only the one method of fishing them would be advisable. All nets are drifted at the surface, each
being handled by a single boat, to which it is attached at one end, the
other end being indicated by its buoy.
Up to 1891, inclusive, the number of drift nets in use was limited to
500. Since then, however, licenses have been issued to all bona-fide
fishermen, British citizens and residents, who make application. The
canneries and other establishments dealing in salmon are allowed several nets apiece, but each independent fisherman is entitled to only a
single net. The number of licenses issued and the total length of the
nets employed each year since 1891 have been as follows:
Year.                         ber of
length of
nets in
-xr,™   1    Total
nets      *etVn
355, 900
1,733        528,000
1897 '	
To insure their identification the boats of the independent fishermen
must be marked with their license number, but canneries and dealers
have each their separate series of numbers, as each receives only a
single license for all its boats.
A varied nationality is represented among the drift-net fishermen,
including Indians and negroes, there being a very large number of the
former. The arrangements with them differ. Some own their boats
and nets and dispose of their catch by contract; others are supplied
with their outfit by the canneries and fish on shares, while others
again, the Indians especially, are employed on day wages. The independent fisherman in possession of an outfit is supposed to fish it
himself, and his hours are measured by his endurance. The canneries,
however, generally hire two gangs for each of their boats, in order that
they may be kept at work both day and night. The licenses do not
define the position which each fisherman may occupy with his drift net.
The law provides, however, that the nets shall be kept at least 250
yards apart and shall not be used so as to obstruct more than one-third
the width of the river, but it has been manifestly impossible to comply
with these regulations—the first, especially—since the number of nets
has increased so greatly; and the second, because in many places the
width of the river is less than three times the length of the nets.
The fishermen are left to arrange these matters among themselves,
and whether they do so by tacit understanding or not, there is little or FISHERIES  OF  WASHINGTON  AND   BRITISH  COLUMBIA.      309
no interference among them. Each selects, so far as he can, what seems
to him the best location, and may change it from time to time. As the
nets are floating no fisherman has a clear piece of ground to himself,
but they follow one another in groups over the same ground, and move
upstream again after completing their drift or after having made a
certain distance. The drifts may vary from 1 to 2 or 3 miles, and are
sometimes shorter, dependent upon the abundance of fish and other
circumstances. The best conditions for drifting are said to occur at
slack high water, whether at night or in the daytime, and most fishing
is done at that stage of the tide. The nets then hang more vertically
and it is the general opinion that there is also then a better movement
of the fish. When the river is high and swift they attempt to fish more
along the sides and in the eddies, as the fish seem to seek the places
of least resistance, but when it falls they do better in the channels.
The nets are customarily set at right angles to the current, but as the
velocity of the latter varies at different points across the channel and
eddies frequently occur, the nets do not long remain spread out in the
direction intended, but take irregular courses with a general tendency
to trend up and down stream. In some places, where bars so exist as
to cause the fish to move crosswise of the river, the nets may do best
in the latter position, but, as a rule, they are not allowed to head off
much before lifting begins. On the outside grounds it is also the practice to set across the current, and some of the most successful drifting
is there done by starting a net near the mouth of one of the river channels and allowing it to be carried as far as the current serves, which
may be a long way when the river is in flood.
An opportunity for studying the effect upon the salmon runs of the
extensive drift-net fishing now carried on in the Fraser River is afforded
by the weekly close times, but practically no attention has been given
'to the subject. All fishing being prohibited from 6 o'clock Saturday
morning until the same hour Sunday evening, the salmon are given an
unobstructed passageway up the river during thirty-six hours out of
every seven days. The movement of the fish is not, of course, uniform
or even continuous throughout the season or any extended part of it.
While, therefore, it is impossible, without the necessary observations,
to pass definitely upon the matter, yet at the end of each weekly close
time it is expected that a proportionally much greater quantity of
fish may be found in the neighborhood of New Westminster than at
other periods of the week. On Sunday evening, as the time for fishing
reopens, the work begins actively about New Westminster, the river
being covered by as many boats as can safely operate, and the catch per
net being as good as at least the average on the lower drifting-grounds.
Such success does not continue long, and during the remainder of the
week comparatively few boats remain on the upper grounds.
In the interest of the protection of the fish it would be important to
ascertain what proportion of the run is removed by the large amount
of netting used on the Fraser River during the past few years.   Such r
information as we possess is very indefinite at the best, but the evidence presented by the circumstances attending the weekly close time
argues strongly in favor of the continuance of that protective measure.
In illustration of this matter may be cited the catch by the drift-netters
during the night of Sunday, August 16,1895, which was said to have
exceeded 700,000 sockeye, the largest single night's catch on record up
to that time at least.
Gill nets are employed in both the salt waters and rivers of Washington, but much less extensively than in British Columbia. Their
use extends quite largely to the clear open waters, where they are only
serviceable at night, and they are fished both set and drifting. The
fishery is for the most part somewhat irregular, and aside from a few
localities is prosecuted in a small way at scattered places, much of the
catch being disposed of locally, although a good part of the fresh supply,
especially of quinnat, sent to the larger markets, such as Seattle, is the
product of this class of nets.
Skagit Bay and River seem to have been the seat of the most important operations of this character. About 50 nets were employed on
the latter in 1894, 35 belonging to white men and 15 to Indians. The
set nets measured 15 fathoms long and 15 feet deep, some having a 5|
and others a 9 inch mesh; they are anchored in little indentations of the
river avoid the swift current as much as possible. The drift
nets were 50 fathoms long and 15 feet deep, with a 9-inch mesh, being
used mostly for the quinnat. The nets were larger on the bay, some
measuring 125 fathoms long and 18 feet deep, a 9-inch mesh being used
for the quinnat and a 5| or 6 inch mesh for the sockeye and silver
salmon. Since 1895 there has been a large increase in this fishery,
which has mainly been brought about by the establishment of new canneries, especially at Anacortes. The gill-netters, however, have had
difficulty in competing with the trap nets, which afford the cheapest
means of taking salmon here, as at Point Roberts, and in 1897 a strong
but futile effort was made to secure the passage of a bill prohibiting
the latter class of apparatus.
Boundary Bay is another relatively important place for gill-netting,
and in other places about the shores, as well as in many of the rivers,
this method is also followed, the extent of fishing varying in accordance with the opportunities and the demands. In some places only
two or three small nets may be employed to supply the local wants,
while in others the advantages for shipping or canning interests may
stimulate a considerable activity. Even in such small rivers as the
Elwha and Dungeness, on the south side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca,
having only 2 or 3 miles of level course, several nets may be in use, and
such fish as are not required at home find their way to the Seattle
The purse seine is, next after the trap net, the most important appliance used for the capture of salmon in the United States waters, where
it is said to have been introduced about 1886. It resembles the purse
seine of the Atlantic coast, but differs from it in some particulars.
Its construction and mode of use have been described in the Bulletin
of the United States Fish Commission for 1888 (pp. 55, 56), and in the
annual report of that Commission for the same year (pp. 254-256).
The nets are very large and therefore of great capacity, the catch often
amounting to several thousand salmon at a single haul. In those
whose measurements have been brought to our attention the length
varies from 150 to 250 fathoms and the depth from 14 to 25 fathoms in
the bunt. The mesh is. from 2J to 3 inches. Two boats are required
for operating a purse seine—one for setting the net, the other, a scow,
for pursing it, the latter also having accommodations for the catch.
Purse seines seem not to be well adapted for taking the sockeye,
which are apparently too alert and active to be readily captured by this
means, although small quantities may sometimes be so obtained. They
appear to be employed mainly for the silver salmon, but also to some
extent for humpbacks and dog salmon. It is the only kind of apparatus, aside from hooks and lines, that can be utilized in the open waters
at a distance from the shores, and as the salmon of certain species may
school anywhere it is destined to remain one of the most important
fishing methods, especially for supplying the large catches demanded
by the canneries.
. The most important fishery with these nets, having its principal headquarters at Seattle, has been carried on throughout the upper part of
Puget Sound from the vicinity of Everett to Commencement Bay, and
to some extent in Hood's Canal. In 1895 Seattle had at least 11 purse
seines in use, and in 1896 probably not less than 20. Keeping track of
the schooling fish, many of the nets are often concentrated in a single
place, covering the water over a considerable area and making large
catches. Although chiefly operated in the interest of canneries, the
fresh and salt markets also obtain abundant supplies from this source.
Single seine hauls in the upper part of the sound frequently exceed
1,500, and may reach over 2,500 silver salmon. The catch of the gang
of nets belonging to the Seattle cannery is said to have averaged 12,000
salmon daily during the height of the season of 1895.
In other parts of the region purse seines have not been as systematically employed. Some have been used about the San Juan Islands,
and in 1895 they were first tried in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, with the
object of obtaining supplies for the cannery established that year at
Port Angeles. The fishing ground was mainly in the vicinity of that
place, but sets were also made near Race Rocks and elsewhere in the
eastern part of the strait. About Point Roberts a few purse seines
seem to have been operated nearly every year since their introduction, 312       REPORT  OF   COMMISSIONER  OF   FISH  AND   FISHERIES.
but not with any regularity, and as a whole these nets may be said to
have cut a small figure in connection with the fisheries of that region.
This has been especially so since the rapid increase in the number and
efficiency of the traps began. In 1893 and 1894, when three or four
were in use, they did very well, and in the latter year a good proportion
of the cannery supplies at Point Roberts were so obtained. In 1895,
however, the catch by this means was reported very small, as the traps
furnished sufficient quantities of sockeye from day to day to supply the
canneries and no silver salmon were canned.
The total number of purse seines reported for the Puget Sound region
m 1897 was 46, and in 1898 it was 40.
Although drag seines were sometimes employed on a small scale in
connection with the early fishery of the Fraser River district, they have
been entirely prohibited for a considerable period throughout British
Columbia, except in certain localities outside the region under discussion, where the water is too clear for gill-netting. In Washington they
seem to have been the earliest form of net introduced by the whites,
and they are still widely used, though not very extensively in any one
place. Their first employment to any extent was apparently at Point
Roberts, where the traps have virtually superseded them. They were
there hauled mainly around the southwest corner of the point, and
thence up along the west side to a distance of 1J miles, the shore elsewhere being generally unsuited for the purpose. When rounding the
southwest corner a part of the salmon keep well in to the shore, ye.t
large catches of sockeye were never made there, and if 300 or 400 fish
were captured at a haul it was considered a fair result. In the early
fall, however, the silver salmon would be taken in greater numbers.
As the traps multiplied and were made effective the seines gradually
went out of use, though they may still be employed occasionally.
The most important recent drag-seine fishery seems to be that which
has now been carried on for a number of years to obtain salmon for
canning purposes at Seattle. Eight nets, measuring from 200 to 600
feet long and with a 3-inch mesh, were in use in that connection in
1895. Near the mouth of the Skagit River 6 seines were operated in
1894, 2 by the whites and 4 by the Indians. The former were about
600 feet long by 30 feet deep; the latter 180 feet long by 10 feet deep,
both having a 3-inch mesh. Seining is also done in the neighborhood
of Utsalady, in Skagit Bay, and in both of these localities relatively
large catches are said to be made. Good seining-grounds are reported
in the vicinity of the mouth of the Nooksack River, though they had
not been much resorted to up to 1895.
Small seines are employed to some extent for salmon, by both whites
and Indians, at several places along the south shore of the Strait of
Juan de Fuca, chiefly in Discovery Bay and about Dungeness and Point
Angeles.   Nearly all the catch is consumed locally, but small quantities FISHERIES  OF  WASHINGTON  AND   BRITISH   COLUMBIA.      313
may be carried to market as far east as Port Townsend. The species
principally obtained are humpbacks and silver salmon. The cannery
established at Port Angeles in 1895 had 12 seines in use in that vicinity
the same year.
Small seines will undoubtedly be found elsewhere in nearly all places
along the Washington shore where settlements exist, and where the
conditions are suitable for taking salmon by this method. This form
of net is one of the most convenient to operate and affords a ready
means for securing food.
The total number of seines employed in the Puget Sound region in
both 1897 and 1898 was placed at 59.
The reef net is the exclusive property of the Indians, by whom it has
long been used. Its name is derived from the character of sea bottom
for which it is specially adapted—the peculiar kelp-covered reefs—but
while such abound throughout the region, the number over which the
sockeye pass in sufficient quantity to furnish good fishing seems to be
comparatively small. Formerly the nets were made from the fiber of
cedar bark or'roots, the preparation of which was a winter occupation
and consumed much time. Cotton twine is now used and since its
introduction the nets have been enlarged. They consist of a piece of
webbing, which varies more or less in size, but may average perhaps
from 36 to 40 feet long by 25 to 30 feet across, the mesh being about 3J
To prepare for fishing a channel of suitable width is cut* through the
kelp, and in this the net is set between two canoes so anchored from
both ends as to keep them parallel with and at the sides of the passageway. The suspension of the net is accomplished by means of guy lines
leading from the canoes and head anchors. In the position which it
then assumes the front end, facing the current, sinks near the bottom,
while the hind end curves to near the surface. Although the kelp
may be quite submerged along the sides of the channel, still it tends to
direct the fish toward the net, and their movements may still, further
be controlled by short leads of kelp run out from the front corners of
the latter. In case the depth of water is too great, ropes are sometimes
stretched across the channel below the front margin of the net, and to
these bunches of reeds may be attached with the object of turning the
fish upward.
