DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
BUREAU OF FISHERIES
HENRY O'MALLEY, Commiionr
FISHERIES OF KEY WEST AND THE CLAM
INDUSTRY OF SOUTHERN FLORIDA
By WILLIAM C. SCHROEDER
Scientific Assistant, U. S. Bureau of Fisheries
APPENDIX XII TO THE REPORT OF THE U. S. COMMISSIONER
OF FISHERIES FOR 1923
Bureau of Fisheries Document No. 962
PRICE. St CENTS
Sold only by the Supeintendent of Docamenmt. Gonmenit tPrintin O6ec
WMhimgtom. D. C.
GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
U. S. B. F.-Doc 962.
FI 1.-.\ part of tihe Key West fleet which flles the near-by rpcefs for small liotlom fish. On the dock can be seen the type of slat live car that Ls
us d to retain the surplus catch of live fish.
FISHERIES OF KEY WEST AND THE CLAM INDUSTRY OF SOUTH-
By WLLIAM C. SCHROEDER, Scientific Assistant, U. S. Bureau of Fisheries.
Key West fisheries--------------------- ------------------- 1
Smaller reef fishes --------------------------------------- 2
Larger reef fishes--------------------------- 3
Annotated list of commercial food fishes found in the vicinity of Key
West---------------- ------------ ------------ ----- 4
Mullet fishery ------------------------ ---- ---------- 35
Kingfish fishery--_--- _.- --__------------------------ 38
Spanish-mackerel fishery --------------------------- ---------- 40
Spiny-lobster fishery ------------------------------------ 43
Stone crab------------------ -------------------------------- 49
Turtle fishery---------------------------- ---------------- 50
Sponge fishery---------.---------------- --------------- --- 54
Florida conch------------------------- --------.- -------------- 59
Clam Industry of southern Florida ------------ -- --------- 59
KEY WEST FISHERIES.
Key West was settled in 1822, and from the very beginning of its
existence fishing formed one of its principal industries. At the
present time fishing is, perhaps, of first importance to the inhabit-
ants, although in value of output it is exceeded by the cigar industry.
The fishermen's equipment and their methods of fishing and dis-
posing of their catches are practically the same to-day as they were
40 or 50 years ago. Indeed, many of the small fishing boats now in
use are at least 40 years bid. The only fisheries which have shown
noteworthy developments during the last half century are those of
the spiny lobster and the Spanish mackerel.
The Bureau of Fisheries statistical canvas of 1918 shows that 458
persons were engaged in the fisheries of Monroe County at that time,
and nearly all of these were credited to Key West. This number is
considerably augmented in winter, however, during the height of the
mackerel and kingfish season. In 1918 fishing vessels not engaged
in shore fishing, together with outfits and various apparatus, were
valued at $38,435; transporting vessels with their outfits at $14,450;
311 sailboats, power boats, and rowboats, together with various
equipment and apparatus, at $80,837; and shore and accessory prop
erty amounted to $56,287 in value-a grand total of $190,009. The
I Appendix XII to the Report of the U. S. Commissioner of Fisheries for 1928. B. F.
Doe. No. 962.
U. 6. BUREAU OF FISHERIES.
various fishery products credited to Monroe County in 1918 totaled
3,752,355 pounds, which represented a first value to the fishermen of
Most of the wholesale trade in fish is carried on from November
to April, when perhaps 90 per cent of the annual catch of fish is
taken. Several dealers operate during the entire year, but others
are actively engaged in Key West only during the winter. Dealers
in sponges and turtles operate throughout the year. All the whole-
saling is done with dealers outside the city.
It was not until 1920 that an ice-making and cold-storage plant
was built to'take care of excess catches of fish. Previous to that
time, notably early in 1919, the fishing industry suffered severe losses
when the one small ice-making plant in the city became disabled.
The retail fish trade is taken care of at the wharves, where the
fishermen keep their catches alive in boat wells or in live cars, selling
direct to the consumer. There are-no local retail stores that sell
fish, but small quantities are peddled in pushcarts throughout the
city. A person desiring to buy fish goes to the wharves, looks over
the stock in the various live cars, and selects the fish he wants. The
fisherman then removes the fish selected from the live car with a
dip net and cleans and strings them without severing their heads.
This method of keeping fish is especially desirable in such a warm
climate, as it eliminates icing and insures fresh fish at all times.
The variety of fish sold in Key West is probably greater than in any
other locality in the United States. A string of fish as sold at the
fish wharves usually consists of from 2 to 4 species, but if one so
desired one would have no difficulty in buying a string containing
20 fish of different kinds.
The fishing fleet is composed mainly of small boats, some of which
are equipped with sails only, some with gasoline engines, and some
with a combination of the two. These boats seldom travel far from
land and are used chiefly in fishing on near-by reefs, which are
numerous about Key West. Very few boats of the larger and better
type are owned locally, but a number of such vessels come from the
east and west coasts of Florida to fish at Key West during the
The most important products of the Key West fisheries are reef
fishes, Spanish mackerel, kingfish, mullet, sponges, turtles, spiny
lobsters (Panuldi ar us), and stone crabs (Menippi mercenaria).
The catch of conchs, although small, is peculiar to the Atlantic coast
of the United States, and while the hard clam, or quahaug (Venus
mecenaria mortoni), does not occur at Key West, the clam industry
of southwest Florida is of great importance. Each of these fur-
nishes an individual fishery that will be described in the following
SMALLER RZEE FISHES.
The small fishes inhabiting the reefs among the Florida keys are
caught at all seasons of the year. They comprise, for the most part,
grunts, snappers, yellow-tail, porkfish, porgies, turbot, jacks, and
The boats used in this fishery are from 20 to 40 feet in length,
with cockpit aft, fish well in the center, and with space for sleeping
quarters, if so utilized, forward below deck. Generally but one
PtMMHRUS OF r X WuAT.
person, O at the most two, constitutes the crew. Fishing is done
entirely with hook and line. The general equipment consists of
numerous fish hooks and lines, a small minnow seine or cast net with
which to secure fish bait, a pair of "grains" for spearing spiny
lobsters also for bait, a small dip net for removing fish from the well
when desired, a barrel of fresh water, a supply of food, an open-
grate wood stove, some dry firewood, and the necessary bedding for
accommodation over night.
Some of the fishermen return from the day's fishing by late after-
noon, while others remain away for one or more days, fishing at
more distant points where somewhat larger or perhaps more desir-
able fish may be found. The fishery is of local importance only,
as these fish rarely are shipped from the city. Because of the
regularity of the fishing throughout the year the value of the annual
catch is quite large and assumes a prominent place among the other
fishery resources of the region.
Practically all of these smaller fishes are kept alive until sold.
Each boat, as already stated, is equipped with a fish well, where the
fish are retained after they are removed from the hook. At the
wharf the fisherman has one or more live cars in which the fish are
placed in order to display them for sale, leaving the boat's well
empty for the next fishing trip. A well-stocked live car is a pretty
sight, as many of the reef fishes are beautifully colored.
A fishing boat without a well would be quite useless for reef fish-
ing in this region, as the fish would spoil long before they could
reach the market. Ice is used to preserve only those species that will
not live in confinement, such as the mullet, kingfish, or Spanish
mackerel. The fish well is carefully constructed of from 2 to 4 inch
lumber, according to the size of the boat, and the seams are caulked
with the same care that is given to the outer hulL At the base the
four sides fit snugly with the contour of the boat and converge
toward the top like a frustum of a pyramid, which the well diagram-
matically resembles. The top of the well fits flush with the deck
and is covered with a trapdoor, which is removed during actual
fishing. The floor of the well, which is part of the hull, is pierced
with numerous 1-inch holes to permit a constant interchange of
The necessary equipment for reef fishing is simple, the running
expenses are small, the fishing grounds are near by, and the fish
are readily caught and quickly sold. The fishery, however, does not
appear to be overcrowded, for the markets are more liable to be
without fish than to be overstocked.
LARGER REEF FISHES.
The larger reef fishes consist mostly of groupers, jewfish, hogfish,
large porgies, and large snappers. They are taken throughout the
year, although each at certain seasons furnishes better fishing than
at other times. Larger boats are used, and fishing is carried on
in deeper water than for the smaller reef fishes.
The few Key West boats that engage in this fishery range in
length from 30 to 75 feet, or from the half-cabin dory type to the
small schooner. Since hand lines only are used, the equipment is
similar to that of the smaller boats. A crew of from two to five is
f. i. Baux*AU 6P kISAIhRM.
usually carried, and the boats remain away from several days to a
week, or until the fish wells are sufficiently stocked to warrant a
return to port. Cuban boats often fish near Key West, and some-
times they land at that city and dispose of their fish.
A portion of the catch is sold locally in Key West, but much the
greater part is shipped to Cuba and to various cities in this country.
fish are brought in alive by the fishermen, but they are iced m
the markets. Large boxes weighing about 200 pounds each, and
holding 900 pounds of fish and 400 pounds of ice, are used in ship-
ng to Cub. The fish are transported to Cuba by ar freight
and passenger steamers that sil almost daily during the winter and
several times a week during the summer. Each box is heavily con-
structed, and a number is painted on the side in large figures, so that
a consignment can be checked and a record made of the empty boxes
when returned. Shipments within the United States are made in
barrels containing 200 pounds of fish and about 100 pounds of ice.
ANNOTATED LIST OF COMMERCIAL FOOD FISHES FOUND IN THE
VICINITY OF KEY WEST.
In the following annotated list of fishes an attempt has been made
to include every species found within the general vicinity of Key
West that is locally considered a food fish. Some of the species men-
tioned are too scarce to be of much importance while others are not
regarded very favorably, but, nevertheless, these are included in
order to make the list as complete as possible. Other species, such
as sharks, rays, morays, and salt-water catfish, are taken but are
excluded here because they are not locally regarded as food fish.
All of the fishes listed are to be found within Monroe County, which
includes the islands or keys from Key Largo south and a small area
in the southwestern part of the Florida peninsula.
1. Tupon atlantious (Cuvier and Valenciennes). Tarpon; Silverfish.
The tarpon visits Key West during the winter months, but is not as
common there as along the western coast of Florida. It is primarily
a game fish and is rarely eaten. However it is sometimes seen in the
Key West markets, where it is sold in steaks at a low price. Because
of its great game qualities the tarpon attracts many sportsmen to the
State and is directly and indirectly a source of large annual revenue
to the inhabitants. It is a very powerful fish and is caught only with
hook and line, generally by trolling, using mullet for bait. It is
most common in Florida and the West Indies. Maximum length
about 8 feet; average, about 5 feet.
Range.-Isaacs Harbor and Harrigan Cove (Nova Scotia) to
2. Albula valpes (Linnaeus). Ladyfish; Bonefish.
This fish is not rare among the Florida Keys and is sometimes
found in the markets. However, it is not highly regarded as a food
fish, and its commercial value is negligible. Maximum weight, about
5 pounds; average, 1j pounds.
Rauge.--Tropical seas. Generally common on our coasts north
to San Diego (Calif.) and Florida. Stragglers have been recorded
as far north as Woods Hole, Mass.
MISnUlBS OF EaY WEST.
8. Tylosrus mariau (Walbaum). Houndfish; Garfish; Needlefish.
The houndfish is common about Key West and other Florida keys.
