SALMON. The two principal families of salmon are the Salmo Salar of the North At lantic (see Color Page opposite 540), rang ing on the American side upwards from New York and generally known as the Kennebec Salmon, and the Oncorhynchus, which in cludes the chief Pacific Coast varieties. The Kennebec Salmon is sold in the Eastern markets from the middle of April to the end of September, but the total crop is limited in amount—the bulk of the fresh salmon supply, and all the canned salmon product, is of the Pacific Coast fish.
The annual harvest does not compare in quantity with that of the herring, mack erel and cod tribe, nor in value with that of smaller fancy fish such as the sardine, but it occupies an important position financially and the richness and fine color of the salmon flesh have always held it high in popular estimation. Canned salmon, the form which is best known to the general public, leads all other American canned products in the total marketed.
The life story of the Pacific salmon is of dramatic interest, containing all the ele ments of romance—from its first fight for existence against almost overwhelming odds, to its magnificent struggle to perpetuate its race at the expense of its own existence.
The fish is an anadrom, living all but the beginning and end of its existence in the depths of the ocean. During his sojourn in the salt waters of the sea, we must pre sume he enjoys life, even though in a somewhat strenuous fashion. He is often found mutilated, probably from combats with his kind and other denizens of the deep, but he evidently finds feeding good and life generally worth while, for by the time he is four years old he has developed into a magnificent fish weighing from thirty to even a hundred pounds, and as handsome a creature as the water ever produced. The tragedy of his life comes when nature calls him to the spawning grounds, for that journey is one of the world's most remarkable examples of the instinct of procreation.
Every springtide the mature salmon—both male and female—begin in great "schools" the return journey. The date and distance of the runs and the rate of progress, are regulated by the condition of the spawn. The earliest
occur in February and March. The fish then travel to the headwaters of the rivers, many hun dreds of miles up ; in the later runs, nearer spawning grounds are chosen. The run of some species continues until fall.
No natural obstacle can stop the pilgrims —they leap obstructing boulders and charge the rapids with indomitable energy, renewing and redoubling their efforts if repulsed until they have won their progress onward, or die in the struggle. They take no food after entering fresh water.
When finally reach the spawning om fasting and fatigue and often wounded by the rocks and other obstacles encot n.ed—they rest for two or three weeks. Then each female fish scoops a hole in the gravel in the shallow water and deposits her eggs there. The male fer tilizes them, and then they are left to their fate—the fish have completed the duty to nature which they undertook when they left their ocean homes. And then? By this time the fish have lost the strength and beauty which distinguished them when they started on their journey—their glistening scales have disappeared, their flesh is flabby and dull, their skin disfigured with blotches. They linger around for a while and then they die—the last stage of the life of the great salmon is closed.
What of the spawn provided for at such sacrifice? The "fry"—tiny little crea tures of queer aspect—emerge from the eggs in 100 200 days after fertilization, the period depending largely upon the tem perature of the water. Then in great quan tities they fall prey to other fish and many birds. The female salmon contains about 3,500 eggs, otherwise the species would long ago have been extinct, so fierce is the on slaught. The "fry" which survive develop into little salmon which travel down the river again into the ocean—a long journey, slowly made, with many stops, and again with heavy toll to other enemies along the route—thence into the ocean, there to live and fight and grow until, in their turn, as they reach maturity, they make the final up river journey.