The salmon, approaching with the current, pass upon the net. They
do not mesh, nor is there anything to prevent their escaping at the
sides. It is at this point that the Indians are required to display their
skill. An experienced man stands in the bow of each canoe as a lookout, while each of the guy lines is in the hands of a member of the crew.
The moment fish are seen coming over the net word is given to haul
in, a command which must be promptly obeyed. The side lines leading
to the stern anchors are tripped at the same time, causing the boats 314      REPORT  OF   COMMISSIONER  OF   FISH   AND   FISHERIES.
to come together, so that the net can be gathered up from all sides in a
sort of bag. The contents are emptied into the canoes, the net is again
thrown over and spread out, and the watching resumed. Success
depends upon the net being hauled quickly and properly at the right
moment. Should the fish have turned before the first step is taken,
they are likely to escape wholly or in greater part. Constant vigilance
is required, but the Indians have become so expert that they seldom
fail to land their catch, and their success seems to depend only on the
appearance of the fish in sufficient quantity.
When the fish are running well a large reef-net crew will consist of
10 to 15 Indians, as at Point Roberts, but in some places the nets
are smaller and the crew may not contain more than 6 to 8 men. On
Cannery Point Reef it is said that under exceptionally favorable condi
tions a haul can be made every 2 or 3 minutes, and a single large catch
may fill the two canoes. With fishing at its best a single net may
•secure as many as 2,000 salmon in a day, but to do this the fishing
canoes must continue at their posts, the catch being transferred to shore
by other boats. In 1894 and 1895, however, scarcely anything was
accomplished with the reef nets in this locality.
The proper time for fishing with these nets is during the set of both
the ebb and flood tide, when the current is running not swifter than 5
knots an hour. They can only be used in clear water, as it is essential
that the salmon should be plainly seen; when the water is muddy or
the surface rough nothing can be done. While originally the Indians
employed this method only for a short period each season to supply
their own wants, in recent years they have found a ready sale for their
entire catch, which, consisting as it does mainly of sockeye, is in great
demand at the canneries. The money value of this species is now so
great that they retain only small quantities at the most for drying.
Reef-net fishing could not, however, be profitably followed by the
whites, owing to the number of hands required to operate the net and
the great loss of time resulting from unfavorable conditions of sea and
weather. The Indian reef-netters belong partly to the Lummi Reservation and partly to British Columbia. The latter fish chiefly about the
San Juan Islands, coming over specially for that purpose.
What is probably the largest and has been the most productive
ground in the region for this kind of fishing is the reef directly south of
Cannery Point, at Point Roberts, which has been described in another
connection. From 15 to 20 nets were formerly fished here at a time,
and with much success; 16 were in operation in 1889, but in 1894 the
access of salmon to the reef had been so cut off by strings of trap nets
as practically to destroy its advantages, although the Indians still visit
it. Each crew had formerly two places to fish upon, one for high and
one for low water, in order to extend the hours of work, it being considered preferable that the water should not exceed 8 feet in depth at
the time of fishing. FISHERIES  OF  WASHINGTON  AND  BRITISH  COLUMBIA.      315
Between Village Point and Bluff Point, on the outer side of Lummi
Island, there is also an excellent ground, with capacity for about 6 or 7
reef nets, which is resorted to by the Indians from the neighboring
reservation. Salmon have been abundant here and large catches have
been made, but, as at Cannery Point, trap nets have recently been so
placed as to divert a large proportion of the fish from the reef and
reduce its value for the purposes of the Indians.
There is a small but productive reef inside of Iceberg Point, at the
southern end of Lopez Island, on which a few nets are used, and
where daily catches of 3,000 to 4,000 salmon are sometimes made.
Both sockeye and silver salmon are taken at this place, the former at
least being now mostly sold to the cannery at Friday Harbor, and in
good seasons the reef is an important source of supply. The nets are
sometimes set in an extreme depth of 18 fathoms. We were told by
some of the Indians fishing here that although they have tried for
quinnat they have never been successful with that species, probably
because it does not appear in defined schools. Humpbacks and dog
salmon occur abundantly, but are not fished for, as they have no sale.
There seem to be no other reef-net grounds about Lopez Island, but
several small ones are fished off the west side of San Juan Island and
off both the east and west sides of Stuart Island. Others probably
exist, of which we obtained no definite information.
The quinnat and silver salmon are the only species which will take
bait and can be fished for with a hook. The fishery by this means,
trolling with bait or spoon, is insignificant compared with the net fishery, but it affords the opportunity for securing especially the quinnat
in the winter and spring when nets can not be used profitably if at all.
The catch so made is disposed of to the fresh markets or utilized for
domestic purposes by the fishermen. Both Indians and whites engage
in it, the former most extensively. Some of the more prominent localities for this fishery are off Victoria and Port Townsend, about the San
Juan Islands, off Nanaimo, and off Point Roberts, and in some places
it is indulged in for sport as well as for securing food.
Sport fishing for salmon with fly and spoon is carried on to a limited
extent in some of the smaller clear rivers, especially in British Columbia. The quinnat is said to be the only species which can be so taken,
and the fishing-places are the pools in which they rest during their
journey upstream. Trout are also very abundant in such localities
and are obtained by the same means. The Indians about Neah Bay
do a great deal of trolling for salmon to supply their own wants, the
fishes of this group following next after the halibut in importance as
an article of food among them. The fishing season there is chiefly the
months of June, July, and August. Details regarding the hook-and-
line fishery have already been given under the headings of the quinnat
and silver salmon. r
Spears seem to be used rather extensively, in the clear, shallow upper
waters of many of the rivers, for obtaining salmon as they approach
their spawning-grounds. The fish so taken are, naturally, not in the
best condition for food, nor are they sought by this means for commercial purposes, unless it be to supply a local demand. The Indians
follow this method most, but white settlers also employ it where they
have the opportunity to do so, and often in this way add greatly to
their stock of food. In some localities the catch must be relatively
rather large, as is known to be the case in the upper waters of the
Skagit River. Besides the ordinary form of spear, a gaff is also frequently employed, the handle to either one being sometimes made of
extra length -to permit of its being used from the banks of a stream.
Under favorable circumstances it is said to be possible to select from
the fish, as they pass by, the particular species that is most desired or
the more robust and healthy individuals.
Until quite recently this region has occupied, from the standpoint of
trade, a position of comparative isolation which the completion of
railroads has only partly overcome, owing to its distance from large
consuming centers. In the development of the salmon fishery and the
disposition of the catch it has, therefore, been necessary to resort to
methods of preparation which would insure the preservation of the
product for indefinite periods. Salting naturally came first, followed
by canning, while now the shipping of fresh salmon is a rapidly growing
The salting process was introduced at the beginning of the century
by the Northwest Company and afterwards continued by the Hudson
Bay Company, primarily for the purpose of providing a winter stock
for the use of their employees and for local sale. As the facilities for
shipping opened up, an export trade began, which finally reached large
proportions and has long constituted an important feature of the salmon
industry on both sides of the boundary line. Requiring little outfit,
this branch has been engaged in by men of small means as well as by
establishments having considerable capital. While both the quinnat
and sockeye are utilized in this way, the greater part of the output
consists of the cheaper grades of salmon. The product is mostly disposed of to the eastern United States and to Australia, the Hawaiian
Islands, China, and Japan.
The smoking of salmon was also begun in British Columbia at an
early date and was subsequently taken up in Washington, but the
quantity prepared in this way has always been small.
Canning presented a somewhat more refined method of preparation,
the product of which soon gained great and world-wide popularity.
The growth of this particular branch of the fishery was quite rapid FISHERIES  OF  WASHINGTON  AND   BRITISH  COLUMBIA.      317
from the beginning, and during the past few years has been remarkable. Its limitations are measurable only by the supply of fish and the
restrictions of trade.
The utilization of the salmon from this region in a fresh condition,
except locally, was long delayed, owing to the lack of transportation
facilities to large markets, of which there are none in proximity to the
Pacific coast. The preference for fresh fish, however, led to the early
utilization of through railroad communication to place the western
species in competition with their Atlantic congener in the very home
of the latter. This trade is now having a marvelous development. It
reaches the larger cities along the Atlantic seaboard and in the interior
of the country, and has recently found an outlet in Europe and other
parts of the world. Shipments have chiefly been made during winter
and spring when the salmon are in best condition and the weather is
most propitious. Ice is used in packing to the extent made necessary by .
temperature and other conditions, and freezing methods have recently
been introduced.
The quinnat is preferred for the fresh trade, and in the spring, before
the Atlantic salmon are in season, it commands so high a price as to
make its purchase for canning purposes unwarranted. The steelhead
is also a fresh-market fish and is sold almost exclusively as such, it
being obtained most abundantly in the best condition during the winter,
when the fewest difficulties attend its shipment. The sockeye and Other
species are likewise utilized in this trade, but the latter least extensively
on account of their lighter color.
The most important centers for the shipping of fresh salmon are New
Westminster, in British Columbia, and Seattle, in Washington, but small
quantities may be sent inland directly from a few other places, more
especially from Tacoma. The bulk of the fish intended for this trade,
however, is forwarded to one or the other of these cities from fishing-
grounds or from collecting places on steamer routes. Thus Seattle may
derive its supplies of quinnat from the Strait of Juan de Fuca by way
of Port Townsend, from the San Juan Islands through the several
stopping-places which the steamers have in that group, from Skagit
Bay and River, and so on, the entire field tributary to Seattle being an
extensive one. The New Westminster supplies come partly from the
Gulf of Georgia, but mainly from the Fraser River.
The freezing of salmon seems to have been started on the Fraser
River as early as 1886, but not much was apparently done in that line
until within a few years. There are now several freezing establishments
in British Columbia and Washington, and the business outlook is
exceedingly promising. By this method not only may a large stock of
fish be laid in when the season serves best, to be disposed of as demands
arise, but a way is opened to new and more distant markets. The
prospects are for a large and profitable trade which shall greatly
increase the fishing industry of the region. 318      REPORT   OF   COMMISSIONER   OF  FISH  AND   FISHERIES,
The local trade in salmon is relatively large in comparison with the
extent of population, the low price at which they can generally be
obtained, especially the least desirable commercial forms, placing them
within the reach of all. Many of the inhabitants fish for their own
table, using nets and spears in the rivers and the trolling hook in salt
water. The Indians have always depended very largely on the salmon,
one of their chief occupations having been the preparation of a large
winter stock by drying. In some places, where they have come much
in contact with the whites and are receiving pay for their labor or
catch, this custom is not so strictly followed, if at all, but the total
Indian consumption in British Columbia is estimated in the official
statistics at a very high figure.
In that part of British Columbia here under consideration the canning industry seems always to have been confined to the Fraser River,
for the reasons undoubtedly that it is the only place where the sockeye
can be taken abundantly and where the other species of salmon may
also be captured more readily than elsewhere. The first cannery on the
Fraser was apparently built at Brownsville, opposite New Westminster, about 1870 or 1871. It was removed to New Westminster in
1873 and one or more small ones in addition are said to have been in
operation the same year, when the total output of canned goods was
reported at about 390,000 pounds. The regular series of statistics for
the British Columbian coast date from 1876, when there were 3 canneries with a total pack of 511,056 pounds. In 1883 the number had
increased to 12, but it fell off the following year to 6, and was the same
in 1885. Since then, however, there has been a steady and rapid
increase, their number amounting to 31 in 1895 and to 45 in 1898.
Changes have taken place in the location of the canneries, which are
interesting to note. The industry was formerly carried on more extensively in the upper part of the drift-net region, there having been at
one time as many as 4 canneries in the neighborhood of New Westminster, where now there is only 1. The center of the canning business
has worked down the river, as the fishing has been carried more and
more in that direction. Ladner and Canoe Pass became the centers
for a time, but it has now been transferred to Steveston, at the main
entrance to the river, where in 1895 about one-half the total number of
canneries was located. This place is now most centrally situated with
regard to the more productive fisheries, haying on one side those of the
outer grounds and on the other those in the lower part of the river. In
1895 there were only 6 canneries above the village of Ladner, 15 at
Steveston, the remainder being on the south bank from Ladner to
Canoe Pass. The number of canneries on the Fraser River, together
with the pack in each year since the beginning of the industry, is
given in the statistical table for British Columbia. FISHERIES  OF   WASHINGTON  AND   BRITISH  COLUMBIA.      319
Outside of the Fraser River the principal cannery sites in British
Columbia are on the Skeena River, where the business was started as
early as 1875, and on the Naas River. There has been a small cannery
at Alert Bay since 1880, drawing its supplies of sockeye from the
Nimkish River, which empties on the adjacent coast of Vancouver
Island, and 2 are located on Clayoquot Sound, western coast of Vancouver Island, one established in 1895, the other in 1896. Except during
three years when the sockeye runs were very small, the Fraser River
pack has exceeded, and generally very greatly, the combined pack of
all the other canneries of the Province.