It is not highly regarded as a food fish and therefore is but rarely
eaten. Usually only large examples, about 3 feet in length, are to
be found in the markets. Several smaller species (T. notatus and
T. timou) are common, but never appear in the markets. T. raphi-
doma and T. acu, each attaining a length of 4 feet or more, are
sometimes utilized for food. Although unimportant in the markets,
all these species are good food fishes. On a dark and quiet night
when rowing or poling a small boat these fish are commonly struck
while swimming at the surface. On such occasions they rather
startle one with their vigorous splashes over the surface gradually
dying out in the distance, like stones skittered over a pond. Hound-
fish are taken in seines and with hook and line, but they take only a
Range.-T. maremi is found from Casco Bay (Me.) to Texas,
and is generally common from Chesapeake Bay southward. The
other species mentioned are common from the Florida keys to Brazil,
sometimes straying to North Carolina and northward. T. acus is
recorded from as far north as Nantucket, Mass.
4. Xoil cnrema Cuvier and Valenciennes. White mullet; Silver
The silver mullet is abundant about Key West and all the other
Florida keys, where the annual catch is nearly as great as that of
the striped mullet (M. oephalus). It is taken with gill nets in
brackish or salt water throughout the year. It prefers protected
regions in bays, rivers, and about islands, and generally travels in
schools over shallow bottoms, stirring up the mud in a search for
food. Sometimes schools of a few hundred or a thousand fish simul-
taneously leave the water with a single jump, falling back with a
resounding splash. Most of the spawning is believed to occur dur-
ing May and June along the Florida keys, but no gravid fish have
been observed. The silver mullet is a food fish of some importance
in Key West, where it is sold either salted or fresh. Maximum size,
about 14 inches; average, about 10 inches.
Range.-Cape Cod to Brazil; Lower California to Chile.
5. MKgil cephalus Linnaus. Mullet; Jumping mullet; Striped mullet.
The striped mullet is fairly common among the Florida keys, but
is not taken in large quantities in the immediate vicinity of Key
West. The bulk of the catch is taken with gill nets. The striped
mullet is an excellent food fish, and commercially it is the most
valuable fish caught within the State of Florida. The mullet fishery
is described elsewhere in this paper. Maximum size, 10 pounds;
average size among Florida keys, 11 pounds.
Range.-Widely distributed. Coasts of southern Europe and
northern Africa; Atlantic coast of America from Casco Bay (Me.)
to Brazil, and in the Pacific from Monterey to Chile. Abundant
from Virginia to Texas.
U. S. BUREAU OF FISHERIES.
6. Sphyrmna barracuda (Walbaum). Barracuda; Picuda.
The barracuda is rather common among the Florida keys, where
it is taken throughout the year, generally-by trolling. It is a game
fish of some merit and is much sought after by sportsmen. It is a
large voracious fish, attacking prey larger than itself, and is much
feared by bathers. At Key West it is a food fish of some importance,
although its flesh is considered inferior. It is not sold in large quan-
tities, but as many as 2 dozen may be seen in the market on certain
days during the winter. Maximum size, about 8 feet; average, about
Range.-Cape Cod to Bahia, Brazil; Bermuda; Gulf of Mexico,
north to Pensacola. Generally common in the West Indies and
among the Florida keys: not common north of Florida.
7. Upeneus maculatus (Bloch). Red goatfish.
The goatfish is comparatively rare along the Florida keys, but is
occasionally seen among the smaller fishes brought in by the hand-
Fic. 2.-Striped mullet (Mugil oephalus).
line fishermen. In Porto Rico it is a food fish of considerable im-
portance. Maximum size, about 12 inches; average, about 9 inches.
Range.-North Carolina to the West Indies; Bermuda, Cuba,
Porto Rico, and Martinique. Rare north of Key West.
8. Sarda sarda (Bloch). Bonito.
The bonito is taken as a straggler along with the Spanish mackerel.
It is a pelagic species inhabiting the Atlantic Ocean and is found
both in Europe and in this country. It is a food fish of some impor-
tance, although inferior to the mackerel. The annual catch along
the Florida keys is negligible. The maximum weight is about 15
pounds; average, 3 pounds.
Range.-Atlantic Ocean. Found along the European coast and
on the North American coast from Casco Bay (Me.) to Florida,
or perhaps farther south; not definitely recorded from Central or
9. Soomberomorus maculatus (Mitchell). Spanish mackerel.
The Spanish mackerel is now the most valuable food fish taken in
the immediate vicinity of Key West. However, it is only during
recent years that large numbers have been caught in southern Flor-
FISHERIES OF KEY WEST.
ida. It is taken from November to April in this locality and is
caught with gill nets, purse seines. and hook and line. It is one of
the choicest food fishes taken on the Atlantic coast. A description
of the fishery is included elsewhere in this paper. Maximum size,
25 pounds, which, however, is very exceptional, as individuals weigh-
ing 10 pounds are rare; average size of Key West fish, 2 pounds.
Range.-Monhegan (Me.) to Brazil. Not common north of Mary-
land. Small quantities taken in lower Chesapeake Bay from June
until October; rather common off the North Carolina coast from
May until October; most abundant in southern Florida. Distributed
throughout the Gulf of Mexico, where its movements are irregular.
Recorded from Jamaica, Porto Rico, and Panama. In Cuba it is
rare. Found also on the Pacific coast from California southward.
10. Scomberomorns regalis (Bloch). Kingfish; Cero; Spotted cero;
The sierra, or kingfish, is a food fish of considerable importance
among the Florida keys, but is somewhat less common than S. cavalla,
with which it is closely associated. It is caught exclusively by trol-
ling from motor or sail boats. The fishing season for this species ex-
tends from November to March. The kingfish fishery is described
elsewhere in this paper. Maximum weight, about 35 pounds; aver-
age, about 5 pounds.
Range.-Monomoy (Mass.) to Brazil. Uncommon north of
Florida; known from Cuba, Jamaica, Martinique, and Porto Rico.
11. Soomberomoras cavalla (Cuvier). Kingfish; Cero; Cavalla;
This species is taken during the same season and under the same
conditions as is the sierra (S. regalis), but because of its larger size
and somewhat greater abundance it is the more important of the two.
Considerable confusion has arisen over the common names of these
two species, and the terms used appear to be interchangeable. As a
rule, however, in the Key West markets S. regalk is known as "king-
fish" or "sierra," while S. cavalla is called "kingfish" or "cero."
Maximum weight about 75 pounds, but examples over 50 pounds are
comparatively rare. Notwithstanding the many large fish caught, the
average weight is only about 7 pounds.
Range.-Cape Cod to Africa and Brazil. Not common north of
North Carolina; found in open seas of tropical Atlantic.
12. Seriola dumerili (Risso). Amberfish; Amber jack.
The amber jack is caught about Key West by trolling and is taken
incidentally only during the winter along with the kingfish. It is
considered a fine game fish. Its occurrence is irregular, and it appears
never to be taken in large numbers in this region. Several hundred
were brought to the Key West market during one week in January,
1919, and 35 fish were seen during the last week of February of the
same year. The fish taken near Key West generally weigh from 20
to 70 pounds. In the markets the fish are dressed and cut into
steaks for the local trade. Maximum weight, about 100 pounds;
average, about 35 pounds.
FIG. 3.-Spanish mackerel (Homberomorus maculatus).
Fio. 4.-Kingfsh, or sierra (Soomberormorua regalia).
U. S. B. F. -Doc. 962.
kiii gush, cr ~zo (Scr.mbc romw n~ eavalla).
f. namah Of. KEy WBt.
With regard to this species the following is stated in Fishes of
Panama," by Meek and Hildebrand, now in press: "A study of ma-
terial available in the National Museum indicates that this genus is
in need of revision. We have included Seriola laandi in our
synonymy, believing it to be identical with the present species. There
is a difference in the depth of body, but this appears to be only a
variation among individuals. It also seems probable that the banded
forms may yet prove to be the young of this species."
Range.-Cape Cod to Africa and Brazil. Not common north of
North Carolina; found in open seas of tropical Atlantic.
18. Decapterns punotatus (Agassiz). Scad; Cigar-fish.
The scad is said to be rather common on the coasts of Florida, but
its appearance in the Key West markets is only occasional. The
annual catch does not exceed a few hundred pounds. The maximum
size is not definitely known, but probably does not exceed 2 pounds,
with an average of one-half pound.
Range.-Woods Hole (Mas.) to Brazil. Common in Bermuda
and West Indies; small fish sometimes rather common about Woods
Hole, Mass., and Long Island, N. Y.
14. Solar orumenopthalmus (Bloch). Big-eyed scad.
This fish is not common in the Key West markets. It is taken
from time to time by the hook-and-line fishermen and is considered
a fair food fish. Maximum weight, about 8 pounds; average, 1
Range.-Both coasts of tropical America and in tropical seas gen-
erally; on the Atlantic coast it is extremely rare north of southern
15. Cranx bartholomei Cuvier and Valenciennes. Yellow jack.
This species is less abundant than the several other species of
"jacks" commonly seen in the fish markets at Key West. It is com-
mon in the West Indies. The maximum weight is not definitely
known, but it probably does not exceed 3 pounds; average, one-half
Range.-Usual range Florida to West Indies and Panama. Known
from Porto Rico, but not common there; common in Cuba; rare
north of Florida, but sometimes straying to Woods Hole, Mass.
16. Caranx hippos (Linnaeus). Jack; Runner; Crevalle.
This species is the most abundant of the various species of jacks"
or runners" that are found about Key West. It is a good food fish
and commands a ready sale-in the markets. Fish weighing 5 or 6
pounds are not rare. It is taken by bottom fishing or by trolling
and is worthy of mention as a game fish. It is found throughout
the year, but is most common during the winter. Its maximum
weight is 20 pounds, but it seldom weighs more than 10 pounds, and
its average is 1 pound.
Range.-Both coasts of tropical America, north to Lynn, Mass.,
and Lower California; East Indies.
FIo. 6.-Jack (CarGn& hippos).
FISHERIES OF KEY WEST.
17. Caranx orysos (Mitchill). Hard-tail; Jurel; Runner; Jack; Cre-
This species is taken throughout the year about Key West under
the same conditions as is C. hippos. It is a food fish of importance
locally but is smaller in size than C. hippos. Large numbers of half-
pound fish are commonly found in the live cars about the fish
wharves. Maximum weight, about 3 pounds; average, one-half
Range.-Ipswitch Bay (Mass.) to Brazil. Common south of
Maryland, entering lower Chesapeake Bay, where it rarely takes the
hook but is rather common in pound-net catches.
18. Caranx latus Agassiz. Horse-eye jack; Jurel; Runner.
This species is less common about Key West than C. hippos or
C. crysos. It is taken in small numbers by trolling, and sometimes
a small school is captured in a Spanish-mackerel net. As a food
fish it is not as highly regarded as the other species of Caranx. The
maximum size is not known, but the average is not over one-half
pound at Key West.
Range.-Virginia to Brazil.
19. Vomer setipinnis (Mitchill). Moonfish.
This little fish is caught very infrequently and only during the
winter. It is taken on the bottom with hook and line and is es-
teemed as a food fish. The maximum weight is about 1 pound, and
the average is one-third of a pound.
