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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

One of our Blog reader friends, Dave Messineo, sent me this interesting article on The Atlantic Salmon, at the time of colonization and into the early 19th century, as abundant in their annual eastern USA "runs" as those of the Pacific Salmon of Alaska and the Pacific northwest----Seemingly, without a concerted effort at dam removal, watershed revitalization and removal of western species such as Rainbow Trout, Steelhead Trout and Pacific Salmon, the mighty Atlantic Salmon fishing runs will remain footnotes in our environmental legacy of destruction

From: "Messiineo, Dave
Date: August 30, 2016 at 5:42:34 PM PDT
Subject: History of Atlantic Salmon in New York

    I have been planning to send this article to you for some time, but I never seem to have the time to convert it from my printed article to Word or PDF.

   I see the New York DEC has posted it on line so I am sending you the URL.....

  The Atlantic Salmon of Lake Ontario and other inland lakes of Central and Northern New York was one of the world's greatest salmon fisheries. Fisheries scientists have concluded that the weight and densities of runs of Atlantic Salmon was at least equal to runs of Pacific Salmon in the northwest.

The Atlantic Salmon

  The Atlantic Salmon was completely eliminated in both the US and Canadian waters of Lake Ontario,  because of dams ....apparently anyone could build a dam for private profit. (pollution and overfishing no doubt helped but if they can't spawn they are doomed)

   Although a few Atlantics have been restocked in recent times, the Coho and Chinook now fill the lake and run the rivers, as well as the  Pacific Steelhead trout.

The Pacific Salmon

Steelhead Trout

Rainbow Trout

     These Pacific Salmon were stocked "temporarily" to reduce the alien Alewife which prevented the reintroduction of the Atlantic Salmon and the Lake Trout which had been eliminated also.

   Now the Pacific Salmon are so easy to catch and popular with fishermen that the DEC seems to happy to keep the status quo.

    Pacific Salmon are easy to raise in hatcheries and and tolerate conditions which make them easier than Atlantics.

    Atlantics seem to require better stream conditions and cleaner water. Add to that the fact that the popular Rainbow trout or Steelhead are occupying the same niche in Atlantic Salmon breeding streams.

Dave Messineo


"The narration of the previous abundance of the salmon in Lake Ontario and its tributary streams read like a romance  ... "  So wrote Hugh M. Smith for the U.S. Fish Commission in 1890 (Smith, 1892:195). 

 Consider the following sampling of 17th, 18th and early 19th century writings on the subject. 

The Jesuit Fathers Lemercier and LaMoyne ascended the Oswego River in July 1654.  They met Oneida Indians--

"with their canoes filled with fresh salmon ... one of our men caught twenty large salmon and on the way up the river our people killed thirty other salmon with spears and paddles.   There were some many of them that they were struck without difficulty" (Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, 1899:151).

Another early account is found in the Van der Kemp Papers and pertains to the year 1792--

"Both Salmon Rivers, emptying into Lake Ontario ... and the Fish-creek in Oneyda lake are in the spring and fall [full] of Salmon.  You may form of this assertion, a pretty accurate opinion after I have informed you, that one Oneyda Indian took with his Spear 45 Salmons within an hour; another in the presence of Captain Simonds 65 during one night, and another 80" (Van Der Kemp, 1880:64).

In 1817, one Elisha Clark built a dam across the Genesee River at Rochester.  Thousands of salmon were killed by people using clubs, spears and pitchforks on the salmon that collected below the dam (Follet, 1932:367).  The following also attest the abundance of this species in the early 1800's.--

"In October, 1836, two men took [on the Salmon River at Pulaski] two hundred and thirty Salmon between 8 p.m. and 12, with spears and fire-jacks, and after 12 til morning two other men in the same skiff took two hundred odd, the average weight of the entire lot weigh fourteen and three-quarters pounds. We have had fifteen hundred fresh Salmon in the fish-house at one time.  When a freshet occurred [sic] in June few would always come up, and sometimes a few  early in the spring.  Any time from June till winter when there was a freshet they were sure to come.  The principal time, however was in Fall, during September, October and November.  Twelve skiff in one night have taken an average of three hundred Salmon each" (Goode, 1884:473).

"It was nothing uncommon for teams fording the rivers and creeks at night to kill salmon with their hoofs.  An older settler living in the town of Hannibal told Mr. Ingersoll that one night while driving across Three-Mile Creek the salmon ran against his horses' feet in such large numbers that the horses took fright and plunged through the water, killing one large salmon outright and injuring two others so that they were captured.  The farmers living near the smaller creeks easily supplied their families with salmon caught by means of pitchforks" (Smith 1802:196).

"My father and Uncle Asa ... for a number of years could catch every fall from 15 to 20 barrels of salmon ...They would come up the creek sometimes as early as September and then would be very fat..  The largest that I ever saw caught in Salmon Creek weighed 42 pounds after it was dressed and was sold for &1.00 ..."(Simpson, 1949:176)

"Salmon were so abundant that men stood on a log across Salmon Creek and speared them with pitchforks in the 'fish shoal'. Women often caught a salmon with their hands or in their aprons" (Simpson, 1948:154).

"Forty years ago the salmon fisheries on this [Salmon] River brought more money to the people than all the machinery now on the river" (Written by a Mr. Cross and quoted by Goode, 1884:474).

Similar Eloquent documentation of salmon abundance on the Canadian side of Lake Ontario can be found in contemporary Canadian publications (Parsons, 1973). 


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