The greater part of the canned salmon produced in British Columbia
has always been exported to England, being shipped by vessel, generally in large lots. The remainder is divided between Australia, other
foreign markets, and the Canadian trade.
The canning industry is of more recent date in the Puget Sound
region of Washington than in British Columbia, and is still less
extensive, although during the past few years its growth has been
very rapid. Not having the same river facilities as British Columbia,
it is necessary to look more to the salt waters for its supplies, and in
the matter of obtaining sockeye, the species most cherished for canning
purposes, its advantages are considered not so good. It would thus
appear as though Washington could never expect to produce as large a
pack of the higher-priced fish as the Fraser River is capable of supplying,
though it may prove otherwise, but of the inferior species Washington
has sufficient abundance to permit as great an expansion of the business
as the demands of trade are likely to warrant for some years to come.
In 1895 there were only 6 canneries in operation on the Washington
side of the line. The oldest establishment was started at Muckilteo
in 1877, removed to Port Blakely about 1880, and subsequently to
Seattle, where it is now located. The species put up are silver, humpback, and dog salmon, together with a few quinnat when they can be
obtained. In 1880, 15 hands were employed and the pack amounted
to 10,000 cases, while in 1895 the pack reached 81,177 cases. At one
time there were 4 canneries in the neighborhood of Seattle, but 3 of
these are no longer in operation, although a new one was established
there in 1897. The next oldest cannery still in existence is the one
established in 1891 at Semiahmoo, at the eastern end of Boundary Bay,
which, beginning with 1894, has been run in conjunction with the one
built at Point Roberts in 1893. Both draw their supplies from the trap
nets about that point, the most of which they control, and also, to some
extent, at times from other nets in Boundary Bay. These 2 canneries,
therefore, under present conditions are the most advantageously placed
of all the canneries south of the boundary with regard to obtaining
suppiies of sockeye, and their attention is almost entirely confined to
this species except in seasons wheja the run proves short. Some silver
salmon, humpback, dog salmon, and quinnat have been put up at both
A good-sized cannery was founded in 1894 at Friday Harbor, on the
eastern side of San Juan Island, which is a convenient center for
securing sockeye from the various fisheries about the San Juan group.
Its supplies up to 1896 had been obtained chiefly by means of traps at
the southern end of San Juan Island and from the Indian reef-netters,
but apparently it has been found impossible to rely entirely upon the
catch of that species. In 1895 a cannery was built at Port Angeles,
with the expectation that a sufficient quantity of sockeye for its own
use could be obtained in the Strait of Fuca, but all efforts to that end
have met with failure, and it has been obliged to look elsewhere for its
stock of that species. Some years ago a similar experiment was tried
at Clallam, but it was soon abandoned. The sixth cannery examined in
1895 was an experimental one of small size in Bellingham Bay, which
expected to obtain its catch in the vicinity of the mouth of the Nooksack
There were 11 canneries in operation in 1896; 12 in 1897, and 18 in
1898. The new ones were located mainly at Blaine, on Lummi Island,
in Bellingham Bay, at Anacortes in Skagit Bay, and at Seattle. At
Anacortes there were 3 canneries, all established in 1896, with the
object of taking advantage of the run of sockeye belonging to the
Skagit River. The pack in 1897 was exceedingly large, and to a very
great extent consisted of sockeye, of which the run in that year, as
elsewhere explained, seems to have been unprecedented.
On the Fraser River the canning season is practically coincident with
the period of the sockeye run. A few canneries may start up in June
in order to do something with the quinnat, and in those years when the
supply of sockeye is inadequate for a full pack some establishments
may continue operations during more or less of the silver salmon run.
In Washington also little or nothing is done before the appearance of
the sockeye, and while most of the canneries there would be satisfied
to close with that species, could they obtain it in sufficient quantity,
nearly all have been more dependent on other species than the Canadian canneries and are more likely to keep open later. The Seattle
canneries, whose supplies are obtained outside the sockeye region, begin
operations much later than the more northern canneries and continue
them during the greater part of the fall.
While the positions of trust in the several canneries are chiefly filled
by whites, nearly all the labor, both in British Columbia and in Washington, is performed by Chinese, who become exceedingly expert in
every branch of the business and work rapidly. The secret of their
employment to so great an extent is the cheap rates of compensation
with which they are satisfied—a condition which practically excludes
white labor, but without which it is difficult to see how the canning
industry could now be maintained. It would, moreover, be impossible,
under existing circumstances, to secure the amount of white labor
required in the large canning districts, in view of the temporary nature
of the work.   In some of the canneries, especially on the Fraser River, FISHERIES  OF  WASHINGTON AND  BRITISH  COLUMBIA.      321
Indian women and children are employed to clean the fish after they
have been eviscerated, being members, generally, of the families of the
fishermen who are operating in the same neighborhood.
It is important to note in this connection the amount of waste which
occurs in the preparation of salmon for canning. In cutting off the
heads, tails, and fins sufficient care is not always exercised, and much
flesh suitable for canning too often goes with the refuse. This improvidence is largely owing to the abundance offish, and it is scarcely to be
expected that a remedy for it can be found while the supplies continue so
prolific. The total loss in weight to the fish during this process,
including the removal of the entrails, ranges from 25 to 50 per cent,
and is probably seldom less than 30 to 40 per cent. The greater part
of the waste is of course unavoidable, and the most that can be hoped
for in this regard is that some use will soon be found for it.
The prices which the fishermen receive for their catch depend upon
the species and fluctuate in accordance with the supply and demand.
They vary markedly in different parts of the same season as well as
in different years. The matter is mostly regulated by the canneries
during the period when they are in operation. When the quinnat first
begin running on the Fraser River in the spring and are in greatest
demand for the Eastern trade they may bring as much as from $1 to
$1.25 apiece, but the price soon falls, reaching 75 cents and even less.
The highest price which the British Columbian drift-netters obtain for
sockeye is about 25 cents each, but this figure prevails only at the
beginning of a season or during one in which the catch is small and
causes a sharp competition among buyers. As the season advances
and the fish become more abundant it may fall off to any figure as low
as 15 and even 10 cents, while during summers when extraordinary
runs occur 6 or 7 cents may be as much as a fisherman can expect to
receive, and even then not all of his fish may be wanted. In 1897
many were glad to get as high as 3 cents, and a large part of the catch
was refused at any price. The customary range in price, however, is
from 15 to 25 cents.
At Point Roberts it is said that, except when sockeye are scarce, the
cost of their capture by trap nets is much lower than the prices paid
-on the Fraser River, and it is probably the same elsewhere when fish
are abundant. In this way the Washington canneries which obtain
their supplies from this source are considered to have a marked advantage over the Canadian. The sockeye taken in the reef nets at Point
Roberts, Lummi Island, and the southern end of the San Juan Islands
were bringing 10 and 15 cents apiece in 1894 and 1895, but the Indians
are often paid no more than 5 to 8 cents for them.
From 5 to 8 cents is a common price for silver salmon, while dog
salmon range from 2 to 6 cents apiece. During the winter the steelhead bring about 3 to 4 cents a pound for the fresh markets. 322      REPORT  OF  COMMISSIONER  OF  FISH  AND  FISHERIES.
There seem at present to be no sources of pollution in this region
which can be considered as positively detrimental to the fisheries in
the salt water, and the same also appears to be mainly true as regards
the rivers, except as to some localities of limited extent. This may be
accounted for in greater part by the scarcity of large settlements and
the generally low temperature of the water.
Sawmills have been built on many of the rivers, on some of them
quite extensively, and the large amount of refuse which they produce
may, unless suitably cared for, be the cause of great and irreparable
injury, as has been so strikingly illustrated on the rivers along the
Atlantic coast. On the Fraser River the number of mills is not great,
and the laws regarding the proper disposition of the sawdust are said
to be quite generally observed. In Washington, while the throwing of
sawdust into the streams is prohibited, it is reported that the regulations had not been well enforced, although some change may recently
have taken place in that respect. Attention has been especially called
to the Skagit River, on whose banks there are numerous shingle mills,
from which a very large amount of refuse is allowed to enter the water.
According to the statements from the fishermen in that region, this
practice has caused a great deal of damage to the spawning-grounds of
the salmon and has affected the fishery in other ways.
The proper disposition of the offal produced in connection with canning operations presents a problem of very great importance for this
region, especially as regards the Fraser River, where the industry is
most extensive. The refuse from this source, consisting of the heads,
fins, tails, and entrails, has as yet no market value and must be quickly
disposed of. Its quantity is very great, equaling at the lowest calculation more than one-fourth the total weight of the fish utilized, and
at this rate amounting to from 650 to 3,800.tons annually on the Fraser
River alone. In many cases it runs up to 40 and even 50 per cent.
When it is further considered that the season lasts only from four to
six weeks, and that the bulk of the fish comes in spurts, lasting only a
few days each, the difficulties of the situation can be fully realized.
The generally prevalent custom is to allow the refuse in its fresh condition to drop into the water underneath or alongside of the cannery.
As the water of this region, both at sea and in the rivers, has a relatively low temperature at all times, this practice is less open to objection
than would be the case in a warmer climate.
The Washington canneries are all located on the salt water in more
or less exposed positions, where the tide generally runs strongly and
the depth increases rapidly. The greater part of the refuse disappears
at once and is never heard of, although in some places a certain proportion may be washed upon the shores,   There is no reason to believe FISHERIES  OF  WASHINGTON  AND  BRITISH  COLUMBIA.      323
that it has anywhere been detrimental to the fishing interests, and in
view of the sparsely settled condition of the coast in the vicinity of
nearly all the canneries there seems to be little occasion for concern
from a sanitary standpoint. The number of canneries must also for
some time remain too few to make the disposition of their refuse a
question to be handled by other than the local authorities.
On the Fraser River the matter is more serious, as nearly all the
canneries are located within a distance of 6 to 8 miles of the mouth of
the river; yet even here there is no evidence that the offal has had any
deleterious effect upon the run of salmon. That injury of that character
is scarcely to be expected from this cause is indicated, moreover, by the
still worse conditions produced each season about and immediately
below the spawning-grounds by the floating masses of dead and decaying fishes through which the fresh arrivals continue their ascent, in no
way checked by the foulness of the water. The pollution in those
places is strikingly in evidence, while in the region of the canneries
there is generally little to be seen. The large volume of water in the
lower part of the river, combined with the strong current and low
temperature, tends to dissipate the offal, which mainly disappears as
completely as in the sea. It is a common local belief that much of it
is consumed by the small fishes which are reported to swarm about the
cannery sites, but it is doubtful if they exert any appreciable influence
in disposing of this immense amount of refuse. Sometimes, it is said,
the offal is stirred up by the eddies so as to become caught in the drift
nets when they are fished in shallow water, but such occurrences are
evidently quite infrequent.
From a sanitary point of view, however, the offal has proved a nuisance
in some localities. This is not so at New Westminster, where no trouble from this source has been reported. The uppermost point at which
complaint was made is Ladner, and the conditions are also often bad
in the neighborhood of Steveston. In this region the offal is sometimes
stranded by the current or retained by the eddies, so that when the
tide is out it may become exposed on the bars and in places along the
banks, emitting an exceedingly offensive odor. It is also drifted into
some of the sloughs, and may thus be carried some distance inland,
greatly to the annoyance of the farmers, who have often to depend upon
the water from these places for domestic use. The local authorities at
Ladner have been making strenuous efforts to abate the nuisance on the
score of injury to the public health, but at last accounts they had not
been entirely successful.
Several expedients have been tried to obviate the trouble caused by
the cannery refuse, but all have ended without definite result. The
Canadian law forbids throwing it into the river, but as the enforcement
of the regulation under existing circumstances seems to work injustice
to the canneries, its operation has generally been suspended, with the
expectation that some advantageous method of disposing of the offal 324      REPORT  OF  COMMISSIONER  OF  FISH AND  FISHERIES.
would sooner or later be discovered. It was at one time insisted that
unless disposed of for fertilizing purposes it be buried on shore, be
carried out and dumped in the Gulf of Georgia, or be confined in cribs
underneath the canneries; but none of these provisions continued long
in force. When held in cribs a nuisance was created by the oily matter
running from the mass of decaying fish, and the inclosures would often
break open, allowing a part of their contents to escape. If retained in
cribs or in scows, even for a short time, the refuse was rendered largely
buoyant by the formation of gases in the putrid flesh, so that when
deposited in the gulf much of it remained floating at the surface, and
with a flood tide and westerly wind would be drifted on the shore or
even into the river mouth. The outside dumping-ground has now
become one of the most important of the drift-net areas, and the inexpediency of continuing its use for the former purpose is fully recognized.
Could the refuse have been carried farther out into the middle of the
gulf this trouble would have been mostly prevented, but at a greatly
increased cost.
Several attempts have been made to utilize the offal by converting it
into fertilizer on a commercial basis, but as yet unsuccessfully. Its
very oily nature makes the process difficult and expensive, and another
serious trouble arises from the immense quantity required to be
handled during the brief period of the fishery, necessitating extensive
arrangements, the cost of which would scarcely be warranted by the
shortness of the season.