Range.-Halifax (Nova Scotia) to Uruguay; not common north of
Virginia. The young are common in lower Chesapeake Bay during
the summer and fall.
20. Selene vomer (Linnaus). Moonfish; Lookdown.
This species is often confused with Vomer setipinnis but may be
distinguished from the latter at a glance by the prolongation of the
first rays of the dorsal and anal fins. Around Key West it is some-
what more plentiful than Vomer. It is taken chiefly in the winter
and is highly esteemed as a food fish. The annual catch is very
small. Maximum weight, about pounds; average, one-half pound.
Range.-Casco Bay (Me.) to Uruguay; not common north of
21. Trachinotus glaucus (Bloch). Gaff-topsail pompano.
This species is seldom taken at Key West and is confused by fisher-
men with other species of pompano. It may be identified by the long
anterior rays of the soft dorsal and anal and by the presence of four
black vertical bars on the back and sides. It is utilized for food,
but the annual catch is negligible. Maximum weight, about 2
pounds; average, one-half pound.
Range.-Virginia to Panama; generally common along east coast
of Florida and in Porto Rico.
U. S. BUREAU OF FISHERIES.
22. Trachinotus falcatus (Linneus). Round pompano.
This species, like T. glaucus, is seldom seen in the Key West mar-
kets. The few fish caught are called "pompano" and are utilized
for food. Maximum weight about 3 pounds; average, one-half
Range.-Woods Hole (Mass.) to Brazil. Adults not common
north of Florida; young, 1 to 2 inches long, taken in southern Mas-
sachusetts and lower Chesapeake Bay, whence they are transported
by the Gulf Stream. Rather common in Bermuda.
23. Trachinotus goodei Jordan and Evermann. Great pompano;
The great pompano is taken with hook and line near Key West
during the winter. The annual catch, however, is small. It is a
fair food fish. but inferior to the common pompano (T. carolinw).
Maximum weight, about 40 pounds; average, 8 pounds.
Range.-Usual range North Carolina to West Indies; rare north
of Florida. The young (about 3 inches long) have been recorded
from Woods Hole. Mass.
24. Trachinotus carolinus (Linnaeus). Common pompano.
This species is the most valuable of the pompanos and is consid-
ered one of the choicest of all salt-water fishes. About Key West it
is taken in small numbers during the winter, but the annual catch
is small. It is more common along both coasts of Florida, preferring
sandy bottom, where it feeds near shore on small mollusks and
crustaceans. At Key West it is taken with hook and line and, inci-
dentally, in mullet seines. It always commands a high price and is
esteemed for its rich flavor in all parts of its range. Maximum
weight, 8 pounds; average 1 pounds.
Range.-Woods Hole. Mass., along the South Atlantic coast and
Gulf of Mexico to Brazil. Not common north of Chesapeake Bay,
in the West Indies, or Brazil.
25. Pomatomus saltatrix (Linnaeus). Bluefish.
The bluefish is taken along the Florida keys only during the
winter-generally between December 15 and February 15. A few
are caught by trolling, but the greater part of the catch is taken
along with the Spanish mackerel in gill nets or purse seines. During
the past 10 years the annual catch has been from 10,000 to 15,000
pounds. The entire catch is shipped to New York, where it com-
mands a high price, for fresh bluefish are scarce in northern markets
during the winter. The bluefish is one of the best American food
fishes. Its maximum weight is given as 27 pounds, but examples
weighing more than 12 pounds are uncommon. The usual weight
of the Key West fish is between 2 and 4 pounds, while 6 pounds is
about the maximum.
Range.-Wide distribution; Atlantic and Indian Oceans; occasion-
ally enters the Mediterranean Sea; Malay Archipelago; Australia;
Cape of Good Hope; Natal; Madagascar. Not recorded from the
Atlantic coast of Europe or from Bermuda. On our coast it has
been recorded as far north as Mount Desert, Me.
FISHERIES OF KEY WEST.
26. Rachycentron canadus (Linnaeus). Sergeant fish; Crab-eater; Black
This species is rarely caught along the Florida keys. It is a good
food fish and has some commercial importance in the West Indies
and along our Middle and South Atlantic States. It is taken with
hook and line on rocky bottom, generally in 40 to 80 feet of water. In
Chesapeake Bay, where it is called "black bonito," it is caught in
small numbers from May until October, but it is most abundant during
June. The largest fish recorded weighed 84 pounds and was taken
in Chesapeake Bay during June, 1921. The average weight is about
Racnge.-New Jersey to Brazil; East Indies.
27. Centropomus undecimalis (Bloch). Snook; Rabalo; Sergeant fish.
The snook is rarely taken in the immediate vicinity of-Key West.
but is common on the southwest coast of Florida, where it is one of
the principal game fish taken during the winter. There it is taken
by trolling, close to shore, from a rowboat that is operated as nois-
lessly as possible. At Fort Meyers and Marco large snook are fre-
Fro. 7.-Blueflsh (Pomatom.s saltatri4).
quently seen swimming within a few feet of the shore. It ascends
streams but does not stray far from brackish water. The snook is
rather uncommon among the Florida keys and is too scarce in the
Key West markets to be of local commercial importance. It is con-
sidered a fair food fish. The maximum weight is about 30 pounds,
while the average is about 3 pounds.
Range.-Atlantic coast of tropical America. Recorded from
Florida; Porto Rico; Cuba; Haiti; Jamaica; Martinique; Barbados:
Vera Cruz, Mexico; Belize, British Honduras: Toro Point, Colon,
Mindi, New Gatun, and Porto Bello, Panama; British Guiana:
French Guiana; and Bahia, Sao Mathews, and Rio Janeiro, Brazil.
(Meek and Hildebrand.)
28. Epinephelus adscensionis (Osbeck). Rock hind; Cabra mora.
This beautiful species is less common than most of the other
groupers found about Key West. Its habitat is restricted to rocky
bottoms in rather deep water, and it is seldom caught on shallow
reefs along with grunts and snappers. Generally not more than half
a dozen are to be seen on any one day at the fish markets, but when a
deep-water fisherman comes to port this fish is usually well repre-
U. S. BUREAU OF FISHERIES.
sented in his catch. In Key West it is esteemed as a food fish.
Maximum weight, about 15 pounds; average, 2 pounds.
Range.-Usual range southern Florida to Brazil. Known from
Ascension and St. Helena Islands and Cape of Good Hope; rare
north of Miami. The young are reported from Katama Bay, Mass.
29. Epinephelus striatus (Bloch). Nassau grouper; Cherna criolla.
This grouper is one of the large and important food fishes of Key
West. It is caught on the bottom with hook and line and is taken
throughout the year. Market fish are seldom found in water less
than 30 feet in depth. Very small examples of about 1 pound are
seldom seen, and most of the market fish range from 3 to 35 pounds.
Large fish will live for some time in the live cars attached to the
wharves. The Nassau grouper closely resembles the red grouper
(E. morio), but it is easily separated from the latter by the presence
of a persistent black spot between the dorsal and upper part of the
tail fin. Maximum weight, about 50 pounds; average, 5 pounds.
FIG. 8.-Red grouper (Epinephelus mor4o).
Range.-North Carolina to Brazil: rare north of the Florida
keys; common in Porto Rico and Bermuda.
30. Epinephelus guttatus (Linnaeus). Red hind.
This is one of the most strikingly colored of the groupers, the body
being marked everywhere with vivid scarlet spots. It is fairly com-
mon among the Florida keys and is a valuable market species, al-
though much less so than the red grouper. It is caught with hook
and line at moderate depths. Maximum weight, about 5 pounds;
average, 2 pounds.
Range.-outh Carolina, Florida, Bermuda, throughout the West
Indies to Brazil.
31. Epinephelus morio (Cuvier and Valenciennes). Red grouper.
The red grouper is the most abundant and best known of the Key
West groupers. It is most common during the winter, but is taken
throughout the year on rocky, coral, and grassy bottoms. This fish
is widely distributed over the fishing grounds and may be taken in
U. S. B. F.-Doc. 962.
Fi(. Nasa grtier(Apidphlu s ilt,)
FISHERIES OF KEY WEST.
from 10 to 20 feet of water along with grunts, porgies, etc., or it may
be caught on the deeper rocky reefs. The fish taken in shallow water
usually are small, weighing from one-half to 2 pounds, while those
from deeper water generally range from 2 to 15 pounds. Fish
weighing more than 20 pounds are not common. The red grouper
bears transportation well and is shipped north and to Cuba. It will
live for long periods in live cars and fish wells and is one of the
favorite food fishes of Key West. Maximum weight, 40 pounds;
average, 5 pounds.
Range.-Massachusetts to Brazil; common in the Gulf of Mexico
and at Bermuda; uncommon north of Florida, and found only as a
rare straggler north of North Carolina.
32. Epinephelus nigritus (Holbrook). Black jewfish.
This large grouper is reported as fairly common off the coast of
Florida, but it is rarely seen in the Key West markets. Maximum
weight, 500 pounds.
Range.-South Carolina to Brazil; Mediterranean Sea.
FIG. 10.-Spotted jewfish (Promicrops itaiara).
33. Promicrops itaiara (Lichtenstein). Jewfish; Spotted jewfish.
The spotted jewfish is the largest food fish caught in the vicinity
of Key West and is one of the largest of all fishes. This fish is not
plentiful in the Key West region in point of numbers, but because
of the large size attained the comparatively few fish taken are of
some commercial importance. During the greater part of the years
1918 and 1919 from two to six jewfish were brought to the Key West
market each week. Spawning occurs during July and August, when
the fish become gregarious and are caught in greatest numbers.
During six weeks of July and August, 1918, there were brought to
market 74 jewfish, ranging in weight from 35 to 350 pounds, with a
mean average of 125 pounds. Nearly all of these were taken off
Knights Key, about 40 miles above Key West.
The jewfish is caught with hook and line on very strong tackle.
Regardless of its large size, it is placed in the well of the boat
after capture and is brought to market alive. At the market the fish
are transferred to commodious live cars, and as an extra precaution
to preclude their escape, a large hook is placed in the mouth of each
U. 8. BUREAU OF FISHERIES.
big fish and each is securely hitched to a pile by means of a strong
line. The fish are removed from the live cars as wanted. When the
fish are dressed, the scales are shaved off with a sharp knife, and
the flesh is cut into steaks and strips. The flesh sells for about 20
cents a pound and always finds a ready sale, the entire catch being
The jewfish prefers moderately deep water with rocky or coral
bottom. Small individuals weighing from 1 to 10 pounds, however,
are frequently taken in shallow water close to shore. The species is
particularly common on the southwest coast of Florida. The largest
fish of which there is a reliable record weighed, according to a meas-
urement formula, 693 pounds. This fish was caught with shark
tackle on January 23, 1923, about 35 miles south of Miami, and it
was 8 feet long and 6 feet 4 inches in girth.
Range.-Both coasts of tropical America, north to Florida and the
Gulf of California.
34. Xyeteropere vennosa (Linnaeus). Yellow-finned grouper; Yel-
This grouper is uncommon about Key West and is seen only oc-
casionally in the fish markets, but it is somewhat more plentiful in
the Habana markets. Maximum weight, 20 pounds; average, 5
Range.-North Carolina to the Bahamas; southern Florida, Ber-
muda, and the West Indies; rare north of Miami.
