This section is from "Scientific American Supplement Volumes 275, 286, 288, 299, 303, 312, 315, 324, 344 and 358". Also available from Amazon: Scientific American Reference Book.
By DAVID S. JORDAN and CHAS. H. GILBERT.
During the most of the present year, the writers have been engaged in the study of the fishes of the Pacific coast of the United States, in the interest of the U.S. Fish Commission and the U.S. Census Bureau. The following pages contain the principal facts ascertained concerning the salmon of the Pacific coast. It is condensed from our report to the U.S. Census Bureau, by permission of Professor Goode, assistant in charge of fishery investigations.
There are five species of salmon (Oncorhynchus) in the waters of the North Pacific. We have at present no evidence of the existence of any more on either the American or the Asiatic side.
These species may be called the quinnat or king salmon, the blue-back salmon or red-fish, the silver salmon, the dog salmon, and the hump-back salmon, or Oncorhynchus chouicha, nerka, kisutch, keta, and gorbuscha. All these species are now known to occur in the waters of Kamtschatka as well as in those of Alaska and Oregon.
As vernacular names of definite application, the following are on record:
a. Quinnat--Chouicha, king salmon, e'quinna, saw-kwey, Chinnook salmon, Columbia River salmon, Sacramento salmon, tyee salmon, Monterey salmon, deep-water salmon, spring salmon, ek-ul-ba ("ekewan") (fall run).
b. Blue-bock--krasnaya ryba, Alaska red-fish, Idaho red fish, sukkegh, Frazer's River salmon, rascal, oo-chooy-ha.
c. Silver salmon--kisutch, winter salmon, hoopid, skowitz, coho, bielaya ryba, o-o-wun.
d. Dog salmon--kayko, lekai, ktlawhy, qualoch, fall salmon, o-le-a-rah. The males of all the species in the fall are usually known as dog salmon, or fall salmon.
e. Hump-back--gorbuscha, haddo, hone, holia, lost salmon, Puget Sound salmon, dog salmon (of Alaska).
Of these species, the blue-back predominates in Frazer's River, the silver salmon in Puget Sound, the quinnat in the Columbia and the Sacramento, and the silver salmon in most of the small streams along the coast. All the species have been seen by us in the Columbia and in Frazer's River; all but the blue-back in the Sacramento, and all but the blue-back in waters tributary to Puget Sound. Only the quinnat has been noticed south of San Francisco, and its range has been traced as far as Ventura River, which is the southernmost stream in California which is not muddy and alkaline at its mouth.
Of these species, the quinnat and blue-back salmon habitually "run" in the spring, the others in the fall. The usual order of running in the rivers is as follows: nerka, chouicha, kisutch, gorbuscha, keta.
The economic value of the spring running salmon is far greater than that of the other species, because they can be captured in numbers when at their best, while the others are usually taken only after deterioration.
The habits of the salmon in the ocean are not easily studied. Quinnat and silver salmon of every size are taken with the seine at almost any season in Puget Sound. The quinnat takes the hook freely in Monterey bay, both near the shore and at a distance of six or eight miles out. We have reason to believe that these two species do not necessarily seek great depths, but probably remain not very far from the mouth of the rivers in which they were spawned.
The blue-back and the dog salmon probably seek deeper water, as the former is seldom or never taken with the seine in the ocean, and the latter is known to enter the Straits of Fuca at the spawning season.
The great majority of the quinnat salmon and nearly all blue-back salmon enter the rivers in the spring. The run of both begins generally the last of March; it lasts, with various modifications and interruptions, until the actual spawning season in November; the time of running and the proportionate amount of each of the subordinate runs, varying with each different river. In general, the runs are slack in the summer and increase with the first high water of autumn. By the last of August only straggling blue-backs can be found in the lower course of any stream, but both in the Columbia and the Sacramento the quinnat runs in considerable numbers till October at least. In the Sacramento the run is greatest in the fall, and more run in the summer than in spring. In the Sacramento and the smaller rivers southward, there is a winter run, beginning in December.
The spring salmon ascend only those rivers which are fed by the melting snows from the mountains, and which have sufficient volume to send their waters well out to sea. Such rivers are the Sacramento, Rogue, Klamath, Columbia, and Frazer's rivers.
Those salmon which run in the spring are chiefly adults (supposed to be at least three years old). Their milt and spawn are no more developed than at the same time in others of the same species which will not enter the rivers until fall. It would appear that the contact with cold fresh water, when in the ocean, in some way caused them to turn toward it and to "run," before there is any special influence to that end exerted by the development of the organs of generation.
High water on any of these rivers in the spring is always followed by an increased run of salmon. The canners think, and this is probably true, that salmon which would not have run till later are brought up by the contact with the cold water. The cause of this effect of cold fresh water is not understood. We may call it an instinct of the salmon, which is another way of expressing our ignorance. In general, it seems to be true that in those rivers and during those years when the spring run is greatest, the fall run is least to be depended on.
As the season advances, smaller and younger salmon of these two species (quinnat and blue-back) enter the rivers to spawn, and in the fall these young specimens are very numerous. We have thus far failed to notice any gradations in size or appearance of these young fish by which their ages could be ascertained. It is, however, probable that some of both sexes reproduce at the age of one year. In Frazer's River, in the fall, quinnat male grilse of every size, from eight inches upward, were running, the milt fully developed, but usually not showing the hooked jaws and dark colors of the older males. Females less than eighteen inches in length were rare. All, large and small, then in the river, of either sex, had the ovaries or milt well developed.