While the offal is fresh it sinks at once and gives no trouble, except
under the circumstances previously described. Until some positively
better plan has been discovered, this seems, therefore, to be unquestionably the preferable way of disposing of it, provided certain precautions are observed. It should be allowed to go into the river only
where the water is sufficiently deep and the current strong enough to
cause its dissipation. If these conditions do not exist at certain of the
cannery sites, then the offal there produced should be carried elsewhere for deposition. A study of the conditions is called for in all
localities where canneries are in operation, and the gravity of the
question presented by this subject warrants extreme measures to preserve the cleanliness of the river for the sake of the general health and
appearances. As regards the salmon, however, the continuance of
their runs seems to be in no danger from any of the circumstances connected with the offal problem. The fact that fresh offal sinks to the
bottom gives color to the complaints made in some other regions where
bottom fisheries are carried on, but with the salmon, which keep above
the bottom and are supposed not to be influenced in their passage by
the conditions it displays, the case is very different. FISHERIES OF WASHINGTON AND  BRITISH  COLUMBIA.      325
The laws of 1890 and 1893, which were in force at the time of the
investigation by Dr. Wakeham and the writer in 1895, contained a few
excellent measures, but their application being limited by a decision of
the court to Puget Sound in its restricted sense, the more northern
waters of the State were practically left without regulations. It is
understood that this unfortunate condition has been remedied, and subsequent acts of the State legislature, passed in 1897 and in 1899, have
introduced many very stringent and commendable regulations regarding the manner of fishing and the localities where the different methods
may be used. There is still lacking, however, an adequate close-season
law. The latest regulations did not come to the attention of the writer
until after the completion of this paper, a fact which will serve to
explain the omission of fuller reference to them in the appropriate
places. The measures now in force relating specially to the preserva-.
tion of the salmon in the Puget Sound region are briefly summarized
below, the year in which each act was passed being also given:
All that part of tide waters emptying into the Strait of Fuca, and the bays, inlets,
streams, and estuaries thereof, shall be known and designated as Puget Sound.   (1890.)
The use of pound nets, traps, weirs, fish wheels, and other fixed appliances, purse
nets, drag and other seines, set and drift gill nets is permitted in the waters of Puget
Sound and its tributaries as provided below.    (1897.)
All fishing by nets and fixed appliances is subject to license, a separate license
being required for each piece of apparatus. Licenses are issued only to citizens of
the United States who are residents of Washington. Each person, firm, or corporation is entitled to only three licenses.    (1897.)
The use of pound nets,* traps, weirs, fish wheels, and other fixed appliances, except
set lines, for the purpose of catching salmon, is prohibited in all rivers flowing into
Puget Sound and outside of said rivers within 3 miles of their mouths; also in
Deception Pass or within one-half mile of its western entrance, and in any other
salt waters of the State at a greater depth than 65 feet at low tide.    (1897.)
It is unlawful to use any purse net or other like seine within 3 miles and drag
seine within 1 mile from the mouth of any river flowing into Puget Sound or within
said rivers.   (1899.)
No seine location the title to which is in the State shall occupy a greater space
than twice the length of the seine covered by the license.   (1899.)
No lead of any pound net, trap, fish wheel, or other fixed appliance for the catching of salmon in Puget Sound shall exceed 2,500 feet in length. There shall be an
end passageway of at least 600 feet and a lateral passageway of at least 2,400 feet
between all pound nets, traps, weirs, or other fixed appliances.   (1897.)
Between all set gill nets there shall be a lateral passageway of at least 300 feet
and an end passageway of 30 feet.   (1899.)
No fishing appliance or device of any kind located or used upon any streams or
rivers shall, either by a lead or any parts of said appliance, occupy more than one-
third the width of such streams or rivers.   (1899.)
The meshes in all pound nets, traps, weirs, fish wheels, or other fixed appliances
for the capture of salmon shall measure not less than 3 inches in extension.    (1897.) 326      REPORT  OF  COMMISSIONER  OF  FISH  AND   FISHERIES.
It is unlawful to take or fish for salmon by any means except angling above tide
water in any of the following rivers: Nooksack, Skagit (up to the town of Hamilton), Stillaguamish, Snohomish, White, Nesqually, and Skokomish.   (1899.)
Whenever the Fish Commissioner shall consider that the protection of the food-
fishes mentioned in this act (March 13, 1899) shall require it, he may close to fishing
any stream or river in this State emptying into Puget Sound, etc.    (1899.)
All dams or other obstructions in streams where food-fish are wont to ascend shall
be provided with fishways approved by the Fish Commissioner, and it is unlawful
to take any food-fish within 100 yards of any such fish way.    (1893.)
Throwing into the water any substance deleterious to fish, including the waste
from sawmills, and the use of explosives for killing fish are prohibited.   (1890,1891.)
It is unlawful to take salmon in any of the tributaries of Puget Sound during
April and from October 15 to November 15 in each year.    (1899.)
All young salmon measuring 10 inches long or less which may be taken by any
means except hook and line in either Puget Sound or any of its tributaries shall be
returned alive to the water.    (1893.)
Indians residing in the State may take salmon or other fish by any means at any
time for the use of themselves and their families.    (1899.)
All moneys collected for licenses and fines under provisions of the fisheries acts
shall be turned into the State treasury and placed in the fish-hatchery fund.    (1897.)
Following is an abstract of the more essential regulations regarding
salmon fishing in the Fraser River district, which went into effect May
1,1894, together with such amendments as have since been ordered:
Commercial fishing is restricted to the use of drift gill nets not exceeding 150
fathoms in length, and to tidal waters, the upper limit of which on the Fraser River
is placed at the mouth of the Sumas River.
The drift nets for quinnat salmon shall have not less than 7f-inch mesh, and can
be used only from March 1 to September 15. (By order of June 19, 1897, the limitation upon the size of the mesh of the quinnat nets was reduced to 7 inches, mainly
with the object of adjusting them to the capture of the steelhead and silver salmon.)
The drift nets for other kinds of salmon shall have not less than 5f-inch mesh,
and can be used only from July 1 to August 25, and again from September 25 to
October 31.
All commercial fishing for salmon is prohibited weekly from 6 a. m. Saturday to
6 p. m. Sunday, and annually from September 16 to 25, and from November 1 to
March 1.
Drift nets shall be kept at least 250 yards apart, and shall not be used so as to
obstruct more than one-third the width of the river.
Above tidal waters the only net fishing permitted is the use of dip nets by the
Indians to provide food for themselves and their families. The Indians, however,
are required to respect the spawning-grounds of salmon and the close seasons.
Fishing can be carried on only under license, except in the case of Indians fishing to supply their own wants.
Commercial licenses to fish for salmon are granted only to bona fide fishermen who
are British subjects and residents of British Columbia, or to any company, firm, or
person dealing in salmon when each member of such company or firm or such person
is a British subject.
Fishermen are entitled to 1 license each; dealers in fresh, frozen, salted, cured,
or smoked salmon for domestic or foreign trade are entitled to 7 licenses each; canneries are entitled to 20 licenses each. (Canneries were restricted to 10 licenses
each by orders of August 3, 1898, and March 29, 1899.)
Every farmer or settler actually residing on his lands or with his family, being a
British subject, is entitled to 1 "domestic" license, which gives him the privilege FISHERIES  OF  WASHINGTON  AND  BRITISH  COLUMBIA.      327
of fishing for his own use in any of the waters of British Columbia, subject to certain restrictions as to nets, prescribed limits, spawning-grounds, and close seasons.
The capture and retention of any salmon under 3 pounds in weight is prohibited.
The use of firearms, explosives, spears, torches, or other lights to kill fish is prohibited.
No deleterious substances are allowed to be thrown into or to enter the water
where they would be prejudicial to the fisheries. Under this category is included
fish offal, the throwing of which into the Fraser River is prohibited by regulation.
Its disposal is provided for in the Fisheries Act as follows: That it may be buried
ashore beyond high-water mark, and that at establishments situated inside of the
mouths of rivers for carrying on deep-sea fisheries the same may be dropped into
perforated boxes or inclosures built upon the beach or under stage heads, in such
manner as to prevent the same from being floated or drifted into the stream, or may
be disposed of in such other manner as any fishery officer prescribes.
Fishways shall be provided at every dam, slide, or other obstruction across or in
any stream where the Minister of Marine and Fisheries determines it to be necessary
for the public interest.
Salmon catch of the Puget Sound district of the State of Washington.
[Compiled from the reports of the United States Fish Commission and the State Fish Commissioner
of Washington.]
Quinnat.      Sockeye.       Silver.          "bacl?
Dog.       Steelhead.       Total.
Pounds.       Pounds.
Pounds.       Pounds.
2, 036, 250
202, 675
1,405, 047
854, 973
965, 911
4,578, 540
90, 570
172, 460
1,965, 552
2, 224,452
2, 253,438
522,760      1,414.010
274,225      1,836, 904
6,532,207      9,100,675
5, 349,444
25, 851,787
*15, 000, 000
32, 213,000
Note.—The figures for 1896, 1897, and 1898 are based upon the returns given in the reports of the
State fish commissioner, and are only approximate. Those for 1896 are probably in error, being
evidently too low.
Salmon cannery pack of the Puget Sound district of the State of Washington.
[Compiled from the reports of the United States Fish Commission and the State Fish Commissioner
of Washington.]
No. of
15, 648
238, 944
381, 504
489, 984
566, 976
1, 076,064
182, 592
74, 448
201, 024
1,051, 728
546, 240
1, 063, 296
1, 861, 680
443, 040
192, 000
2, 005,488
3,126, 864
2, 502,992
14,978, 304
12, 096,000
367, 056
1,334 400
1,739,' 328
* 434, 352
4, 309,152
647, 760
8, 638,464
8, 391,872
2,748, 864
23, 713, 248
19, 209, 600
* These figures are given in the tables of the United States Fish Commission (Eeport for 1896, p.
581), although no humpback salmon could have been taken that year. 328      REPORT  OF  COMMISSIONER  OF   FISH  AND  FISHERIES.
Statistics of the British Columbia salmon fishery of the Fraser River, Gulf of Georgia,
and Strait of Juan de Fuca.
[Compiled from the annual reports of the Department of Marine and Fisheries of Canada.]
No. of
length of
drift nets.
No. of
Output of   of salmon
canned     sold fresh,
salmon,     salted, and
Total salmon catch.
'     6
6,840, 768
5, 265, 648
4, 758, 576
6,182, 688
3. 677,568
14, 789, 856
11, 742, 600
8,527, 552
4. 277. 552
96, 200
690, 200
1, 010,200
2, 306, 200
1, 170, 600
1, 720, 560
1, 954, 600
2, 375,400
2, 620, 700
2. 893. 309
65, 600
105, 240
124, 400
205, 600
215, 780
21 •, 770
189, 200
282, 520
298, 880
252, 580
355, 900
503, 900
528, 000
7, 736,707
11. 427, 224
13i, 627,496
8,191, 464
1885 .-
8,131, 088
7. 278, 824
22, 340, 508
13,487, 222
8, 596,712
22,763,380      4,197,700
17, 451,172      2,190, 500
20, 780,170      1,871,992
18,016,544      1,249,695
42. 197.516       2.777. fifi9
25, 458, 729
25, 271,754
1896 1	
1897 1	
1898.  ..
9, 600, 000
Note.—This table is based upon the reports of the inspector of fisheries for British Columbia as
published in the annual reports of the Department of Marine and Fisheries of Canada. No data are
available for determining the part taken by the hook-and-line fishery in the salt waters. In computing the total annual catch, the figures for which are only approximate at best, an allowance of
one-fourth in weight is made for waste in the preparation of the canned salmon. A barrel of cured
salmon is reckoned at 200 pounds, and fresh salmon have been estimated to average 10 pounds each
where the records show the number marketed instead of the weight. This total catch relates almost
exclusively to the salmon utilized in trade, both foreign and domestic, although some part of the fresh
salmon may have been taken hy the catcher to supply his own wants.