35. Nyeteropera bmasi (Poey). Black grouper.
The black grouper is rather common about the Florida keys and
Key West. It is not taken in large numbers, but its great size makes
it one of the most important market fish. It is generally caught in
water more than 25 feet in depth, but small fish are occasionally taken
in shallow water near shore. This grouper is taken throughout the
year, but it is most common during February, March, and ApriL
The usual market fish weigh from 5 to 50 pounds; fish weighig
more than 50 pounds are uncommon though not rare. Large or small
fish can be kept in live cars for long periods. Maximum weight,
about 100 pounds; average, 10 pounds.
Range.-Usual range Florida to Brazil. The young have been
carried by the Gulf Stream as far north as Woods Hole, Mass.
36. Xyeteroperca microlepia (Goode and Bean). Gag.
This species is rather common about Key West and may be caught
there throughout the year. It is generally taken on the shallow
reefs in 10 to 25 feet of water and on rocky, coral, or grassy bottoms.
When hooked, it puts up a somewhat better fight than do most of
the other groupers. It is a good food fish. Maximum weight, 20
pounds; average, 1 pounds. Fish weighing more than 10 pounds
are rare, and the weight of the market fish usually ranges from one-
half to 3 pounds.
Range.-Beaufort (N. C.) to Florida; on the Gulf coast to Pensa-
FISHERIES OF KEY WEST.
37. Xycteroperca faloata phenax Jordan and Swain. Scamp.
This species is rather common about the Florida keys, although much
less so than the red grouper. It is caught with hook and line and
is present in the markets throughout most of the year. Another
species (M. facata) closely resembling this one- is common in the
Habana markets. As a food fish it is well regarded and ranks higher
than many of the other groupers. Maximum weight, 10 pounds;
average, 2 pounds.
38. Lobotes surinamensis (Bloch). Triple-tail.
This fish is rare at Key West but occasionally is seen in the
markets. A 20-pound individual was observed in the market during
January, 1919, and was considered an oddity by the fishermen, who
had no name for it. The triple-tail is considered a good food fish,
but it is not common anywhere. A specimen 6 inches long was
caught near the Bureau of Fisheries' biological station at Key West.
Maximum weight, about 35 pounds; average, 8 pounds.
Range.-Massachusetts south to Uruguay; taken sparingly in
lower Chesapeake Bay pound nets, where it is called strawberry
39. Lutianus griseus (Linnaeus). Gray snapper; Mangrove snapper.
The gray snapper is the most abundant species of snapper found
at Key West. The fish always travel in schools, generally contain-
ing from a few hundred to.a thousand fish of various sizes, and prefer
the sloping ledges of reefs and channel ways. If not alarmed, they
will hover in one place for hours and afford a beautiful sight in the
clear water. Under certain conditions it is extremely difficult to
catch adult gray snappers with hook and line, but fish of less than
6 inches are less wary and can be taken without difficulty. Many
attempts to catch one were made by the writer, with various lures.-
Pieces of bait thrown into the water were readily taken by the larger
fish, but as soon as fishing tackle was introduced the fish looked
askance at the bait and kept their distance. A tiny hook and black
sewing thread were tried without much success. The best snapper
fishing was found to occur when the weather was cloudy and the
water not very clear.
This snapper has the peculiar habit of lying in a few inches of
water among the roots of the mangroves, especially where the tide
flows swiftly between small islands, hence the name "mangrove
snapper." The writer has found five or six fish within half an
hour under such conditions
The gray snapper is an abundant species but because of its wari-
ness is not caught in large quantities by the fishermen. Enough are
caught, however, to make it an important market species. It is a
good food fish and is taken throughout the year. It is caught along
the west coast of Florida as far north as Bay County and is especi-
ally common on the southwest coast. It is also found along the east
coast of Florida and as far north as Woods Hole, Mass. It is rare
above North Carolina, however. Market fish usually range in
weight from one-half to 5 pounds. Large fish weighing fully 10
FIG. 11.-Gray snapper (Lut*nus griseus).
FISHERIES OF KEY WEST.
pounds are often seen in the water, but fish of this size are seldom
caught. The maximum weight is said to be 18 pounds.
Range.-Usual range both coasts of Florida to the West Indies.
The young, a few inches long, have been recorded from North Caro-
lina, lower Chesapeake Bay, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Woods
Hole, Mass.; common in Bermuda.
40. Lutianus jocu (Bloch and Schneider). Dog snapper.
This snapper is not common about the Florida keys. It is caught
chiefly in the fall and winter, and only an occasional fish is seen
throughout the summer. It is taken with hook and line along with
other snappers and grunts and is a good food fish. Maximum
weight, 20 pounds; average, 2 pounds.
ange.--Usual range Miami to Bahia, Brazil. The young have
been taken at Woods Hole, Mass.
41. Lutianus apodus (Walbaum). Schoolmaster.
This species is rather common in the vicinity of Key West, but its
commercial value is relatively small. The young are abundant about
the shores of Key West and all the Florida keys. Small fish are
sometimes found lying motionless at the base of rocks close to shore.
Fish of about one-third to one-half pound are taken on the shallow
reefs along with grunts, porgies, etc. Larger fish, weighing 2 to 6
pounds, are taken in small numbers in deeper water. Maximum
weight, 8 pounds; average, three-fourths of a pound.
Range.--Usual range Florida to Bahia, Brazil; Bermuda. It
occurs as a straggler north of Florida. The young have been taken
at Beaufort, N. C., and Woods Hole. Mass.
42. Lutianus aya (Bloch). Red snapper.
The red snapper is one of the most abundant and valuable fish
caught within the State of Florida, but near Key West it is com-
paratively scarce. At times a few are taken in deep channels near
certain of the keys. Several million pounds are caught annually in
the Gulf of Mexico, where the greater part of the catch is landed at
Pensacola. It is caught with hand lines in 15 to 50 fathoms of
water, and the bait used generally consists of pieces of meat or fish.
The red snapper bears transportation well and is shipped to all the
important fish markets of the north. It is considered a choice food
fish. Maximum weight, 79 pounds; average, 6 pounds.
Range.-Woods Hole (Mass.) to Brazil; Bermuda; rare north
of North Carolina; taken in commercial quantities off Cape Fear
(N. C.), Georgia, eastern Florida, Gulf of Mexico, Porto Rico, and
43. Lutianus analis (Cuvier and Valenciennes). Muttonfish; Pargo.
The muttonfish is one of the most important species of snappers
caught about Key West, ranking close to the yellowtail (Ocyurus
chrysurus). It is found throughout the year but is scarcest during
July and August, which is the spawning period and at which time
it schools. The muttonfish is an excellent food fish and is always
in demand. It takes the baited hook freely and is quite gamey.
Near Key West it is taken on rocky or coral bottom in 3 to 9 fathoms
U. a. BUBRAU OF FISHIEIES.
of water but small fish of one-half to 2 pounds are sometimes taken
on the shallow reefs, in 2 to 4 fathoms, along with grunts, porgies,
etc. The average size of deep-water fish is about 3 pounds, but ex-
amples weighing 15 and 20 pounds are not rare. It is reported that
a 25-pound fish was caught off the railroad pier at Key West by an
angler using rod and reel. Maximum weight, 25 pounds; average,
Hange.-Usual range both coasts of Florida to Brazil. The young
have been recorded from Beaufort, N. C., and Woods Hole, Mass.
44. Lutianus synagris (Linnmeus). Lane snapper; Red-tailed snapper.
The lane snapper is a beautiful and abundant fish about Key West.
It is usually caught on rocky, coral, or grassy bottoms in water
ranging in depth from 2 to 6 fathoms. It is found in company with
various species of grunts, porgies. snappers, and groupers. Although
the average size is only about one-half pound, it is rather gamey when
hooked. It is caught in greatest numbers during the winter and
spring. Spawning is said to take place in October, at which time
the fish gather in schools. Maximum weight, 4 pounds; average,
Range.-Pensacola and Indian River, Fla., southward to Brazil;
known from the Bahamas, Cuba, Martinique, Jamaica, Santo Do-
mingo, Porto Rico, and Panama.
45. Ocyarns chrysuras (Bloch). Yellowtail; Rabirubia.
The yellowtail is perhaps the most important of all the snappers
found about Key West. It is one of the most esteemed of the local
fishes and is abundant throughout the year excepting during the
winter when the cold drives it away to deeper water. It may be
caught at depths of 2 or more fathoms, and it is especially abundant
on the rocky edges of the outer reefs near Key West. This fish is
rather gamey and is caught with crawfish or sardine bait. Fish
weighing 3 and 4 pounds are not uncommon ; the maximum size is
6 pounds and the average 1 pound.
Range.-Usual range southern Florida to Brazil; known from
Bermuda, Cuba, Martinique. St. Kitts, Jamaica, Porto Rico, and
Brazil. The young are recorded from Katama Bay, Mass.
46. Hemulon album Cuvier and Valenciennes. Margate fish; Mar-
This species is not as common about Key West as are several other
grunts, but is one of the largest of the grunts and a good food fish.
It is taken in rather deep water on rock or coral reefs. Spawning
occurs during the early summer. Its food consists chiefly of crabs,
crawfish, worms, etc. Maximum weight, 10 pounds; average, 2
Range.-Southern Florida to Brazil; reported from Bermuda, the
Bahamas, Habana, Jamaica, Porto Rico, and St. Thomas.
47. Hamulon macrostomum Giinther. Gray grunt; Striped grunt.
This grunt is common among the Florida Keys but because of its
small size is considerably less important than various larger species.
Young fish 4 to 6 inches long are sometimes abundant close to shore
Fro. 12.-Yellow-tall (Ocyurus chrysurue).
U. 8. BUREAU OF FISHERIES.
in shallow water. Like all the grunts, it is caught with hook and
-line, and fish taken for market purposes are at least 7 inches long.
Maximum weight, 1 pound; average, one-third pound.
Range.-Southern Florida to Panama; known from Bermuda,
Jamaica, St. Thomas, Porto Rico, and Panama.
48. aemulon parra (Desmarest). Sailor's choice; Grunt; Ronco
This is a common species about Key West. It is generally found
in schools close to shore in company with the gray snapper. Ap-
parently but few are taken offshore as far as even 1 mile. Fish 5 and 6
inches m length are very abundant and readily take the baited hook
but are too small to be of commercial importance. However, many
are taken weighing from one-half pound to a pound, or more.
Maximum weight, pounds; average, one-half pound.
Range.-Southern Florida to Brazil.; recorded from Cards Sound,
Marco, Lemon Bay, Biscayne Bay, Tortugas, Habana, Jamaica,
Porto Rico, Panama, and Brazil.
49. Hemnlon siuras (Shaw). Yellow grunt; Boar grunt; Ronco
This species is perhaps the most beautiful of all the grunts and
is marked by numerouslongitudinal yellow stripes. It is very com-
mon about Key West, ranking next to H. phwmieri in abundance.
It is generally caught near the roots of mangrove trees in 6 to
15 feet of water, but some are taken farther offshore on hard bottom.
The best bait is a long worm, which the fishermen get from the
stem of a tall grass that grows on certain bars near shore. These
"podworms" are certain to attract yellow grunts if there are any in
the vicinity. If the most favorable places to fish are known, it is
possible to catch 50 to 100 fish in a few hours. One fisherman reports
that he has caught as many as 600 yellow grunts in a single day.
