Up to the present time fish culturists, private fish breeders, anglers, and others interested in the subject of this chapter have not yet even thought of such a thing as to provide game-fishes with proper food. Their whole energies have been to breed all the game-fish possible, to dump them in the waters of brooks, rivers, and lakes, then let nature do the rest; forgetting the undeniable truth that "nature is not always kindly disposed." The little game-fishes they let loose are very young and tender, with no motherly care to protect them from their many enemies, their instinct being the only guide to assist them in the battle of life - often, alas, against their own parents and other species of fish, as well as many birds, beasts, and reptiles, and last but not least, man. Now, I would ask a reasonable question: Does any sane individual, if he thinks at all, imagine such a loose, wasteful, unscientific method is adequate to keep up an abundant supply of game-fish to withstand the assault's of an ever-increasing army of anglers and a growing population of villages and towns near by trout streams and other game-fish waters into which they plant fish? Abundance of food - the proper kind required for each species of fish - never enters the mind of those individuals who own ponds, lakes, and streams, or who would like to make artificial fish waters by a system of dams or irrigation. Even private club waters persist in feeding young game-fish on putrid food that only induces disease and death to their fish. I receive many requests for information concerning what species of fish is best to plant in their water, and whether certain species will abide amicably with one another. How is it possible for such questions to be answered without any knowledge of what kind of food is available for the fish when planted to subsist upon? It seems to be generally taken for granted, even by fish culturists, that fish can live on nothing, or something repellent to their appetite; or that fish can perhaps grow their own food. Is such a thing expected of any other creature in the air or on land? The unquestioned, undeniable fact is that food is the one vital thing that means success to keep up ample and reasonable supply to meet the demand of "plenty of big fish' so often asked for.
Of course, fish culturists cannot of their own initiative take up such an important work to any great extent, but they can and ought to be the means of calling the attention of higher State officials to the wisdom of it, and the great benefits to the people at large, aside from anglers.
Fresh-water food-fish, indeed marine fish, are now expensive; a luxury only the rich can command. Fresh-water fish should be made and can be made so plentiful without great cost as to be within the reach of all, at a very low cost. Such a condition existed until within recent years. Twenty-five years ago I could buy at Kingston, N. Y., a four-pound buck shad for fifteen cents. A dollar now would not buy its roe. A century ago servants and work-people protested - indeed a law was enacted - that employers should not feed their servants on Kennebec salmon more than three times in one week - a privilege those employers living in our day would be pleased to enjoy.
It must not be forgotten that a vast quantity of bottled minnows, pickled in "spirits," are sold as bait in the tackle shops every season. They are really not effective baits, yet I am told by the dealers that anglers want to have them along on their trips as a substitute for live bait they might fail to get when most wanted. I assume these minnows, or young of other fish, are seined in the Great Lakes. How much more valuable they would be to the angler were they transferred when alive to the rivers and ponds where game-fish need them to feed and grow big. A similar unwise and deplorable condition prevails in the sale of vast quantities of live hellgrammites, frogs, crawfish, and crickets, which depletes the available food for game-fishes to a greater degree than is good for the people's welfare in any section of our country.
In Chapter I are given some points on the "Importance of Minnows," and in the "Introductory Note," I plead to encourage the growth of gamefish. To successfully accomplish these two important benefits for the people at large, the angler should have the most vital interest in it. It is the large and growing army of anglers, collected together from all sections, upon whom the duty lies to improve conditions. They must not stand by and take things good-humoredly, for their own self-interest they should start in by means of a polite yet strongly worded letter to the governor of the State or to the heads of Game and Conservation Commission, suggesting that the indisputable fact of breeding more food will produce better results than their present methods of wasteful overstocking. If State and private hatcheries are not large or suitable enough without additional accommodation for such work, it can be done effectively by utilizing swamp waste waters to be found in almost every township of the land. The canals, for instance, many of them not now in use, are a splendid field for planting and breeding all kinds of fish food, enough indeed to satisfy all needs. Finally, the most crying need Now is to put a full and immediate stop to the expensive waste of overstocking game-fishes and replace the surplus with fish food, so that in the near future sportsmen of larger cities and of humming industrial hives may not be forced to take long journeys to wild lands near the North Pole for their vacation fishing.