The quantity of salmon caught and used by the Indians is said to be very large, generally much
exceeding the amount secured for market, though undoubtedly consisting in greater part of inferior
species. Exact figures are not obtainable, but in 1886 or previously the quantity was estimated at
25,000,000 pounds annually, and these figures or their money equivalent were repeated in the official
reports for several subsequent years. They were afterwards discontinued, however, as having too little
In the account that has gone before, the conditions presented by this
region are shown to be, from a fishery standpoint, both varied and perplexing—varied as to its natural features and resources, and perplexing
in the division of its waters between two distinct countries. A long,
deep, and rugged arm of the sea, fed by many mountain streams, invites
a host of fishes from the ocean to seek shelter, food, and spawning-
grounds. So closely does it resemble the outer coast in the purity,
saliuity, and coolness of its waters, that its fishes are identical, while
the character of its surroundings greatly increases the opportunities
for their capture. Among the useful species which enter here are
several of anadromous habit, which occur in extreme abundance,
being represented by one form or another throughout nearly the entire
It is doubtful if any other known region of no greater size affords so
rich an assemblage of aquatic products or offers so many inducements
for remunerative employment in their pursuit. To retain these benefits,
so important for the region, will require the exercise of a wise forethought by those in power, as well as the accomplishment of a still
more difficult task, the securing of harmonious action by the two
nations whose interests are made inseparable through the extent to
which the more prominent fishes cross the boundary line. As regards
the salt waters the resources seem to be about equally divided between
the two countries, but Canada has much the greater advantage in the
matter of rivers, not in point of numbers, perhaps, but in the possession
of the Fraser system, one of the most extensive resorts of salmon in the
While no marked decrease in the abundance of any species, except
in two or three instances, has so far been positively recorded, experience
teaches that in waters such as these a decrease is certain to appear
unless due precautions are taken to prevent it, and they should be both
timely and effective. Some of the open-sea fisheries in the North
Atlantic Ocean have been prosecuted for centuries without apparently
diminishing the supply, but the number of these is comparatively small.
As a rule, man's influence has been felt, its extent varying with the
natural limitations upon the movements of the fishes which are sought,
the perfection of the fishing methods, and the persistence with which
the latter are employed. The more restricted a fish's habitat, the
smaller the sheet of water or the narrower the river, the more readily,
in general, may the species be caught out. In conformity also with
the same conditions are generally the opportunities for organizing
systems of protection which shall be adequate to insure the perpetuity
of each fishery.
A thorough regulation of the fisheries does not, however, imply a
return to primitive or inferior methods of capture.   There can be no 330      REPORT  OF  COMMISSIONER  OF  FISH  AND  FISHERIES.
reason for prohibiting the more perfect kinds of apparatus which are
not actually vicious in their effects, provided the quantity of fish
allowed to be taken is properly restricted. In the competition which
pervades all industries it would indeed be unwise to require adherence
to old-time practices, whereby the price of fish would be proportionally
increased above that of other classes of our food supply.
It is to be recalled in this connection that the fishery products of a
country are, as a rule, the property of the public as represented by the
state or sovereign, despite the very prevalent idea that they belong
solely to those who seek them. The fishermen rank practically as tenants, at some times paying for their privileges, at others not, when
their status is more like that of a squatter on the public lands. Considering the ignorance or indifference with which the matter has always
been treated by the people and the fishermen alike, it is not surprising
that most of the older fisheries within restricted areas have been so
greatly despoiled, and that newly discovered ones should be looked
upon more for the opportunities for speculation they afford than as
resources which can and should be made lasting.
The trouble arises chiefly from the fact that, except in a few respects,
water territory can not be managed in the same manner as the land,
in regard to which the individual is held primarily responsible in the
economy of government. The land, for instance, is customarily divided
up and passes under private control for such purposes as those of agriculture and mining. Crops are sown and harvested and rock products
are extracted as suits the needs or pleasure of the possessor of the
ground. The extent to which his industry is carried requires the
dictates of no other law than that of self-preservation or advancement.
Should he be neglectful or wasteful it redounds to his own injury,
while with thrift and care his returns may be many times increased.
If he fails in his obligations to himself the community as such is not
supposed to suffer.
With regard to the fisheries it is very different. While certain
sedentary products of the sea, such as oysters, may be farmed out, so
to speak, and small ponds and streams may be treated as individual
belongings, the great bulk of aquatic animals is not subject to private
management. Most fishes, and especially those of much commercial
value, are wanderers, whose confinement within artificial barriers is
impossible. Thus, were the fisherman to plant, his crops would be
shared by all alike,* he could neither inclose them nor define them, nor
would his personal efforts be of any avail in promoting the general
welfare. The fisheries must, therefore, be administered upon by the
state as a common holding, and the laws relating to them must not
only regulate the behavior of those who participate, but also limit and
define the extent and manner of their participation. This is entirely
in line with the state control of waters for all other purposes, such as
navigation, and in conformity with the customs of all nations. FISHERIES  OF  WASHINGTON  AND  BRITISH   COLUMBIA.      331
It is, of course, to be understood that these remarks do not apply to
extraterritorial waters, which are generally conceded to be outside the
jurisdiction of any country, although several countries may unite in
concerted action for their protection. And, furthermore, it is to be
remembered that the Federal Government of the United States has not
heretofore concerned itself with the regulation of the fisheries, except
in some special cases, leaving to the individual States the entire control
of such matters.
In the region to which this paper relates there may still be time to
give the fisheries the full benefits of a wise protection before any of its
branches shall have been appreciably impaired, but action should not
be long deferred, as a decrease once begun is hard to check. The
urgency of the matter is emphasized by the fact that elsewhere fisheries of the same character as the more important ones here have been
among the first to suffer from indiscretion, and it is not to be expected
that this region will furnish an exception to the rule. Of the regulations already in existence some are excellent, but as a whole, and more
especially in Washington, they still fail to meet certain most essential
requirements. In view of the fact that only a few branches of fishing
are immediately concerned, however, not many additional laws are
necessary at present, but it is very important to begin upon a course
of procedure that shall be logical, and consequently effective. It is not
suggested to carry the restrictions to a point where they would be
either oppressive or unjust, but chiefly to establish a proper system of
limitations before the strain upon the local resources shall become too
Unfortunately there is little definite information as a basis for legislative action, though possibly sufficient for the time in the directions
where most urgency exists. It is, therefore, of the greatest importance
to institute without delay a detailed and comprehensive investigation
of the fishery products of the region with reference to their natural
history and the extent to which their pursuit may safely be carried.
The laws governing their capture can be perfected only in proportion
to the sum of knowledge derived from such studies, which will also
serve the further purpose of making these resources better known and
of indicating new channels for their development.
Before passing to the special considerations which follow, it may be
well to explain, what seems not generally to be understood even by
many of the older fishermen, that the inland salt waters of this region
are entirely divided between the two adjoining countries, leaving no
intervening high sea open unrestrictedly to all comers. From the
mainland at Point Eoberts the boundary line extends due west partly
across the Gulf of Georgia, and thence midway through the Canal de
Haro and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the ocean. The United States
on one side of this line and Canada on the other have each complete
jurisdiction over its share, whether navigation, the fisheries, or other
subject is concerned. 332      REPORT  OF  COMMISSIONER  OF  FISH  AND   FISHERIES.
For convenience of discussion, the useful fishes of the region may be
arbitrarily classed in three groups: First, those which exclusively
inhabit the salt water* second, those which belong entirely to the fresh
water; and, third, those whose habit causes them to make periodic
migrations between the sea and the rivers.
The salt-water fishes present the greatest number and diversity of
forms, but only a few now figure at all prominently in the catch, and
the majority may be regarded rather in light of a reserve stock, which
will be drawn upon more and more with the increase of local population. In only one direction, probably, has the fishery progressed
sufficiently to give cause for concern, and as a whole the resources of
the group, so far as can be judged, may be considered as in good condition. The halibut is at present the most important of the marine
species, chiefly because of the large demand for it in eastern markets.
It has always been a favorite food with the Indians and one of their
principal objects of pursuit, but there is no reason to suppose that its
abundance was in any way affected until long after the advent of the
whites. The rapidly growing trade recently inaugurated, however,
has caused a heavy drain upon the different grounds tributary to the
region, and while the large shippers depend almost entirely upon the
outer and more extensive sources of supply, yet the inner grounds
have had to stand a more active fishery than before,* and as they are
small, scattered, and relatively few in number, have quickly felt the
effects of overfishing, a very appreciable decrease being reported. A
remedy will be difficult to find, owing to the indefinite character of the
fishery, but some restriction should undoubtedly be placed upon the
quantity offish taken.
Attention should also be given to the oysters, of which the supply
can readily be increased and the quality improved by artificial cultivation. The fisheries for crabs and shrimps, and possibly for clams
likewise, need supervision, the crustaceans being especially subject to
The purely fresh-water fishes are of very much less importance than
either of the other groups. Among them are no species of extensive
commercial value, but their protection is particularly desirable in the
interest of local markets and sport fishing. International action is
scarcely called for, however, unless it be to provide jointly for the
enforcement of regulations to prevent illegal shipments across the
border. In considering this group, the fact should not be lost sight of
that the trout are among the worst enemies of young salmon, and that,
in a region whose industrial prosperity is so largely dependent upon
the salmon fishery, it would be unwise to jeopardize the latter for the
sake of the trout.
The third group consists of the anadromous fishes, whose most conspicuous members are the salmons. The sturgeon also occupies a prominent place, the eulachon is locally important, and the Atlantic shad
seems destined to gain a foothold.   While it may yet be too early to FISHERIES  OF  WASHINGTON AND  BRITISH  COLUMBIA.      333
take action regarding the species last named, the protection of the
eulachon is of sufficient moment to be made the subject of inquiry.
While the supply of sturgeon is presumably still intact, this bulky
fish, whose value is so greatly enhanced by its caviar, has been the
first to suffer in each new fishery of which it has formed a part, and
its early elimination from each as a prominent factor has been the rule.
Attention here has been so closely concentrated upon the salmon, and
the difficulties in the way of marketing the sturgeon have been so
great, that the latter has been little fished for until within a few years.
Its abundance, however, and the readiness with which it may be captured in both the fresh and salt water presage for it an extensive
fishery, which has already taken form on the Fraser Eiver and possibly elsewhere. In the salt water it is mainly caught incidentally in
connection with the salmon, but with better means of disposing of the
catch it is certain to be sought for specially.
The protection of the sturgeon may, in a measure, be secured by prohibiting the capture and sale of any but the mature sizes, by making
reservations of the spawning-grounds, by instituting close seasons, and
by restricting the amount of fishing. The Washington law of 1897
makes a close season from March 1 to November 1 and forbids the use
of young sturgeon less than 4 feet in length. In British Columbia
there is a general close season from June 1 to July 15 and a weekly
close time corresponding with that for the salmon. Fishing is limited
to the use of gill nets, drift nets, and baited hooks, the nets being not
longer than 300 fathoms and having not less than a 12-inch mesh.
They can not be set less than 250 yards apart. Not more than 6 hooks
can be attached to each fishing line, and sturgeon under 4 feet long
must be returned alive to the water.
The salmons, much more than any other fishes, demand immediate
and serious consideration, as they constitute by far the most prominent
fishery resource of the region and furnish the bulk of all its fishing.
Without them the fisheries here would never have attracted special
attention, and should they ever meet with the mishaps which seem
elsewhere to have been the inevitable result of civilizing influences this
industry must certainly become of comparatively slight importance. Not
all the other species combined could nearly take their place as a source
of local revenue.
The quantity of salmon which frequents these waters is beyond calculation, and seems even to be so great as to challenge human ingenuity
to affect it in any way • but upon reverting to the conditions that existed
in the northern Atlantic rivers less than a century ago we are led to
recognize the omnipotence of man in this direction at least. The
destruction there, to be sure, was due only in part to overfishing, but
to-day the demands are much greater and the fishing engines more
powerful. The catch need not reach the consumer immediately, but may
be stored awaiting his pleasure or a rise in prices, and may be shipped,
without injury, to the remotest quarters of the world.   Such activity in 334      REPORT  OF  COMMISSIONER  OF  FISH  AND  FISHERIES.
the salmon fishery as now pervades this region, in common with the
Columbia Eiver and the Alaskan coast, was not dreamed of a few
decades ago, and its effects are not measurable by the older standards.
In this particular locality the growth of the industry has recently been
much accelerated, and with the experience now acquired an increase in
the catch from year to year is readily assured and will as manifestly be
demanded. The question is, Where will it end? The circumstances
have been so unusual that time alone can solve the problem. There
appears so far to have been no appreciable decrease in any of the
species, but, however abundant each may be, it seems impossible that
this condition could continue long.
The situation presented by the salmon fishery is briefly as follows:
Six species of the group occur in this region, all edible and of commercial value, but graded for the market in accordance with the quality,
the color, and the firmness of their flesh. The quinnat and the steelhead are preferred for the fresh trade and the sockeye for canning.
The silver salmon, the humpback, and the dog salmon are utilized in
various ways, but whether fresh, salted, or canned they constitute an
inferior grade and generally Sell at a lower price.
With the variety and abundance of its salmon the region combines
physical characteristics which greatly increase its importance as a producing district. Its rivers, instead of emptying on an open and exposed
coast, have between them and the ocean a large and quiet sea, with
many long channels, through which the fish must pass in the journey
to their spawning-grounds. The advantages of this intermediate body
are two-fold, in that it greatly enlarges the fishing area and brings the
fish of every species in striking distance while still in the salt water,
when their condition is certain to be good. With these unusual opportunities for following up the schools the necessity for adequate regulations
must be manifest to all. The more important forms are naturally most
actively and persistently sought after, leaving the others somewhat in
reserve, but not to such an extent as the general accounts might lead
one to suppose. The silver, humpback, and dog salmon are all employed
for canning on the United States side, and throughout most of Puget
Sound proper they are the only species which can be secured in sufficient quantity for that purpose. Any system of protective regulations
should therefore contemplate providing for the welfare of the entire
salmon group* but with some species there is much greater urgency
for action than with others.