The best fishing obtains during the summer, The yellow grunt is an
important food fish in Key West. Maximum weight, about 1
pound; average, one-half pound.
Range.--Southern Florida to Brazil; recorded from Biscayne Bay,
the Tortugas, Bermuda, Cuba, Jamaica, Panama, and Bahia.
50. Hemulon plumieri (Lac6pbde). Common grunt; White grunt;
This is by far the most abundant of all the grunts, and in point
of numbers it is probably not exceeded by any other food fish in the
vicinity of Key West. It is caught with hook and line baited with
crawfish or "sardines" in 8 to 40 feet of water. It is found on
bottoms of sand, marl, coral, or rock, which may be open or covered
with vegetation. The best fishing, however, is found on rocky
bottom. The common grunt is caught all the year round but is
particularly abundant in the late summer and fall. After spawning
(during August and September), the large schools break up and
scatter but the fish are usually found in small schools on the bottom.
Maximum weight, 3 pounds; average, one-third to one-half pound.
Range.-Cape Hatteras and Pensacola to Brazil; recorded from
ixo. 18.-Common grunt (Hfmslon plumfer).
U. .B. BUREAU ,OF MAISRME.
51. Hamulon favolineatum 'Desmarest). French grunt; Ronco con-
This little grunt is not very common at Key West and is only
occasionally seen in the fish wells. Maximum weight, 1 pound;
average, one-third pound.
Range.-Bermuda, Florida Keys, Tortugas, south to Brazil;
recorded from Panama.
52. Bathystoma rimator (Jordan and Swain).: Tom-tate; Red-mouth
The young (4 to 6 inches long) are abundant about Key West,
but fish of marketable size are uncommon and for this reason the
annual catch is comparatively .mnalL They are seen occasionally
in the live cars and are sold along with other grunts and small
snappers Spawning takes place in May and June. Maximum
weight, about 1 pound; average, one-third pound.
Range.-Cape Hatteras and Pensacola, southward through the
West Indies to Trinidad; recorded from Panama and Bermuda.
53. Anisotremwu snriam sis (Bloch). Black margate-fish.
This is a comparatively rare species about the Florida keys and
is seen only occasionally in the live cars about the wharves. Prob-
ably not more than 1,000 pounds are brought to Key West annually.
Maximum weight, about 20 pounds; average, 2 pounds.
Range.-Florida and Mobile to Brazil; known from Surinam,
Martinique, Porto Rico, Jamaica, Cuba, and Panama.
54. Azisotremus virginicu (Linnaus). Porkfish.
This brightly marked species is common about Key West and is
one of the important small food fishes. From June to August, when
it schools to spawn, it is found about the shoals but soon retires to
deep water. About a month after the spawning season large num-
bers of young may be seen about the shoals. When fishing in com-
paratively deep water (30 to 40 feet), it is not unusual to catch
fish of a pound or a little more in weight. However, fish of one-half
a pound or less comprise the bulk of the annual catch. It is a good
food fish. Maximum weight, 2 pounds; average, one-third pound.
Range.-Florida to Brazil; known from Biscayne Bay, Santo
Domingo, Jamaica, Porto Rico, Martinique, Panama, and St. Cathe-
rines Island, Brazil.
55. Orthopriste chrysopteru (Linnaus). Pigfish; Hogfish.
This species is fairly common about Key West and is taken with
hook and line on shallow reefs along'with other grunts and snappers.
It is an important species in lower Chesapeake Bay and along the
South Atlantic coast, where it is considered an excellent food fish.
Maximum weight, 2 pounds; average, one-half pound.
Range.-New Jersey to Mexico; recorded from Bermuda.
(Nors.-The author is Indebted to Dr. H. B. Bigelow for furnishing extensions to the
northern range of certain species included in this llit. These new ranges are Included in
"i ses of the Gulf of Maine," by H. B. Bigelow and W. W. Welsh, now in press.)
FlI. 14.-Porkish (Anfsotremus rirginicus).
U. a. BURWn OF rFaIUIES.
56. Calmus ealauns (Cuvier and Valenciennes). Saucer-eyed porgy.
This is a common species about Key West and is found through-
out the year, but it is most abundant during the winter. It is taken
with hook and line on coral bottom in 12 to 40 feet of water. This
and other species of porgies all are important food fishes in Key
West. Maximum weight, pounds; average one-half pound.
Range.-Florida keys to Brazil; known rom Bermuda, Mar-
tinique, Jamaica, Cuba, Porto Rico, and Panama.
57. Calamus proriden Jordan and Gilbert. Little-head porgy.
A common species in Key West and always present in the live cars.
This and other species of porgies found here are sold together with-
out respect to species. Maximum weight, 2 pounds; average, one-
Range.-Florida keys to West Indies.
58. Calama bajonado (Bloch and Schneider). Jolt-head porgy;
This is the largest of the porgies and-because of its size is the most
important member of the group found at Key West. It is found on
rocky, coral, and grassy bottoms at a depth of 15 to 40 feet or more.
Spawnng takes place during July and August. Fishermen catch it
with hook and line all the year round. Maximnnum weight, 10 pounds;
average, 2 pounds.
Range.-Southern Florida to West Indies.
59. Calamau penna (Cuvier and Valenciennes). Sheepshead porgy.
The sheepshead porgy is a common species and is most abundant
in the winter. It frequents shallow water near the keys. Maximum
weight, 4 pounds; average, 1 pound.
Ryage.-Southern Florida to Brazil; known from Charlotte Har-
bor, St. Thomas, Habana, Panama, Camamu, Rio de Janeiro, and Rio
Grande do Sul.
60. Calamus aratifrons Goode and Bean. Grass porgy.
This is an abundant species locally, especially in shallow water and
on grassy bottom. It is found in company with other species of
porges. Maximum weight, 2 pounds; average, one-half pound.
Soange.-Pensacola and Biscayne Bay south to Key West and Porto
Rico; not common in the West Indies.
61. Lagodon rhomboides (Linnaeus). Pinfish; Sailor's choice; Bream.
This little fish is abundant about the shores and wharves of Key
West and is one of the most common species taken with hook and
line in the vicinity of the Bureau of Fisheries biological station.
It is a ready biter and will take a hook baited with fish, spiny lobster,
hermit crab, and many other kinds of bait. It is seldom caught
out on the reefs away from shore. It is a good pan fish, but because
of its small size its commercial value in Key West is slight. A fish
noG. 15.-Jolt-head porgy (Oslamua bojlonudo).
U. S. BUREAU OF FISHERIES.
13 inches long, taken by the writer, is the largest recorded. Its
average size is 6 inches.
Range.-Cape Cod to Texas; Bermuda and Cuba; common in
lower Chesapeake Bay and abundant off the Carolina coast
62. Archouargu unimaeulatu (Bloch). Brim; Bream; Salema.
This species is not common about Key West, although a few are
seen from time to time in the live cars at the wharves. It is a good
food fish, but because of the small catch its commercial value is
very limited. In Porto Rico it is an abundant and important food
fish. Maximum weight, about 2 pounds; average, one-half pound.
Range.-Charleston to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; rare north of Florida
Keys; reported from Charleston, Cuba, Jamaica, Porto Rico, Pan-
ama, and Brazil.
63. Archoargs probatocephalus (Walbaum). Sheepshead.
The sheepshead is not common in the immediate vicinity of Key
West, where the annual catch is only a few hundred pounds, but it is
one of Florida's most important food fishes and is caught in large
numbers on both coasts. However, it is most abundant off the south-
west coast along the shores of Lee, De Soto, and Manatee Counties.
At Marco the writer caught many sheephead while fishing directly
from the shore. It is found chiefly about wharves, wrecks, and
mangrove roots. The greater part of its food.consists of crabs and
mollusks. which it can easily crunch with its strong teeth. Maxi-
mum weight 30 pounds, but individuals over 15 pounds are com-
paratively rare; average weight, 3 pounds.
Range.-Atlantic and Gulf coasts, from Cape Cod to Texas;
formerly rather common, but now rare north of Cape Henry, Va.
In Chesapeake Bay, where it was once common, it is now very
64. Xystema cinerem (Walbaum). Broad shad; Majarra.
This small fish is taken in limited numbers about the Florida
keys, where it is caught with hook and line in water 8 feet or more
in depth. The annual catch is perhaps not over a few hundred
pounds. It is an excellent food fish, and in Porto Rico it is an im-
portant market fish. Maximum weight, 2 pounds; average, one-
Range.-Both coasts of tropical America, north to Lower Cali-
fornia, and southern Florida.
65. Kyphosu secttrix (Linneus). Rudder-fish; Bermuda chub.
This species is not commonly seen in the markets of Key West,
and it is found only sparingly about the keys throughout the year.
It is known for its peculiar habit of following vessels at sea, pre-
sumably for the waste food thrown overboard. It is said to be a
worthy game fish. Maximum weight, 9 pounds; average, 2 pounds.
Range.-Cape Cod to Panama; not common on the Carolina coast
north of which it is a rare straggler; recorded from Bermuda and
Porto Rico and said to occur in the Canary Islands and rarely in the
FISHERIES OF KEY WEST.
66. Cyaosolon nebulomu (Cuvier and Valenciennes). Spotted trout;
Speckled trout; Spotted squeteague.
This important food fish is rarely, if ever, taken within the im-
mediate vicinity of Key West. It is a valuable and abundant species
on both coasts of Florida, however. Small numbers are taken among
the Florida keys, near Cape Sable, while fishing for mullet, and it
is seen in the Key West markets in company with this species.
Various methods are used in catching the spotted squeteague. In
lower Chesapeake Bay, where it is an important food fish, it is
caught in pound nets, haul seines, and set seines; in southern Flor-
ida it is taken in mullet nets and with hook and line. Among the
Ten Thousand Islands a fisherman was observed fishing from a
flatboat with hook and line attached to a long bamboo pole. He
drifted over grassy flats, repeatedly casting with mullet bait, and
succeeded in catching many squeteagues. In St. Andrews Bay,
Fla., the writer caught many speckled trout" while trolling from
a boat and using artificial lures. The largest fish recorded weighed
161 pounds and was taken in the Neuse River, N. C. Two 16-pound
fish were observed in Chesapeake Bay during 1922. The average
weight is about 2 pounds.
Rfage.-New York to Texas; rare north of Chesapeake Bay.
67. Soianops ocellatus (Linnaus). Redfish; Channel bass; Red drum.
This species, called "redfish in the South, is not caught in the
immediate vicinity of Key West, but it is occasionally taken among
some of the Florida keys, and at times small numbers are seen in
the local markets. On both coasts of Florida it is a food fish of
considerable value. In traveling from one coast to the other it
appears evident that the channel bass rounds Cape Sable and does
not stray very far south among the keys It is a good game fish,
and large individuals are caught by surf-casters along the New
Jersey coast and elsewhere. Maximum weight, 75 pounds; average,
2 to 35 pounds.
Range.-Massachusetts to Texas; not common north of Chesa-
68. Pagonias cromis (Linnaus). Black drum.
The black drum is not caught in the immediate vicinity of Key
West but, like the red drum, is occasionally taken among the keys.
