conducted by competent persons, to be nothing more nor less than the salmon itself in the infant stage of its existence. It is only within a very few years that this fact has been ascertained - or at least promulgated—and the honour of the discovery, by actual experiment, is due to Mr. Shaw, manager of the Duke of Buccleugh's salmon fisheries, in Scotland. This gentleman proves—and his statements in the main have been confirmed by the subsequent experiments of other qualified observers — that what is commonly called the parr is the salmon-fry in its first stage of growth;—that in this state, as a parr, it remains in the river in which it was hatched for a whole year;— that during the second year its outer covering of scales is moulted off, as it were, and reveals it in the character of the graveling, or smoult, which was, formerly supposed to be the first stage of the salmon's life ; — that when about two years old, being still in the dress of the smoult, and not above six inches long, it descends to the sea, and in the course of a few months or weeks re-enters the river as a grilse or salmon peal, weighing from two to five pounds—more or less according to the time it has passed in the salt water ;--and that on its return from a second visit to the sea, after the lapse of another year, it becomes a veritable

salmo salar, the acknowledged “ king of freshwater fishes.” Thus seems, at last, to be cleared up, to a great extent, the uncertainty which has hitherto been attached to the natural history of this princely fish. *

But it may be asked how it happens, if this theory be correct, that grilse or peal (that is, the

* It is the opinion of Mr. Andrew Young, an observer equally intelligent and favourably circumstanced with Mr. Shaw, that although the latter is right as regards the changes and successive stages of salmon development, yet he is mistaken in point of time ; that instead of remaining in the parr and smoult state for two years before migrating to the sea for the first time, it really remains but one;“ in fact, that Mr. Shaw's calculations are wrong by one whole year ; that there are no salmon-fry to be found in salmon rivers with transverse bars at the age of eighteen months (see Mr. Shaw's plates of young salmon); that they become smoults at the age of twelve months, and then migrate seawards, and not at the age of twenty-four months, according to Mr Shaw's experimental theory." The error is accounted for by Mr. Shaw feeding the salmon ponds, in which he made his experiments, with spring or rivulet water, which being of a lower temperature than the waters of the Nith, from which he took the ova, caused a slower development of the infant fish. According to Mr. Young, the fish of course arrive at maturity much earlier than Mr. Shaw supposes, reaching the weight of six pounds, or thereabouts, at the age of eighteen months, instead of being then not that number of inches long, as stated by the latter. We have not the slightest doubt about the correctness of Mr. Young's opinion.

fish in an imperfect stage of its growth), are often taken of superior size to that of the salmon itself, and with generative functions maturely developed, as if a distinct species. In the Axe and other western streams, salmon, perfectly matured, are, to our knowledge, often taken under three or four pounds, while peal have been known (though rarely) to weigh as much as eleven pounds; and such, of course, is the case in other rivers. This, however, is accounted for by supposing the peal to have remained in the sea during their first visit, from some cause or other, for a longer time than was passed there by the smaller salmon during both their visits put together. Speaking of the Axe reminds us of what may perhaps be a remarkable circumstance connected with this fish-a circumstance which, although, perhaps, capable of satisfactory explanation in harmony with Mr. Shaw's opinions, seems at first sight to prove a difference of species between the salmon and what is locally denominated the peal - a difference religiously believed in by the local fishermen. We refer to the fact that in the little river Char, at Charmouth, a salmon is not known to have been ever taken, while peal, on the other hand, are abundant — or rather were, for, thanks to the industry of the poachers and the shameful neglect of those who

ought to be the protectors of so valuable a source of national wealth, this little river, like so many others of higher pretensions, is now almost depopulated of a once prolific breed of migratory fish. The peal which it produced were of every intermediate size, from ten ounces to as many pounds; but, as we have said, a true salmon is not known to have been ever captured in it. We obtain this information from an Axminster fisherman, who, with his father, fished this prolific stream for more than fifty years, during which period many thousands of fish must have been the reward of their indefatigable pursuit. The opinion of the local fishermen of the Axe is, that the parr, the pug-peal, the harvest-peal, and the salmon, are so many distinct species; and one circumstance on which they found that opinion, independently of shape, habits, and markings, is that of fully developed milt and roe being found in the smallest individuals of the three former kinds, in parr as small as two ounces

we mean not the fish in the graveling or smoult, but the parr state, or rather what is called the parr in the West, perhaps a different fish from Mr. Shaw's parr. Peal of less than a pound, we have often seen full of mature roe. Whatever may be the truth (and the subject deserves the most attentive investigation), there

can be no doubt that the parr and trout, at all events, are distinct species, though both, in their younger stages, are similarly distinguished with the blue marks on their sides, which are fancifully likened to impressions of the fingers. It must not be supposed that we presume to question Mr. Shaw's opinion, which (except in point of time, as before mentioned) is now universally received by naturalists, and of the correctness of which we have not the slightest doubt, but we may observe that these seeming discrepancies may possibly arise from a confusion of terms — that Mr. Shaw's parr and grilse may be different fish from what are called the parr and peal of the western waters. If this be so, the question arises whether at least one, if not both, of these last-named fish have hitherto been described by naturalists.* Of the two kinds

* Since the above was written, we have enjoyed the perusal of the Book of the Salmon, by Ephemera and Andrew Young, in which those gentlemen question the correctness of the term parr, as employed by Mr. Shaw. They say, speaking of the growth of salmon-fry, “The fish now [at between nine and ten months old] resembles the little trout, called the parr ; but its fins are much longer than those of that little fish, and its whole shape is much less perfect. Not observing these marks of distinction has led to the confounding of salmon-fry with parr, calling them, indeed, “parr,' as Mr. Shaw and his followers do; whereas the parr is a distinct adult fish, of the river

« ForrigeFortsett »