Among the salmon, and in fact among all the fishes of the region,
the sockeye occupies the place of most prominence. While it holds
this position primarily by virtue of the deep color and excellent canning quality of its flesh, its importance is equally due to its exceeding
abundance, greater in most years than that of any other species in the
localities it frequents, to its regular and well-defined movements, and
to its relatively early season, which insures the passage of most of the
schools past the fishing-grounds quite well in advance of the spawning FISHERIES  OF  WASHINGTON AND  BRITISH  COLUMBIA.     335
period. The principal disadvantage under which the species labors
arises from the fact that its spawning-grounds are almost entirely
restricted to two rivers, and in greater part to one, the Fraser. After
entering through the Strait of Juan de Fuca its course is so well known
and its presence so readily detected in many favorable localities that it
is compelled to run the gauntlet of a very active and persistent fishery,
which is stimulated by both local and international rivalry. While the
movement of the species may not continue over five or six weeks, the
amount and effectiveness of the apparatus employed for its capture
more than counterbalance the shortness of the season. Every year
adds new fishing stations and increases the quantity of nets about the
older ones at a rate that threatens overfishing at an early period.
While the main body of the sockeye passes north through the two
channels on either side of the San Juan Islands, no noteworthy fishing
sites had been discovered south of Lummi Island, at the last report.
The next and by far the best of the Washington grounds are about
Point Eoberts, the principal trap-net locality, where the question of
greatest interest is to determine what proportion of the fish moving
about the point strike within the range of the long strings of nets. The
Canadian fishery is concentrated in the discolored water of the Fraser
Biver from above New Westminster to some distance off the delta,
where the conditions are such, moreover, that the entire run of sockeye
might be practically wiped out by an extreme multiplication of the drift
nets. In fact, in its possession of the Fraser Biver British Columbia
controls the main situation as regards this species, having within its
power the means of inflicting an incalculable amount of harm • while,
on the other hand, the preservation of the sockeye requires the concerted
action of both countries.
The conditions are more serious in regard to the run of sockeye
which passes through Skagit Bay and into the river of the same name
than with the northern run. This is chiefly due to the narrow and shallow character of the bay, which permits the arrangement of a close
network of apparatus, and judging from late accounts the fishery there
is being pushed with great persistency and with little thought of the
future. Any and all kinds of nets may be employed, which, in a
restricted area, is a great misfortune, and in other ways the laws are
also quite inadequate.
The feature of periodicity in the relative size of the annual runs of
sockeye is of great interest, and its causes have given rise to much conjecture. Should its origin have been due, as some suppose, to local
influences affecting the species at its spawning-grounds, it would point
to a source of menace in that connection, but time has shown that there
is little occasion for anxiety on that score, and if the efforts now being
made to equalize the runs through artificial propagation turn out successfully, all such natural dangers will be minimized.
A much more important phenomenon is the great mortality which
affects nearly all salmon at spawning time, and in the case of some 336      REPORT  OF  COMMISSIONER  OF   FISH  AND   FISHERIES.
species seems to work an almost total destruction, the sockeye being
one of the heaviest sufferers in this respect. This mortality has a practical significance in that if none of the ascending fish are to return
again to the sea there is no occasion for protecting them with the object
of saving any for subsequent fishing seasons, and all that need be done
is to assure a sufficient run past the nets to provide for the requisite
amount of spawning.
With the information now at hand, however, no measure can be set
upon the quantity that should reach the spawning-grounds, and for
some time at least, if not forever, the question must remain entirely
problematical, the only safe course to pursue being to allow the widest
margin possible.
The quinnat has not the same position here that it holds on the
Columbia Biver, in consequence of its being apparently less abundant
and also because of the large proportion of off-colored fish, which has
made its pursuit less active than would otherwise have been the case.
Nevertheless it ranks as the most important species for the fresh market,
for which purpose it is principally used, its employment for canning
during the season when it is chiefly taken being made impracticable
by the high prices which then prevail. The introduction of stock from
the Columbia Biver, with the object of securing a larger run of the
deeper-colored fish, was contemplated by the Canadian government
some years ago, but the plans were never carried out. The experiment
would have been watched with keen interest, in view of the problem
involved as to whether the lighter coloring of so many individuals is
simply due to local influences which might also affect the imported fish.
The rapid growth of the fresh trade is strongly stimulating the fishery
for the quinnat, and its welfare should be carefully looked after in the
salt water and the smaller streams, as well as in the larger rivers where
its pursuit is naturally most extensive.
The steelhead is also chiefly utilized in a fresh condition, the fishery
being mainly a winter one in the lakes and rivers, although catches are
made at other seasons and to some extent in the salt waters. Its pre-
daceous tendencies and supposed habit of feeding on the young salmon
of other species have been suggested as sufficient reasons for denying
it all protection, but it would be exceedingly unwise to act upon this
proposition until its life-history has become better known. In British
Columbia the general provision against winter fishing for any of the
salmon has interfered with but not wholly prevented the capture of this
species at that time of year. The circumstances show the necessity for
regulating its fishery on a different basis from the other forms.
Of the remaining members of the group the silver salmon is the most
important and is the one most likely to be drawn upon in making up
a shortage in the cannery pack of sockeye. It is most extensively
utilized south of the boundary line, where the principal catches are
obtained by means of purse seines in the salt water.   It is also taken FISHERIES  OF  WASHINGTON AND  BRITISH  COLUMBIA.      337
in the trap nets, wheu left out late enough in the season, and by other
While the humpback, whose appearance is strangely confined to alternate years, and the dog salmon have a lower standing than the foregoing, yet th§y are of sufficiently good quality to entitle them to a high
rank among the food-fishes of the region. Both are canned to some
extent in Washington. The humpbacks are taken in large quantities
in connection with the later runs of sockeye, especially in the trap-net
fishery, when they are customarily discarded, but not until after they
are dead, causing an extensive waste.
The dog salmon seem recently to be meeting with increased favor.
Their condition is said to be excellent as long as they remain in the
salt water, which is for a considerable period after their first appearance, and they are now being utilized in connection with the fresh
trade. The silver, humpback, and dog salmon, like the quinnat, spread
to all parts of the inclosed sea and enter most streams, even those of
small size. With this wide range of spawning-ground, their chances of
survival are much greater than with the sockeye, while the extensive
area over which they must be sought in the open-water fishery gives
them an additional advantage. The activity of their pursuit, however,
is certain to increase, and should there ever be a decided falling off in
the supply of sockeye it would be greatly stimulated.
It will be observed, therefore,' that while the requirements of the
sockeye have already been ascertained with some degree of definite-
ness, much uncertainty exists as to the amount of protection that should
be accorded the other species at the present time. The problem they
present is more complex as a whole and will require more study to
unravel the details, but there is no reason to suppose that it may not
be as satisfactorily dealt with. None of these species, unless it be the
quinnat and steelhead, seems to be in immediate danger, and if the
ordinary precautions which should be taken in regard to any salmon
fishery, such as safe-guarding their spawning, be immediately enforced,
detailed regulations in respect to other matters can possibly await
further investigations, if not too long delayed. The primary requisite
in the protection of salmon is that they shall have such freedom of
access to their spawning-grounds as will insure the perpetuation of the
species without decrease. This provided for, it makes little difference,
as regards the welfare of the species, how or where the fishery is
carried on.
It is unfortunately impossible to determine what proportion of any
run of fish may safely be taken, and it would probably be impracticable
to utilize that information were it obtainable. While theoretically any
disturbance of the natural supply might be expected to cause a decrease,
experience teaches that a certain amount may be removed each year
without appreciable effect, as instanced by the large Indian fishery in
this region, which has been going on from time immemorial.   Between 338   -  REPORT  OF  COMMISSIONER  OF  FISH  AND  FISHERIES.
the practices of the Indians and those of the modern fishermen, however,
the difference is very great, and it is with the latter ^Jiat we have now
to deal.*
Commercial fishing for salmon has become extensive in this region
only within a comparatively short period, but while in Canada it has
been practically restricted to drift-netting, in Washington nearly every
form of apparatus known to be adapted to the purpose has already
come into use. Trap nets were the latest to be introduced, but are now
recognized as the most effective kind in salt water. Purse seines came
next before the traps, and are probably to be considered as only second
to them in importance. Still older are the drag seines and gill nets,
the latter employed in both the salt and fresh water. Hook-and-line
fishing is one of the minor salt-water methods, applicable only to the
capture of the quinnat and silver salmon, but much of the local supply
during some seasons is obtained by this means.
The Indians still use their reef nets along the route of the sockeye,
and their spears and dip nets in the upper river courses, where at times
they also build a small and rude form of weir. Wheels have been tried
in one place, but they seem unlikely to gain a foothold here. While
in principle there can be no objection to the employment of all the
legitimate forms of apparatus, the Canadian system has the greater
advantage from the standpoint of protection, in that a much simpler
code of regulations suffices. It is to be borne in mind, however, that the
Washington fishery is prosecuted under greater diversity of conditions,
and to restrict it along a single line would mean its curtailment many
fold, an extreme measure which would not be justifiable.
* Since this paper was prepared we have received a copy of the report of the State
fish commissioner of Washington for 1898, from which are taken the following
extracts regarding the salmon fishery for 1898 and the supposed evidences of a
decrease in certain streams. Should the statements concerning decreases he well
founded the necessity for decisive action by the authorities of Washington is more
pressing than the evidence in the possession of the writer had led him to suppose:
"The report from the district of Paget Sound shows a still more marked decrease
in the output in the salmon fisheries than does that of the Columbia River. The
enormous run of Fraser River salmon during the season of 1897 increased the
annual output of this district to a remarkable degree. * * * The run of other
classes of salmon for the season of 1897, with the exception of the Fraser River
fish, was not materially larger than in former years. The decrease in the output of
the past season is entirely in the early runs of salmon. The fall varieties show an
increased catch over the year 1897. The increased fall output was largely due to
the shortage of the spring catch and energetic work on the parfrof the fishermen
and canneries to make up for the spring shortage by a large pack of the fall
varieties. * * * The numerous streams tributary to Puget Sound have in years
gone by teemed with what seemed to be an inexhaustible supply of salmon, and
while in a number of these streams the supply does not seem to have diminished
materially, in many of them there has been a wonderful decline, so much so that
complaints during this season, and even during the season of 1897, when there was
a phenomenal run of sockeye salmon on the sound, have come to us from different
localities in which a great decrease of the run of fish on certain streams has been
noted. During the season we have examined some 14 different rivers tributary to
the sound, with a view to better understanding the conditions prevailing with regard
to the run offish, and also for locations available for the establishment of hatcheries.
In every instance, from the people and fishermen living along the streams, has come
the complaint of remarkable decrease in the run of salmon. While this may be
attributed to some extent to an off year, yet we find that during the season of 1897
very much the same conditions prevailed in many localities." FISHERIES  OF   WASHINGTON AND  BRITISH COLUMBIA.     339
Except for a small amount of hook-and-line-fishing in the salt water,
drift gill nets are the only appliances allowed in the commercial fishery
for salmon in this part of British Columbia. Their *use is, moreover,
almost entirely confined to the lower tidal portion of the Fraser River
and that part of the Gulf of Georgia immediately adjacent to its
mouths, where the salmon runs are very much more extensive than
elsewhere, and where Ijhe discolored water effectually hides the twine
during most of the open season. Although there is room for the
expansion of this fishery to an almost unlimited extent, and certainly
to the imminent danger of exhausting its resources—a condition which-
might apply, however, to any effective method adapted to the same
surroundings—yet the simplicity resulting from the use of only a single
kind of net makes the system most amenable to regulative measures
and one greatly to be preferred. For the drift net, as compared with the
trap and purse seine, the benefit is also claimed of dividing the fishery
among the greatest number of fishermen, thus providing a means for *
preventing a monopoly of the work by the larger operators.
Experience has shown the necessity for only two kinds of these nets,
distinguished solely by the size of the mesh—a larger one for the quinnat and a smaller one for the sockeye and other species of corresponding size. The former may be employed without interfering with the
smaller salmon, the latter without taking the larger forms, and thus an
opportunity is afforded for treating the two groups apart, for closing
the fishery for one while the other remains in season. The length of
the net in both classes is limited by law to 150 fathoms, and the depth,
by custom, to about 50 meshes. These dimensions are reasonable and
convenient for handling by the small boats employed in their use.
Formerly a limitation was placed upon the total number permissible
in the Fraser Biver district, which up to 1891 never exceeded 500.