It is seldom seen in the local markets. As a food fish it is rather
inferior, the flesh being coarse and stringy. Maximum weight, 146
pounds; average, about 25 pounds.
Range.-Massachusetts to Texas:
69. Lachnolaimus maximas (Walbaum). Hogfish; Capitan.
The hogfish is common about Key West and is caught the year
round on rocky reefs in rather deep water. It is a fairly good food
fish, though not choice, and is always present in the fish wells and
live cars. When the fish is dressed, the scales are shaved off with a
sharp knife in the same manner as with groupers and jewfish. Maxi-
mum weight, 20 pounds. Fish weighing 10 pounds or more are not
nro. 16.-soslsh (Looloaunse ieiume).
FISHERIES OF KEY WEST.
uncommon, but the average weight is about 3 pounds. Fish weigh-
ing less than 1 pound are rarely seen in the markets.
Range.-Beaufort (N. C.1 to West Indies; Bermuda; rare north of
70. Sparisoma viride (Bonnaterre). Parrot-fish.
This fish is occasionally caught by hook-and-line fishermen and is
eaten to a small extent locally. Very little is known of its habits,
and its value is very slight. It is a rich bluish-green in color.
Maximum weight, 10 pounds; average, 2 pounds.
Range.-Bahamas and Florida Keys to West Indies; known from
Bermuda, Jamaica, Porto Rico, St. Thomas, and St. Croix.
71. Sparisoma flavesens (Bloch and Schneider). Parrot-fish.
This parrot-fish is common in the vicinity of Key West. It is
found in shallow water, chiefly on grassy bottom. Its color is mostly
olivaceous, flushed with pink or orange. Its flesh is soft and rather
poor, but it is used to a limited extent as food. Maximum weight,
1 pound; average weight of market fish, one-half pound.
Range.-Southern Florida to Brazil; found in the Bahamas and
throughout the West Indies.
72. Pseudosearas guaamaia (Cuvier). Green parrot-fish.
Of the large parrot-fishes this is the most common species found
about Key West In color it is mottled or. barred with brown and
blue; its teeth are green. It is not held in high esteem as a food
fish, but is eaten sparingly in Key West. Maximum weight, 10
pounds; average, 1 pound.
Range.-Florida to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; recorded from St.
Augustine, Habana, Porto Rico, and Panama.
73. Ch todipteras faber (Broussonet). Spadefish; Angelfish.
The spadefish is found about Key West during most of the year
and is especially common during the summer and fall. It is gener-
ally found close to shore in shallow water and travels in small schools.
It is frequently taken in wire crawfish traps. After hauling craw-
fish traps daily for a long time and catching no spadefish at all the
writer suddenly one day caught 18 of the fish in one trap, which
illustrates their habit of schooling. The young (less than 1 foot long)
are marked along the sides with six prominent black vertical bands
on a silvery ground, but in the adult the entire body coloration is
darker and the bands are less conspicuous. As a food fish it is held in
high esteem, but the annual catch at Key West is not large Maxi-
mum weight, 20 pounds; average, three-fourths pound. In Chesa-
peake Bay, where this fish is known as "porgee and where small
numbers are taken from spring until fall, they generally weigh
between 3 and 12 pounds.
Range.-Cape Cod to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; rare north of Chesa-
peake Bay; known from Cuba, Santo Domingo, Jamaica, Martinique,
Porto Rico, and Panama.
U. S. BUREAU OF FISHERIES.
74. Pomacanthus arcuatus (Linnaeus). Black angelfish.
This beautiful species is rather common about Key West. It is
found throughout the year but is not taken in large numbers. By
visiting the markets a few may be seen at almost any time among the
many species of fish held in the live cars. It is caught in wire craw-
fish traps and with hook and line. It is a food fish of some impor-
tance locally. Maximum weight, 6 pounds; average, 11 pounds.
Range.-New Jersey to Bahia, Brazil; comparatively rare north
of Florida; known from Tortugas, Cuba, Jamaica, Porto Rico, and
Flc. 17.-Black angelflsh (Pomaomnthus arouatus).
75. Angelichthys isabelita Jordan and Rutter. Yellow angel; Blue
The yellow angel is very similar to the black angel (Pomocanthus
arcuatus) in size, local abundance, and food qualities. It is taken
in wire crawfish traps or with hook and line. Maximum weight, 6
pounds; average, 1 pounds.
Range.-Florida Keys to Brazil; known from Tortugas, Bahamas,
Cuba, Jamaica, Lesser Antilles, and Bahia.
76. Hepatus coeruleus (Bloch and Schneider). Blue tang.
The blue tang is a very beautiful fish and is fairly common about
Key West. It is generally taken in water from 15 to 25 feet in depth
on grassy or rocky bottom. It is caught with hook and line or in
crawfish traps, and is used for food purposes, but the annual catch
is small. Maximum weight, 1 pounds; average, one-half pound.
FISHERIES OF KEY WEST.
Range.-Usual range from the Florida keys to Brazil; recorded
from Bermuda, Tortugas, Cuba, and Jamaica. The young are re-
corded from Woods Hole, Mass.
77. Hepatus hepatus (Linnaeus). Tang; Doctor-fish.
This tang is rather common about Key West, where it is a food fish
of slight importance. It is taken with hook and line, in crawfish
traps, and with crawfish "grains." It is the most abundant of the
tangs. Maximum weight, 2 pounds; average, one-half pound.
Range.-Usual range from North Carolina to Brazil; uncommon
north of Florida; recorded from Beaufort, Charleston, Tortugas,
Bermuda, Habana, Jamaica, Martinique, and Bahia. The young
have been recorded as far north as Woods Hole, Mass.
78. Hepatus bahianus (Castelnau). Ocean tang.
The ocean tang is less common about Key West than is either the
common tang (H. hepatus) or the blue tang (H. c releus). It is
FIG. 18.-Turbot (BaZistes carolinensa).
considered a good food fish but is seen only occasionally in the local
markets. Throughout the West Indies this species is the most im-
portant of the tangs. Maximum weight, about 4 pounds: average,
Range.-Usual range from North Carolina to Brazil; rare north
of Florida; found throughout the West Indies and common in Ber-
muda. The young have been recorded as far north as Woods Hole,
79. Balistes carolinensis Gmelin. Turbot; Trigger-fish; Leather-
The turbot is common about Key West, where it is caught with
hook and line throughout the year. It is nearly always present in
the live cars about the wharves, and is a food fish of importance
locally. Maximum weight, 2 pounds; average, 1 pound.
U. S. BUREAU OF FISHERIES.
Range.-Banquereau Bank off Canso (Nova Scotia) to West In-
dies; also found in Bermuda and the Mediterranean Sea; uncommon
north of Florida; recorded from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New
Jersey, Chesapeake Bay, and North Carolina.
80. Balites vetula Linnaeus. Turbot; Trigger-fish.
This species is fairly common at Key West although somewhat
less so than B. carolinensis, with which it is closely associated. Lo-
cally it is a food fish of some importance. The maximum size is not
definitely known but is believed to be 2 or 3 pounds; average, 1
Range.-Usual range from Florida to West Indies; known from
Bermuda, Bahamas, Jamaica, Ascension Island, and Porto Rico.
The young have been recorded from Nantucket and Woods Hole,
FIG. 19.-Cowflah (Lactophrya triqueter).
81. Lactophrys triqueter (Linnieus). Trunkfish.
This species is less common in the vicinity of Key West than
either L. trigonu or L. tricornis. All three species are esteemed
alike for food. Maximum size, 12 inches: average, 9 inches.
Range.-Usual range from North Carolina to Brazil; Pensa-
cola; rare north of Florida; known from Bermuda and Porto
Rico, where it is common. The young have been recorded from
Katama Bay, Mass.
82. Lactophrys trigonus (Linnaeus). Trunkfish.
This trunkfish is comparatively common about Key West and is
taken throughout the year, hook-and-line fishermen catching this
species while fishing for grunts, porgies, and other small fishes. It
is sometimes found very close to shore amid sponges and other bot-
tom growths. While using a 100-yard collecting seine near the
island of Key West, about 15 adults of this species and L. tricorni
were taken in one haul. It is a good food fish and is esteemed locally.
Maximum size, 18 inches; average, 10 inches.
Range.-Usual range from North Carolina to Brazil; rare north
of Florida. The very young, about 1 inch long, have been taken at
Woods Hole, Mass.
7,18211S OF KIa WEST.
88. Laotophry trioornis (Linneus). Trunkfish; Cowfish.
This species, sometimes called cowfish because of the two horn-like
spines extending from the head, is about equally as common as L.
trigonus, with which it is closely associated, and its habits and food
qualities are very similar to the latter species. Maximum size, about
15 inches; average, 9 inches.
Range.-Usual range from Florida to Brazil and eastward to the
Cape of Good Hope; recorded from Jamaica, Porto Rico, and Pan-
ama. The young have been taken in Katama Bay, Mass.
TABLE 1.-Estimated catch of various species of flsh landed in Key West during
1918 and caught sdthin about 50 miles of the city.
Species. Pounds. Spedes. Pounds.
Ambrh ............................... 2,000 Parrolsh........................... 500
An l": h .........................6000 PIlfh...................................2,000
arfl h ............................... ,000 P4n o........................... .. 50
Bishafl............ .................. ... 0,000
B to................................. 0 .. 10,00
coweb, or trunkflsh...................1,000 sadr' due.......................... 500
GOraLn t .. ...... .............. 150.OOB,0Q00 o .
Hogflh............................... 10,00 Mu v........ ................... 015,00
n d ............................. 0o0 Bed ..........................
Jew dh ................................. 15,000 Oters.............................. 000
n ers, or ............... ... 0 ............................ ,00D
uml nd o l...................................
in lob r.. ................................................................. gon5
MUmt: .b.. .................... ...... ..... ,24,000
White ........................... ..... Y wtr...... ............................ 70
Mti...l........................... 00 m .seeBeous....................... 1,
................ 000 -o1
'Winter of 1918-19.
TABLE 2.-Estimated catch and first value to the fishermen of various products
landed in Key West during 1918.
Products. Pounds. Value.
Fish..................................................................... 2,829,722 $141,480
nylobtera .................................................................. 34,518 33,35
n e ..................................................................... 18,000 2,750
Turtlem. .............................................. 150,00 1O,000
m ....................................... .................................. 107,743 82,37007
co .................................. ........ ......... 2,000 00
Total ..................................................................... 3,454,248 275,808
S The total catch givehi herewith varie mewhat from that listed in the Bureau o Fisheries statistical
report or 1918, owtag to the nclusion of the kingfsh and Spanish macerel catches for the season 118-19
instead lor the year 1918 almne.
The striped mullet (Mugil cephous) is not caught in large quan-
tities in the immediate vicinity of Key West, but it is one of the
principal fish to be found in the local markets during the late sum-
mer. The season when this mullet is abundant generally lasts from
July until November. In 1918 about 85,000 pounds, worth $3,000
to the fishermen, were landed during this period. The total catch
of striped and silver mullets (M. curema) landed in Key West dur-
ing 1918 was 112,318 pounds, valued at $4,531.
The mullet is by far the most valuable fish caught in the State of
Florida. During 1918 the catch on the west coast amounted to
25,023,666 pounds, worth $1,151,103, and on the east coast to 10,417,-
889 pounds, worth $97,147. In addition 86,285 pounds of salted
roe, worth $17,593, were prepared, making the total weight of the
fish 85,527,840 pounds, with a value of $1,565,843.
