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Kansas State Board of Agriculture
First Biennial Report


Shad - Salmon


SHAD (Alosa sapidissima)

The introduction of Shad in Kansas waters, in June, 1877, was the subject of much speculation. The general opinion arrived at was that it would be a failure, on account of the great distance to the sea. Prof. S. F. Baird, United States Fish Commissioner, in his report to Congress, makes this statement:

The Yang tze-kiang, in which the shad is most abundant, is the largest river in China, having a length, as estimated, of 3,314 miles, and the shad are said to ascend almost to its source. This is a fact of very great importance, in connection with the enterprise of stocking the Mississippi and its tributaries with shad, since the distance from its mouth to the attainable waters of all the tributaries, excepting the Upper Missouri, is much less than that traversed by shad in China. Indeed, a distance of about 1,500 miles would probably cover the extreme limit which the shad could probably reach.

"It was uncertain whether shad could be multiplied in the waters west of the Alleghanies; but the cost of the experiment was so trifling, compared with the benefits to result from a satisfactory solution of the question, that it was deemed best to make the trial.

"I have already referred to the discovery of shad in the Alabama river, and I am assured by reliable testimony, that they are found at the present time in other streams in Alabama. I have also the assurance of Dr. Lawrence, of their capture at the Hot Springs of the Ouachita; of Dr. Middleton Goldsmith, at the falls of the Ohio, near Louisville, and of Dr. Turner in the Wabash river, Indiana, the Illinois, and in the Neosho river of Kansas.

Shad in their ascent of the Mississippi river, would have no falls and no current of inconvenient strength to overcome. Although they do not feed in fresh water, the privation of food for several months would be no serious inconvenience, as fish are frequently longer than that without sustenance. Starting as they could, full of fat, the moderate expenditure required for this period of time would still leave enough substance for the ripening of the eggs, and the milt. For these reasons I am entirely satisfied, as are most persons who have given attention to the subject, that shad introduced into the upper waters of the Mississippi may be taken there again in the same vicinity as mature fish, provided of course that they are not destroyed or intercepted. And, even should the entire range of the Mississippi and its main tributaries be too much for them, the uncertainty diminishes as we reduce the distance from the Gulf, and we may consider success assured in the shorter rivers emptying directly into the Gulf, and in the lower waters of the Mississippi and Missouri, at least from the mouth of the Ohio. One great argument in favor of the attempt to introduce the shad, as well as species of salmon, into the Mississippi and its tributaries, is the general absence of dams, as compared with the waters of the Atlantic coast."

It has been clearly demonstrated that Prof. Baird's predictions in regard to stocking the Mississippi and its tributaries were correct, as a number of fine shad have been captured in the Mississippi, at St. Paul, the past year - no doubt belonging to the 22,000 planted at the falls of St. Anthony in 1872. The turbidity of the water affects them about as little as any species known, though they require fresh, good water, and will not, like the cat-fish and sucker, sustain themselves in stagnant water. They are one of the most noted table fish used in the Eastern States, frequently selling as high as $1.00 apiece. The habits of the shad are migratory. When planted in a stream when young they remain for a time, until they grow to be four or five inches in length, when they go to the sea, and remain in saltwater until matured, (four or five years,) when they return to the place of birth to deposit their spawn, and again return to the sea, making annual visits to the place of birth. The Arkansas and its tributaries (the Neosho, Fall River and Walnut) are streams that can be successfully stocked with shad and salmon, as they are in more direct communication with the Gulf of Mexico than the Kaw and its tributaries, although I do not doubt the success in either case.


This fish is a native of the Pacific States, but is being very largely introduced into the waters of the Atlantic and Mississippi river States. It is acknowledged by fish culturists to exceed all other species in hardiness, in tenacity of life, and in freedom from tendency to disease. It will endure a very high temperature of water. They are known to exist in low, turbid and sluggish streams.

In the report of the Commmissioners of California for the years 1874 and 1875, the folowing statement is made in reference to the California salmon: "Large numbers pass up the San Joaquin river for the purpose of spawning, in July and August, swimming for 150 miles through the hottest valley in the State, where the temperature of the air at noon is rarely less than 80° Fah., and often as high as 105°, and where the average temperature of the river at the bottom is 79°, and at the surface 80°."

The spawn and young fry require a low and regular temperature of water. They will ascend to the head-waters of streams, and deposit their spawn on gravel beds. If the temperature of the water is too warm, the development of the eggs will be too rapid, and cause a premature birth of the embryo.

The United States Fish Commissioner, S. F. Baird, has established a station on the McCloud river in California, for the purpose of collecting salmon eggs. Hon. Livingston Stone, Deputy U. S. Commissioner, attends to collecting the spawn and milt. The eggs are impregnated, and packed in moss, and shipped in crates surrounded with ice to the different State Commissioners. These eggs are generally shipped early in October. It requires from four to six weeks to hatch them after they are placed in the hatching-boxes. The eggs are about the size of peas, and of a pinkish flesh color. It is generally conceded by fish culturists that our Western waters are peculiarly adapted to this species of fish. The vigorous strength and energy exhibited by the California salmon during its migrations up the Sacramento and Columbia rivers, furnish sufficient evidence that they can reach the head-waters of our Kansas streams from the Gulf of Mexico. In the report of the Commissioners of Iowa, a correspondent writing from Elko, Nev., says: "This stream is one of the many that form the head-waters of the Columbia river, and to this point, eighteen hundred miles from its mouth, the salt-water salmon come in myriads to spawn."


Immediately after receiving the appointment as Commissioner, I made application to the United States Fish Commissioner, S. F. Baird, for such allowances as Kansas was entitled to receive in the general distributions by the Government. On the 5th of June, 1877, 100,000 young shad arrived in Topeka for distribution. They were shipped in charge of an agent, Mr. Quine, who neglected to give me notice in time to receive them on their arrival. He took the responsibility upon himself to deposit the entire shipment in the Kaw at Topeka, claiming that they were in an unhealthy condition, and would not bear further transporting. I was greatly disappointed, as I had made several promises in distributing them that I was unable to fulfill.

On the 10th of October, 1877, I received from Deputy U. S. Fish Commissioner Livingston Stone a crate containing 100,000 California salmon eggs, which were shipped from Redding, Cal., in a refrigerator car, to Chicago, Ill., and from Chicago to Ellsworth by express. It required nine days to reach me, after shipment. The eggs were in very good condition - not over five per cent. were found dead. I had prepared hatching-boxes, using gravel instead of wire screens, and placed the eggs on the gravel beds, after picking out the dead eggs, which were readily discovered by their turning white. The water was permitted to flow through the boxes, covering the eggs to the depth of about three inches. The weather being very warm, temperature of the water rose to 75°, causing large quantities of the the eggs to turn white - making a very tedious job to separate them, which had to be done every day. After working patiently and watching carefully for two weeks, a sudden rise of the river washed the covering of the boxes away, and the eggs had also disappeared. Many no doubt made food for other fish, but I have a hope that others escaped, and will in time return full-grown salmon.

I failed to receive our share of the distribution of shad for 1878, as did Iowa, Missouri and Arkansas, on account of the failure on the part of the United States Commission to collect them. I have the promise of a double portion for 1879. I have made arrangement with the Commissioner of Iowa, B. F. Shaw, to hatch 100,000 California salmon for distribution in November next. They are to be hatched at the State fish hatchery, at Anamosa, Iowa.