Then all restrictions of this character were removed, and every bona-
fide fisherman who was a British subject and a resident became entitled
to a license. Canners and dealers could obtain from 7 to 20 licenses
apiece, though the limit to canneries was reduced in 1898 to 10. The
effect of this modification of the law was felt at once, for in 1892 the
number of nets increased to 721, and in 1893 to 1,072, in 1894 to 1,666,
and in 1895 to 1,733. In the last-mentioned year the total length of the
combined nets amounted to 528,000 yards, while in 1896 it had reached
800,000 yards. The principal weakness in the Canadian regulations is
in regard to this provision, which practically admits of an unlimited
extension of the fishery. The claim is not here made that the number
of nets has already become excessive, though possibly it has, but
extreme watchfulness is necessary to keep the quantity within proper
bounds. A part of the recent great increase in the nets is ascribed to
the hard times prevailing in connection with other pursuits which has
led to an influx of many inexperienced fishermen, whose catch is said
to have been relatively small. The power exerted by the large amount
of netting is strikingly illustrated in the year of big runs of sockeye, 340      REPORT  OF  COMMISSIONER  OF  FISH  AND  FISHERIES.
when the catch becomes enormous and sometimes far exceeds the
capacity of all the establishments—including the canneries—concerned
in preparing the fish for market. Considering the shortness of the
season, the size of the fishery is all the more remarkable.
The manner of using the nets on the Fraser Biver is also subject to
certain regulations. They must not, for instance, obstruct more than
one-third the width of the river and must be kept at least 250 yards
apart. These measures are designed to maintain an open passageway
for the salmon, in which they are protective, and also—the latter one at
least—to prevent one fisherman from interfering with another. In
principle they are correct, and they would also be good in practice,
except that it has not been found possible to carry them out effectively,
especially since the nets have become so numerous. Moving continuously as they do, they are to a large extent uncontrollable, while the
tendency to concentrate the fishing over a small area near the river
' mouths leads to some crowding. In some places the river channel is
not large enough to leave two-thirds of its width free when the net is
placed, and again it is entirely possible to alternate the nets so as to
virtually negative the intent of the law.
Although gill nets were among the earlier appliances utilized in
Washington, they have never been employed there as extensively or
systematically as in British Columbia. They are used in both fresh and
salt water, either set or drifting, as suits the pleasure Qf the fishermen,
and are subject only to restrictions governing their distance apart and
the width of the river which they may occupy. In certain places, as
in Skagit Bay and Biver, they have become a prominent feature, and
their number may be expected to increase. In Skagit Bay competition
with the trap nets has engendered an intensely bitter feeling, leading
to a strenuous though ineffectual effort on the part of the gill-netters
to secure the abolition of the larger nets.
The use of trap nets is prohibited in British Columbian waters, except
in the upper part of Boundary Bay, where the fish taken are headed
toward the neighboring traps across the line. Within the past few
years these nets have become a prominent feature in Washington,
where they rank as the most effective apparatus employed in the salt
water. Their introduction had special reference to the sockeye, which
had previously been mainly fished for in sheltered places along the
shores with seines and gill nets. They met with very indifferent success at first, but experience soon dictated the necessary changes in
construction and position to insure good catches. The earliest trials
were made at Point Roberts, which has proved to be by far the most
profitable location for their use, and where their number has always
exceeded' the total number elsewhere. The other principal fishing-
grounds are near Village Point, on the outer side of Lummi Island, the
southern end of San Juan Island, and Skagit Bay, all lying in the
pathway of the sockeye runs. FISHERIES  OF  WASHINGTON AND  BRITISH  COLUMBIA.      341
In the protection of this species, the one most urgently requiring
such attention, the trap nets, therefore, figure most conspicuously and
the importance of fixing their proper limitations will very readily be
appreciated. With suitable restrictions upon the manner of their
employment, the greatest danger lies in the tendency to multiply their
number unduly, and in this direction there is reason to fear that much
harm may soon be done. The trap nets are mostlylocated in exposed
positions, where it is necessary to construct them of unusual strength,
but in spite of this precaution they seldom last a single season without
repair. They are consequently expensive to build and operate, which
places them beyond the means of the ordinary fishermen, and are in
fact almost exclusively run by the canneries or directly for them. In
size they generally much exceed the pound nets of the Great Lakes,
after which they were originally patterned, and, with the improvements
recently introduced, are certain of securing large catches whenever the
sockeye are abundant. Thus perfected, they have greatly cheapened
the cost of capture and produced a sharp competition with the gill-net
interests on the Fraser Biver as well as in Skagit Bay. The efforts
made by the gill-netters in the latter locality to secure the prohibition
of trap-net fishing throughout the £uget Sound region had apparently
no reference to the preservation of the salmon, but seem to have been
directed solely against the larger fisheries, to which the great prosperity of the region in recent years has undoubtedly been chiefly due.
The number of trap nets that might safely be allowed in connection
with the sockeye fishery depends upon information not yet available.
It was not supposed that there were too many in 1895, when they were
'last studied, but a very large increase has taken place since then and
the limit of safety may have been passed. The danger is most imminent in Skagit Bay, where the run of sockeye is much smaller than
toward the Fraser River, and where the opportunities for establishing
trap nets are exceptionally good. In this narrow and shallow area
these devices, supplemented by other forms of apparatus, may readily
be so multiplied as practically to barricade the way toward the river,
preventing not only the sockeye but the silver salmon as well from
reaching their spawning-grounds, and virtually breaking up the runs in
this locality.
If, as claimed, scarcely any young salmon are ever taken in the traps,
the question of the size of mesh is not material, unless it be in the
interest of other and smaller fishes which may be caught in the same
connection, but regarding which we have received no positive information. The mesh should certainly not measure less than 3 inches in the
crib and 6 inches in the leaders. A somewhat larger size could probably be employed without detriment to the salmon catch, but floating
seaweed is abundant in the region and the larger the openings the more
readily these weeds become attached to the net, weighing it down and
closing the meshes.   The size of the crib is of practically little impor- 342      REPORT  OF  COMMISSIONER  OF  FISH  AND  FISHERIES.
tance compared with the length of the leader and the scope of the wings,
by which the capacity of the net is chiefly to be measured, because
however large the crib may be it will only receive the fish which are
directed toward its opening. Two thousand feet is as great a length
as should ever be allowed for the leader, and in some locations this
would be excessive. It may also be found advisable to limit the size of
the wings, for they are practically only adjuncts of the leader and of great
But however important it is to restrict the size of the nets, it is still
more .important to regulate their arrangement or relations to one
another when several are fished in the same place. It is a common
practice in many localities to join such nets in a string of from two up,
according to the width of bottom suited to the purpose. Pound nets
on Lake Erie have been thus combined to cover a distance of even 8 or
10 miles without a single break. The longest string in the Puget
Sound region in 1895 consisted of three nets at Point Boberts, which
extended off from the beach somewhat over a mile. The effect of this
arrangement is evident. Over the width which the string occupies
substantially every salmon coming toward it is destined to become
entrapped. There is little chance for any to escape and a very poor
showing for succeeding traps near at hand. Again, though they be
not in strings, they may so alternate in position that the salmon which
pass one net strike directly against the leader of another. Thus the
interests of the fishery demand, where a number of nets are operated
near together, that their distribution be so fixed as to permit a fair
proportion of the salmon to work their way from among them. Otherwise, with the rapid multiplication of traps which is going on, a time
may come when the progress of the salmon will be so barred at intervals as to prevent their ever reaching the Fraser or Skagit rivers.
This at least applies to the fish which skirt the shores, and it seems
reasonable to suppose that a large share do so at one point or another.
In any event, it would be quite injudicious to subject too large a proportion of the fish to capture at any single place. The matter may be
definitely regulated by statute as regards the strings, but in respect to
the alternating arrangement a consideration of local conditions may be
required in each case.
The opportunities are few for a lineal arrangement on the Washington coast, and it is doubtful if any string could be advantageously
extended beyond the distance given for the long line off' Point Koberts.
It was suggested by the Joint Fisheries Commission in 1896, however,
that the proper limit has there been exceeded, and that no more than
two nets, with leaders not over 2,000 feet long in each; should be allowed
in any string. Between the two nets, moreover, there should be an
opening, a means of escape for a part of the salmon, and a passageway
for boats. Its minimum width in the regulations submitted was placed
at 100 feet. It would be better to make it 500 or 600 feet. And it was
farther provided that the inner end of any leader should never come into FISHERIES  OF  WASHINGTON  AND  BRITISH  COLUMBIA.      343
a less depth than 1 fathom at low tide. Laterally successive nets should
be separated by at least 2,500 feet, approximately half a mile. The
greater the distance in this respect the less are the evils to be expected
from any alternating arrangement.
By the act of 1897 the legislature of Washington recognized the justice of these requirements. Besides prohibiting the use of trap nets
and other fixed appliances in rivers or within* 3 miles of their mouths,
as well as in Deception Pass and in water of greater depth than 65 feet,
this law limits the length of leaders to 2,500 feet and provides for
an end passageway between all traps of at least 600 feet and a lateral
passageway of at least 2,400 feet.
The purse seines, though very unlike the trap nets, are nevertheless to
be classed with them as having great individual scope and requiring a
considerable outlay for their operation. They are chiefly fished in the
upper part of Puget Sound for the later-running species, especially the
silver salmon, of which they take enormous quantities. Elsewhere they
are not much utilized, and in connection with the sockeye fishery they
cut no figure, although sometimes set in the neighborhood of the traps
at Point Roberts. The purse-seine fishery has not been sufficiently
studied to determine how far it should be restricted, but the important
part played by these nets in the removal of salmon from the salt water
and the almost certain future increase in their number make it desirable
that the subject be thoroughly considered. Their use is now prohibited
within 3 miles of the mouth of any river.
The drag seine was one of the earliest appliances, if not the first,
employed in this region for taking salmon, and its use has been continued and increased. The fishery by this means, however, is mostly
scattered and irregular, being mainly conducted on a small scale in
different places to meet local wants. In some localities more extensive operations are carried on, as about the mouths of the larger rivers
at the period when the salmon begin to enter, and in certain parts of
Puget Sound to supply the canneries with fall fish. Some fishery
experts regard the drag seine with unqualified disfavor under all conditions, but this universal condemnation is far from merited. While
they may possibly be hauled surreptitiously rather more easily than
most other kinds of nets, within proper limitations their use is quite as
legitimate, and to abolish them here would be to deprive the inhabitants
of thinly settled shores of one of their most ready means of securing
food. They are not now permitted to be hauled in any river or within
a mile of its mouth outside.
The primitive reef nets which well answered the requirements of the
Indians, although now used for commercial purposes, are rapidly going
out of use, and before many years they will doubtless cease to figure
among the methods of the region. With an exceedingly limited scope
at the best, no occasion exists for giving them consideration in connection with any scheme of regulations. 344       REPORT  OF  COMMISSIONER  OF  FISH  AND  FISHERIES.
Only the quinnat and silver salmon take the bait in salt water and
are fished for by hook and line, and this occurs on altogether too small
a scale to merit attention from the standpoint of legislation. In fresh
water the steelhead is the only species which might be caught in the
same manner, but we are not informed to what extent it is so obtained,
if at all.
The well-known practice of spearing salmon in the upper, shallow
waters of a river, long followed by the Indians, has also been taken up
by the whites, and in some sections is extensively resorted to by both
for domestic purposes, as well as for making local sales among the
settlers. With salmon as abundant as they are at present, the danger
from this source is much less than on the salmon rivers in the east,
where this method is enjoined. In at least some localities, however,
the practice should be limited and possibly forbidden, this being especially the case with reference to those streams in which the sockeye
and quinnat spawn. It is also generally so near the spawning time
before this method becomes effective that the fish so taken are not in
the best condition for food, being unsuited for canning or the market
Fishing has always been one of the chief occupations of the Indians,
one of their principal means of securing food. Though of the wilderness, as the salmon themselves, and making use of crude appliances,
their catches have nevertheless been large, and yet have seemed to
produce no appreciable effect upon the abundance of the supply. Thus
the advent of the whites found the fishery stock intact, so far as can
be told. The Indians have greatly diminished; of the remnants many
have been changed by civilization into commercial fishermen, employing for that purpose the old-time reef nets, gill nets, seines, and hooks
and lines, to all of which reference has just been made. Those which
still hold to the primitive methods of fishing for their own needs, chiefly
in the upper parts of rivers, are comparatively few. Their apparatus
consists of spears, dip nets, and weirs, the last being a crude form of
trap, which, though not extensively employed, can be so placed as
practically to bar the entrance to important spawning-grounds. The
spear has already been discussed* the dip net occupies a relatively
inconspicuous position from the standpoint of its catch.
While under the original conditions the use of these several methods
to the fullest extent required by the Indians may have caused no harm,
with the heavy market fishery now in progress it may be necessary to
impose some limitations. The steady drain near the mouths of the
principal rivers makes it important that those salmon which reach the
upper, waters should be interfered with as little as possible.   The use
* By the act of March 13,1899, it is made unlawful to fish for salmon by any means
except angling above tide water in the Nooksack, Skagit (up to the town of Hamilton), Stillaguamish, Snohomish, White, Nesqually, and Skokomish rivers. The
State fish commissioner may also close to fishing any stream or river of Washington
emptying into Puget Sound whenever he shall consider that the protection of its
food-fishes require it. FISHERIES  OF  WASHINGTON AND  BRITISH  COLUMBIA.      345
of the weir at least should be entirely prohibited, as has been done in
British Columbia. It is important to note in this connection that the
Indians have been guaranteed certain treaty rights which should be
respected. They are fast yielding to civilization • their power for harm
is already Infinitesimal when compared with the whites, and seems
likely soon to cease altogether. In Washington no restrictions are
put upon the Indians in fishing to supply their own needs. In British
Columbia they are permitted to take salmon for their own use by their
customary methods, aside from the weirs, at any time and anywhere
except on the spawning-grounds. In respect to the last provision
many violations are reported and require attention. In all commercial
fishing they are subject to the same regulations as the whites.