Mullets are found in large numbers along the entire coast line of
Florida. They are particularly abundant in or about bays, rivers,
or creeks, and the greater part of the catch is taken in brackish water
within almost a stone's throw of land. Large numbers are found in
the vicinity of Cape Sable, doubtless because the schools pass there
going from one coast to the other, but among the Florida keys they
decrease in numbers southward or as Key West is approached.
Nearly the entire catch of mullet is taken with gillnets of 11-inch
bar mesh. To make a catch in open water, two dories are used.
The best type of dory has a platform in the stern, which is raised
several inches from the bottom of the boat, and on this the net is
stowed, payed out, and hauled in. It is essential that the woodwork
of the boat, edges of the gunwale, and such places where the net is
liable to touch be smooth, so that the net may not catch or impede
operations. In each of the dories is placed a net 150 yards or more
in length, properly corked and leaded, and with a staff at each end.
When a school of fish is located, the boats come together and the
fishermen connect their nets and from this point quickly surround
the mullets, describing a semicircle and bringing the staffs of the
nets together at another point. After sufficient tune has been given
for the fish to gill themselves each net is hauled aboard its respective
dor and the fish are removed as they come aboard.
When mullets are caught in close quarters, such as in rivers or
creeks, the operations of the fishermen are more simple and large
catches are often made under such conditions.
A river bank often proves an effective aid in netting, as the fishes'
chances of escape are considerably lessened by such a barrier. As a
school of mullets advances along the shore the net staff is planted
near the water's edge, and at the proper time the net is set around
the fish and returned to the shore some distance up or down stream.
Sometimes it is unnecessary to use all of the net, in which case the
unused portion is distributed either within the inclosure or around
the outside in order to effect additional obstruction for the fish.
Often from 5 to 10 per cent of the fish escape by jumping over the
outer edge of the net, and many others gain their freedom by swim-
ming under the lead line at some point where it does not lie close on
the bottom. It would be far more difficult to make large catches of
mullets if they did not jump from the water or cause a disturbance
at the surface, thereby betraying their presence. Catches made
otherwise are the result only of chance. However, under ordinary
conditions schools of mullet follow close along the shore and give
evidence of their presence to the fishermen. A school swimming
along at a speed of 2 or 3 miles an hour can be sighted in sufficient
time for all preparations to be made for their capture. As a rule
the fishermen lie in wait at selected points and sometimes remain for
hours on the lookout for the fish. The mullet is a very elusive fish,
V. & Multy 6P 21rnw tw.
FISHERIES OF KEY WEST.
and at the slightest opportunity an entire school will evade capture
or escape from a seine.
A large part of the fishing is done at night, fishermen selecting
certain localities where the mullets are known to occur and where the
water is free of snags. On moonlight nights the fish can be seen
approaching, and on very dark nights they are located by their noisy
splashes. Sometimes, also, a large net is set on a chance of sur-
rounding a school that may be swimming deep, as they do on certain
occasions. The fishery is rather uncertain, and sometimes the fisher-
men return without a fish. On the other hand, large catches are
The greater part of the catch of striped mullets brought into Key
West is taken at or near Cape Sable. During the.fall of 1919 from
10 to 20 sloops and power boats operated in this vicinity. A run
boat collected and iced the combined catch and made trips back
and forth to Key West. Sometimes as many as 30,000 pounds of
striped mullets are landed on one day in this locality, but generally
the quantity is less.
In order to protect the mullet during the principal part of its
spawning season, the State of Florida has enacted a law prohibiting
the catching of striped mullet (Mugil cephal2s) within the waters
of the State from November 20 to January 20. During this closed
season some of the fishermen resort to fishing for kingfish and
Both fresh and salted mullets are shipped from Key West. Fresh
mullets are packed in barrels, similarly to other species of fish, and
the greater part of the catch is sent to points in this country. In
dry-salting mullets the fish are split and several incisions made in
the flesh in order that the salt may "take" better. They are placed
in piles until part of the liquid drains of and are then packed in
slack barrels topped with burlap. The greater part of the salted
fish is shipped to Cuba.
Market fish generally range from 12 to 22 inches in length, with
16 inches as a fair average. The females, or roe fish, usually average
about 2 inches longer than the males. It is not unusual to find large
numbers of fish weighing 3 or 4 pounds each.
The silver mullet (M. curema) is abundant at Key West and
throughout the Florida keys. It is common on both coasts of
Florida. As the average length of this species is about 10J inches,
it is less sought after and of considerably less importance than the
striped mullet. It is a good food fish, however.
On almost any day of the year schools of silver mullets can be
found about Key West. They seem to prefer shallow water, 2 to
12 feet in depth, and as they move along the bottom is stirred up,
probably in their search for food. An area of cloudy water sur-
rounded by clear water invariably betrays the presence of silver
mullets They are captured in the same manner as the striped mullet,
excepting that it requires a net of l-inch bar mesh.
The fishermen distinguish the two species of mullet in the water
by the way they jump, for, as a rule, the striped mullet jumps clear
of the surface, while the silver mullet merely flips its tail out of the
water. There are exceptions, however, when most or all of a school
of silver mullets will jump out of the water simultaneously. This
88 U. S. BURa AU OF FISHRIS.
jumping in unison has not been observed with the striped mullet,
and only one or two individuals of a large school appear to leave
the water at the same time.
Although the silver mullet is abundant, the catch landed in Key
West is small and the greater part of it is dry salted and shipped
Kingfish (Scombeimorus oiavaa and S. regais) are caught in
southern Florida from early November until late March. The season
usually covers the same period as that of the Spanish mackerel, but
the fishing is somewhat more uncertain. In some years very few
kingfish are caught before December 1, but it is the custom of the
fishermen to commence operations about November 10. The catch
of kingfish in Florida for the season 1917-18 is given in the report
of the Commissioner of Fisheries for 1919, Appendix X, as follows:
TABLE 3.-Catch of kingfish in Florida for the season 1917-18.
West cost. Eat coast.
County. Pound Conty Pounds.
Pasm ................................ 2, 7 PalmZB ch. ........................... 1,M, 11
...sn ................................... l Breow i..................
2%367 . ,........................... D
o mt ........................... D d .......jRj Dade .. .: :......... ...... ns,
................. .......... Tsmotal ............................ 2,771, 72
Toold............................. "- --
The total catch for both coasts was 2,737,652 pounds. The entire
catch of Monroe County was landed at Key West. Monroe County
includes a portion of the extreme southwestern part of Florida and
the Florida keys, which extend southwestward from the mainland
forming the line dividing the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.
The major part of the fishing is done on the Atlantic side of the
keys. The kingfish, therefore, are found in greatest abundance from
Palm Beach County to Key West.
In this country the kingfish fishery is confined almost entirely to
Florida, the only other State where it may be considered as of im-
portance being North Carolina, which reports a catch of 211,781
pounds for the season of 1918. Of the Carolina coast kingfish are
caught from May until October or during the months when they are
not found in Florida.
TABL 4.-Catch of kingfish, by months, taken along the Florida keys and
landed at Key West during the seasons from 1918 to 1980.
Month. 1918-19 1919-20
Dame b ........................... ............................................. I so
January........................................................................ 168 300 28.000
r ...................... .................. ... 15 0 4gO
r ........................................................................ 4 o 300 10 00
Total........................ .................................. 373,"00 4s,000
FIBHEBIES OF KEY WEST.
The first two fish of the 1918-19 season were landed at Key West
on November 20, 1918, and the fishing ended abruptly on March 10,
1919, owing in part to the breakdown of the city's only ice plant.
The first fish of the 1919-20 season was landed at Key West on
November 6, the second on November 7, and the third, weighing 30
pounds, on November 10. Favorable weather during March permit-
ted an unusually good catch for that month. The fishing ceased on
For kingfish fishing a seaworthy power boat is of first importance.
The majority of those seen in Key West range in length from 24 to
50 feet. The most serviceable boats are of the half-cabin type, for on
these sleeping accommodations may be provided and the boats are
in many ways more satisfactory. A few open boats generally are
employed for near-by fishing. Sometimes sailing vessels are seen,
but without auxiliary engines they prove rather unsuitable except
under unusually favorable weather conditions, as the speed of the
boat must be evenly regulated in order to travel in any direction the
fish may choose to take. As kingfish die soon after capture the fish
well, if present in the boat, is not utilized.
With the exception of the boat the necessary equipment for king-
fish fishing is very simple and inexpensive. A small supply of heavy
cotton trolling lines, wire leaders, and metal squid hooks are all that
is needed. After the first fish has been landed by the bare squid
strips of flesh and skin are cut from the belly of this fish and are
used as bait for other fish.
At least two men are required to man a boat-one to attend ex-
clusively to fishing and one to manage the boat and fish when op-
portunity affords. Two or more lines are trolled, according to the
size of the boat Slipknots are made on the lines, and when one of
these pulls out it is a good indication that a fish has taken the hook.
After hauling in fish for several hours this fishing seems more like
work than sport, but an element of excitement and expectancy is
It is not unusual for a boat to cruise about for most of a day with-
out catching a fish and often the catch scarcely pays for the fuel con-
sumed, but m the long run the fishing is usually profitable, as a catch
of several thousand pounds now and then more than offsets the days
The fish usually range in weight from 4 to 40 pounds. Occasional
examples reach 50 pounds or more, but such fish are rare. During
the early part of the season when fish are scarce the few taken as a
rule are large, weighing from 10 to 40 pounds, but when the schools
strike in the weight of individual fish usually varies from 4 to 15
pounds. Fish of about the same size are generally found in a school,
as it was observed that certain boats brought in fish weighing from
5 to 8 pounds, others brought fish weighing 6 to 10 pounds, and still
others had fish weighing B to 12 pounds, etc. It is probable that each
of these boats caught their fish from a single school.
A large part of the kingfish catch is exported to Cuba or consumed
locally. Some shipments are made to points in this country where
the kingfish, however, are not regarded as favorably as the Spanish
mackerel. The Key West markets are never glutted, and the annual
catch is easily disposed of. The fishermen receive a uniform price
XU. BUAltt OP riSHBKt1S.
for their fish, as the rate is fixed at the beginning of the season.
During the 1919-20 season the price was the same as for Spanish
mackerel, 6 cents per pound. The retail price.is generally about 25
cents per pound.
The kingfish is an excellent food fish when fresh, and its few bones
and good flavor place it in great demand in Florida and Cuba. It is
a fine game fish and is eagerly sought after by sport fishermen.
On the Atlantic coast the Spanish mackerel is found from Mon-
hegan, Me., to Brazil and in the Gulf of Mexico. It is taken in
commercial quantities south of Sandy Hook, N. J. As a food fish it
is held in high esteem and commands a good price at all times.
The retail price during the last few years has ranged from 25 to
50 cents a pound.