While suitable regulations as to the character and manner of using
the different kinds of apparatus might be expected to provide for the
escape of a sufficient number of fish to cover all the requirements for
spawning, yet in practice, and this holds true especially with the salmon, it has been found essential to supplement the restrictions already
referred to by a total cessation of fishing during more or less of the
period when the fish are running. The laws of Canada seem quite
ample in this respect, but in Washington the matter has not been fairly
treated. Although the need of such regulations may not appear
important while the supply of salmon continues large, yet we can not
question the benefits already derived from the measures of this kind
enforced on the Fraser River, and urge their early adoption elsewhere
as one of the -surest means of maintaining the supply of the choicer
The most suitable periods for the close times and their proper duration give rise in this region to questions of some perplexity. Had we
to deal with only a single species, or at the most with two differing so
much in size and season as the quinnat and the sockeye, there would
be little trouble in reaching a satisfactory arrangement, but with six
species appearing at successively later periods and yet overlapping,
sometimes quite markedly, in their runs, many difficulties are presented.
The time most commonly selected for the salmon is toward the close of
the run, when it has the additional advantage of preventing their
capture and sale when they are in the least acceptable condition for
food. Doubt has often been expressed as to whether this protection of
the later-running fish is of any benefit to the earlier runs of succeeding
years, on the supposition that salmon run at the same time and to precisely the same places as their progenitors, but until these questions
have been more positively decided there seems to be no reason why the
customary practice should not continue.
In British Columbia the subject is very much simplified by the facts
that the commercial fishery is directed mainly toward the quinnat and
sockeye and is restricted to a single method. The larger mesh of the
quinnat drift nets can be used through the sockeye season without 346      REPORT OF  COMMISSIONER  OF  FISH AND  FISHERIES.
interfering with the latter species, and the reverse is true with regard
to the smaller mesh adapted to the sockeye. Thus a close season may
be arranged for one species while fishing for the other still goes on.
According to the existing Canadian regulations the smaller-meshed
nets must be withheld from the water from August 25 until September 25 of each year, when the sockeye have ceased running and only
later species can be taken. From October 31, again, until July 1 of the
following year their employment is entirely prohibited. Between
August 25 and September 25 protection is afforded the latter half of
the humpback run and the early part of the silver salmon run, while
the dog salmon, being still plentiful after October 31, enjoys the benefit
of the long close season, which continues through the winter: The open
season for the large-meshed nets is from March 1 to September 15, and
thus only the very beginning and the closing part of the quinnat runs
are free of any interference from the nets.
In Washington the variety of apparatus makes the adjustment of
close times quite difficult to decide. The trap net is omnivorous, taking
whatever comes its way, but being generally utilized only for the sockeye, it has commonly had little relation to other species. The drag
and purse seines, while better adapted for some species than for others,
can be considered as selective only as their use may be directed toward
the schools of one variety or another, and are mainly employed in the
late summer and the fall. When the sockeye run is small the trap nets
may be continued in place for the purpose of taking other species, and
the rapid increase in the fishery will doubtless tend to their employment
during a greater part of the year than has heretofore been customary.
Just how a close-time measure should be framed so as to benefit all
the species under these complex conditions is a matter requiring
further and careful study, especially as the main part of the fishery is so
essentially a salt-water one. It is to be assumed that such a scheme is
practicable and it is further to be hoped that steps may soon be taken
toward its realization, but in the meantime the interests of the sockeye
and quinnat should not be allowed to suffer. Close seasons could
readily be arranged for each of those species in both the salt and fresh
waters and they should at once be instituted. Washington has no
close-time regulations whatsoever applicable to the salt water. On the
rivers fishing is stopped during April and again from October 1 to
November 15.* Only the quinnat could be benefited by this first close
season, and the silver and dog salmon by the second. The latter part
of both the sockeye and quinnat runs should certainly be protected by
regulations fully as comprehensive as those in force in British Columbia,
and it would be better if the close time for the quinnat should begin
at even an earlier date than there.
Some of the difficulties presented by the annual close times may be
overcome by the introduction of shorter periods of rest at intervals
* By act of 1899 the latter close season extends from October 15 to November 15. FISHERIES  OF  WASHINGTON  AND  BRITISH  COLUMBIA.      347
during the salmon season. This measure is not suggested as a substitute for the other, but as supplemental to it and of great additional
benefit. It is provided for in British Columbia, where all net fishing
is stopped by law during the thirty-six hours from 6 a. m. on Saturday
to 6 p. m. on Sunday of every week. The special advantages of this
weekly close time are several. It assures the ascent to their spawning-
grounds of fish of the same species at different periods during the
entire season, thus meeting the objection raised against the fall close
time as protective only of the later runs. There is likely to be considerable variation in the duration of the season, which, in the case of the
sockeye at least, may end before the date appointed for the fall close
time. The weekly periods make up for this discrepancy and also afford
fishermen a regular period of rest from their work, which in the case
of those who are in the regular employ of large establishments is not
unwelcome, especially if it falls mainly upon Sunday, as is customary.
The extension of such a regulation to the waters of the State of
Washington, so far as this can be done advisedly, is strongly to be
recommended. The measure is most important in respect to the sockeye, and its utility is most evident on the rivers, where the salmon are
pressing rapidly toward their spawning-grounds. In even the salt
waters the sockeye move so quickly along their defined course that a
weekly close time in their interest should be favorably regarded. The
inner salt waters are to them apparently almost a continuation of the
rivers in which their spawning-grounds occur. A period of thirty-six
hours may be too short to permit the fish some distance out in the sea to
pass the upper limit of the nets, and it may, upon further inquiry, be
found advisable to begin the close time somewhat earlier in the salt
water, but even should it for the present be made uniform throughout,
it is scarcely to be doubted that the relative number of fish that reach
the spawning-grounds would be increased. There is some question as
to the benefits to be gained by other species through a measure of this
kind, as most of them at least remain in the inner sea for a longer time
than the sockeye, and some for quite a period, as in the case of the
quinnat. They should undoubtedly be so protected in the rivers and
about the mouths of the rivers.
The close-time question with reference to the steelhead requires to be
considered apart from the other species, in consequence of the fact that
its movements and spawning take place at quite a different season.
The growing demand for the species and the opportunities for its capture
in the fresh water during a long period make it very important that its
welfare be not neglected from this standpoint.
In a new region, where existing conditions have favored so bounteous
a supply of salmon, it is quite unnecessary to consider for the present
whether their ascent is anywhere impeded by natural obstructions. The
introduction of fish ways or the clearing away of barriers might in some
localities open up new spawning-grounds, and such measures may 348      REPORT  OF  COMMISSIONER  OF  FISH  AND  FISHERIES.
in time be called for, but the gain would scarcely be realized while the
salmon remain as abundant as they are, and the expenditure required
would be considerable.
Of artificial impediments, aside from the nets,.there appear to be few
in any of the fresh waters, and, in fact, no complaints of such have
reached the writer. The building of dams in the pathway of the fish
should be prevented as far as possible, and if any are allowed they
should have openings of ample size to permit the passage of the
immense schools which ascend these streams. On many of the Atlantic
rivers much harm has been done the salmon by the rubbish from sawmills passing into the water, a practice which has been followed here
to some extent. The prohibition against it in British Columbia is said
to be enforced, but in Washington and especially on the Skagit River,
if the reports be true, the sawdust and other refuse have been dumped
into the water so extensively in places as to threaten serious injury.
As this material can readily be disposed of on land by burning or
otherwise, there is no excuse for continuing the custom.
There seem at present to be no sources of general pollution, such as
the drainage from large communities, which need to be considered
from a fishery standpoint, but they are likely to appear with the
increase of population. The same is true regarding obnoxious waste
products from extensive factories except in one particular, resulting
from the fisheries themselves. This exception is furnished by the salmon canneries in consequence of the immense amount of offal which
they produce and which is customarily thrown into the water. In
Washington the canneries are all located on salt water and their offal
gives no trouble, as it disappears quickly and entirely. It is different
on the Fraser River, where the many canneries are mostly collected
near its mouth.
Several measures looking toward the disposition of waste materials
without detriment to any interest have been adopted by the Canadian
government, but none has long been enforced,, the remedies being
ineffectual in some cases and impracticable in others. Offal carried
out to the gulf and dumped*off the mouths of the river is liable to be
washed ashore, while its manufacture into oil and fertilizer on a large
scale has heretofore proved unsuccessful. The old practice of allowing
it to fall into the water of the river in a fresh condition as fast as it is
produced has, as a whole, given the best results, and is the one quite
universally pursued, and there is no specific evidence that it has been
detrimental to the welfare of the salmon • nor except in a few localities
has there been complaint that it was injurious to the health of the
community. When thrown into the current fresh the offal seems to be
quickly dissipated, and it produces a nuisance only when placed in
quiet, shallow water or in eddies, which tend to retain it along the
shores or .to carry it into the adjacent sloughs. If held long enough
for decomposition to set in, it tends to float at the surface.   Pending FISHERIES OF WASHINGTON  AND  BRITISH  COLUMBIA.      349
the discovery of some better way it seems advisable to sanction the
present practice under due restrictions, the fishery officers being empowered to prevent its deposition wherever it would be prejudicial.
The fishermen of this region are quite alive to the benefits of fish-
culture, and many of them, in fact, have so strong a faith in its efficacy
as to lead them to magnify its possibilities and to conclude that through
its agency the necessity for any regulations may be dispensed with.
They argue that if the eggs be secured in sufficient quantities and the
proportion of survivals be as great as claimed by some fish-culturists,
why should not the supply of fish be capable of maintenance and
even of unlimited increase by this means alone1? There is no evidence,
however, that would warrant us in anticipating so large a measure of
success either here or elsewhere, and the*time of unrestricted fishing
is undoubtedly as far distant now as ever.
The artificial propagation of the sockeye was started on the Fraser
River in 1884, and since 1887 the number of fry and advanced eggs
planted yearly has ranged from 2,400,000 to something over 6,000,000.
Its primary object was to equalize the annual runs of that species, to
make them larger during the off years. The abundance of fish during
the past few seasons has been very commonly ascribed to this ( uise,
the quantity having apparently become greater in all years. While it
is to be hoped that there is some foundation for this explanation of the
increase, it is well to bear in mind that the annual output of fry, especially after allowing for the inevitable mortality among them, has been
much smaller than the annual catch of adult fish, and scarcely sufficient
to make itself felt to anything like the extent noted within so short a
On the Skagit River fish-culture began in 1896-97 with an output of
5,500,000 sockeye fry • in 1898,6,000,000 were planted, while the number
of eggs collected in the fall of 1898 was 7,500,000o The opportunities
for collecting the eggs on this stream are exceptionally good, but it
is still too early to expect results. The quinnat offers a much more
interesting field for experimentation than the sockeye in the direction
of improving the color and quality of its flesh by the introduction of
fry from the Columbia River—a project suggested some years ago, but
never carried into effect. While the success of such a measure could
only be determined by actual trial, it seems to be worth the effort, and
the transplanting presents no difficulties that could not readily be
overcome.   An increase in the abundance of the species is also called for.
A great waste of salmon occurs in connection both with canning
operations and with the fishery, which may be expected to continue as
long as fish are plentiful. Lacking an incentive to economize in the
preparation of the catch, little pains are taken by the cannery operatives to cut closely in removing the heads and fins, and much edible
meat is thus lost. The exercise of greater care would add to the
expense of canning without material gain under existing circumstances, 350      REPORT  OF  COMMISSIONER   OF  FISH  AND   FISHERIES.
but in time much of these rejected parts will come to have a value.
The more serious waste, however, results from overfishing in years of
great plenty, as in the case of the sockeye on the Fraser River, where
in some years the catch is much larger than can be handled. Jmmense
.quantities are thrown away, prices fall, and the independent fishermen
lose heavily, while the canners and dealers who control the market can
so regulate the catch by their own boats as to keep it within the proper
bounds. The impulse to increase the amount of fishing in the good
years is quite natural, but it would seem as though the number of nets
allowed might be adjusted to suit the conditions of each season, were
the requisite discretionary powers conferred upon some local authority.
The matter can not be remedied through the medium of an inflexible
law, and decisive action ma^need to be taken after the season has fairly
As the sockeye catch has seldom, if ever, been equal to the demand
in the waters of Washington, it is improbable that there has ever been
a serious, if any, waste of this species south of the boundary. While
the traps may secure exceedingly large catches at times, the methods
of keeping the fish alive have prevented loss, except perhaps in some
cases where they have had to be transported a considerable distance
by scows. The discarding of the humpbacks taken in the traps with
the sockeye after removal from the water causes much destruction of
that form, which seems at present to be unavoidable.


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