It is only in recent years that the migrations of the Spanish mackerel
have been partly understood. Less than 50 years ago it was not
known where the fish spent the winter months, and it was only
from April until early November that they were caught and brought
to market. At that time Spanish mackerel apparently were not
known to be in abundance in the waters of southern Florida during
The following table shows the quantity of Spanish mackerel taken
in 1880, by States, and the total catch for the United States:
Massachusetts---------- ---------- ---------- 60
Rhode Island------------------- ---------_ -. 2,000
Connecticut------------------------------ --- 1,200
New York------------------------------------- 25,000
New Jersey------------------- --------- 200,000
Maryland---------------------- 18, 000
Virginia------------------------- ---- 1, 09, 63
North Carolina------------------------ ----- 10,000
South Carolina ----------------------------- ----- 1,000
Eastern Florida-------------- -------------------- 500
Gulf of Mexico------------------------------- 20,000
Total_ ----- ------- 1, 887, 423
It is noteworthy that at the present time Spanish mackerel are
caught and shipped to market in greatest abundance from November
to March or during the months when 50 years ago the fish were sel-
dom seen. It is now believed that these fish migrate southward and
spend the winters in warmer waters. In 1880 the total catch for
Florida and the Gulf of Mexico was recorded as only 20,500 pounds.
The entire catch for the United States in that year only slightly
exceeded the Key West catch for 1918-19 (1,734,200 pounds), and
it was less than the Key West catch for 1919-20 (2,322,000 pounds).
The distribution of the mackerel along the coasts of Florida is
shown by the following statement giving the catch for the season
The lasheries and Fishery Industries of the United States. By 0. Brown Goode and
asociates. 1887. Section V. History and Methods of the FlIherles, Vol. I, pp. 543-552.
rMflBUIE 0o KEY WEBT. 41
East coast counties: Pounds.
St. John- .............-. 1,510
St. Lucie ----- 696 721
Palm Beach --------------------- 1, 493,319
Dade-...---- .-------------.- ---- 870,415
Total --------- -------------- 3,061,965
West coast counties:
BEcambia-------------------------------------- 124, 076
Bay --------- -------------- 508, 784
Calhoun---------- ------------- 19, 994
Wakulla-------------------- ----- -- 750
Levy ----------------------------------- 23,950
Pinellas -------------------- ------------- 8, 176
Manatee ------------------- 147,463
De Soto--------------------------- 278,355
Monroe------------------------------ 2, 065,276
Total---------, 435, 901
The total catch for the State of Florida was 6,497,866 pounds, with
a value to the fishermen of about 6 cents a pound. Practically the
entire catch of Monroe County was landed atKey West.
During each of the seasons 1918-19 and 1919-20 the first commer-
cial catch of Spanish mackerel was brought in to Key West on about
November 20. The season 1918-19 ended March 1, and only a few
fish were caught after that date. This, together with the small catch
for February, was partly due to a shortage of ice caused by the dis-
ability of the city's only ice plant. The catches, segregated accord-
ing to months, were as follows:
TABnL 5.-Catch of Spanish mackerel, by months, landed at Key West during
the seasons from 1918 to 1920.
Month. 19119 1919-20
November. .................................................... 000 7,00
December.............................................................. .... 4 000 0,00
January.................... ................................................ 1,14,200 908,800
ebru y...................................................................... 86,000 170000
March..................................... ................................ .......... ,000
Total................................. 1,734,00 2,322,000
Gill nets and purse seines are used for catching Spanish mackerel
in the vicinity of Key West. A few are caught with trolling lines,
but the catch from this source is small. At other points along the
coast, particularly in Virginia and North Carolina, a large part of
the catch is taken with pound nets. The gill net is more extensively
used than the purse seine. The usual net is 20 feet in depth, 150 to
175 yards in length, having a stretched mesh of 31 to 31 inches built
of 6-thread cotton seine twine and tarred. In the fishery several
shorter nets are joined together to form one 500 to 1,800 yards in
length, according to conditions and the facilities of the boat.
The boats employed are usually from 30 to 50 feet in length, gaso-
line driven, and of the open or half-cabin type. In order that fishing
may be done at night, a searchlight is carried on the bow. Most of
U. S. tDU1MAV OF FtaHMFFtE.
the fishing is done between sunset and sunrise, owing to the fact that
many more mackerel gill themselves in the darkness than in the day-
light, when they are able to see the net.
Gill netting appears to be an effective method of fishing, as a crew
of two men often makes large catches. Some of the fishermen work
independently, owning their own equipment, while others are at-
tached to an individual or company and are supplied with the neces-
sary boats and nets. At least one company that employs a small
fleet of boats has a houseboat, which is anchored in a protected local-
ity near the scene of operations and on which the men eat and sleep.
Racks for drying the nets are built on the roof of the houseboat.
The schools of fish are found at night by searchlight. When
located, the mackerel are surrounded as rapidly as possible, and the
direction of the net is indicated by lanterns mounted on cork floats
placed at convenient intervals along the cork line. After the fish
have been trapped the dories encircle the net, splashing the water to
frighten the fish into grilling themselves. Sometimes the boats enter
the inclosure to aaitate the fish. As the bottom of the net is entirely
open the fish could easily escape by sounding, but apparently the
greater part of them remain at the surface, where they either gill
themselves in the net or succeed in jumping over the top.
During the 1919-20 season Key West had only one purse-seine
boat, but several vessels came down from the mainland to operate in
the vicinity of the keys. The local vessel was 90 feet in length with
a 20-foot beam, and carried a crew of about 15 men. It was formerly
schooner rigged, but it had recently been overhauled by having its
topmasts removed and an auxiliary engine installed. The mackerel
purse seine is about 600 yards in length. The upper part of the seine
near the cork line is made of 83 to 3f inch stretched mesh, while the
bunt is of 8-inch mesh.
Purse seining is an effective method of fishing for Spanish mack-
erel, and large catches are often made. However, during the 1919-20
season the gill netters, because of their greater number, took the
major part of the catch.
The advantages of gill netting over purse seining, especially to
fishermen with small capital, are: (a) The gill netters can operate
with a small power boat and with a crew of two or three men,
whereas the purse seiners require a larger boat and more men. If one
company owns a number of gill-netting boats, these can operate in
several localities at the same time, and thus cover more territory with
the reasonable assurance that one or more of the boats will make a
good catch. (b) The cost of equipment and operation expenses is
smaller for the gill netters than for the purse sewers. When fishing
some distance from Key West, the catch of the gill netters is col-
lected by a run boat, which brings the fish to the city and saves the
fishermen much valuable time, and in addition the run boat trans-
ports necessary supplies and food. The purse-seine boats generally
bring their own fish to market and restock for the next trip. On
the other hand, the purse seiners sometimes make large catches that
prove very profitable.
In packing mackerel for shipment the fish are iced in barrels con-
taining 200 pounds net, and in shipping they are removed from the
market as quickly as possible to make room for subsequent receipts.
The fish are delivered by the fishermen with the entrails removed, and
FISHERIES OF KEY WEST.
at the markets they are washed, weighed, and immediately packed
for shipment. During the height of the season as many as 100,000
pounds of fish must be disposed of within one day in one fish house,
and considering the relatively few men who execute this work it
can only be accomplished by the speed, dexterity, and cooperation of
the entire force.
At times as many as 10 small boats are lined up at one of the fish
wharves waiting to dispose of their cargo. In unloading the fish
a 2-bushel basket is lowered into the boat, filled, hoisted to the dock,
and dumped into a wire-meshed, semicylindrical basket that rests in
a tub of water. In this basket they receive a superficial washing by
being raised and lowered several times in the tub of water. The
fish are then dumped on a large table, from which they are thrown on
a scale and weighed in 100-pound lots. A barrel with broken ice on
the bottom of it is always in readiness near the scale, and the fish are
packed so as to form alternate layers with the ice, which is added
as necessary. When 200 pounds of fish have been placed in a barrel
it is rolled away, the remaining space being filled with ice well
tamped. A wooden cover is nailed on, the barrel is properly con-
signed, and is then ready for shipment.
Most of the mackerel are shipped to points east of the Mississippi
River, New York being the principal market. As a rule a glut
seldom occurs on the market, but when heavy catches are received at
Key West and other points in Florida simultaneously the price tends
to drop until the heavy run is over. The fishermen receive a uniform
price throughout the season, which in 1919-20 was 6 cents per pound
to fishermen owning their own equipment and 31 cents to those who
were furnished equipment by the dealers. When the gill-net fisher-
men deliver their catch to the run boat that visits the fishing grounds,
a slight reduction-usually one-half cent a pound-in the price paid
is made. To the fish dealers the mackerel bring the highest prices
in November and March, when catches usually are smalL For a
number of seasons past a representative from Fulton Market, New
York, has been stationed in the largest fish house in Key West
where he supervises the packing and shipping of all fish consiged
to his market. 1e purchases probably one-half of the Key West
catch of mackerel. The quantity of mackerel sold to the local trade
in Key West is negligible.
Florida has the only special fishery for Spanish mackerel, al-
though in North Carolina about 100,000 pounds were caught with
gill nets during 1918. From New Jersey to North Carolina it is
caught in pound nets along with other species of fish. In Chesa-
peake Bay the first fish are caught in pound nets during the last
week in May or the first week in June. The fish leave the bay the
latter part of September or early in October.
The Florida spiny lobster (Panuirus argus) differs considerably
from the northern lobster (Homarus amerscanus), the chief differ-
ences visible at a glance being the very long legs, the long whiplike
antennae studded with spines, the spines of the cephalathorax, or
body, two of which protrude over the eyes like a pair of horns, and
the absence of the great claws. Its flesh has a delicate flavor, and it
U. 8. BUREAU OF FISHERIES.
is said to equal that of the northern lobster. Aside from being an im-
portant food for man, it is extensively used as bait by the hand-line
and fish-trap fishermen. Besides the name spiny lobster," this
crustacean is known as crawfish "sea crawfish langoustee," and
"rough, thorny, or rock lobster.' The name in general use among
the fishermen is crawfish, but dealers ship the animal under the
name Florida lobster." Spiny lobster is perhaps the most suitable
name, but for the sake of brevity the name crawfish has been most
generally used in this paper.
Within recent years the crawfish has found an important place
in the fishery industry of Key West. Shipments to Cuba and cities
of the eastern United States have steadily increased during the past
decade, whereas prior to 1910 few crawfish, if any, were sold outside
of the State.
For many years the crawfish has found a ready sale in the city of
Key West, and the price has been as low as 25 to 50 cents for one
dozen, according to the season and the weather. The retail price
during 1922 ranged from 75 cents to $3, with a general average of
$1.50 a dozen, depending upon the available supply. They are sold
at retail by the piece or by the dozen and are seldom weighed.
The average market size throughout the year is 9 to 10 inches in
length, exclusive of the long anteinme, and the weight of a 9-inch
crawfish is about 1 pound. The males grow larger than the females,
and adult males are heavier than females of the same size, partly
because of the longer legs. A comparison of the following weights
indicates the difference: Males, 8 inches, 10 ounces; 9 inches, 1
pound 1 ounce; 11 inches, 2 pounds. Females of these same sizes
weighed 10i ounces, 15) ounces, and 1 pound 11 ounces, respectively.
During two years of intensive market observations it was found that
the weights of about 99 per cent of the crawfish sold for food would
fall between the extremes of one-half and 6 pounds. Very small
crawfish are common in their natural habitat, but they are used only
for fish bait. Crawfish weighing more than 6 pounds are rarely
seen. The largest of which the Bureau of Fisheries has an authentic
record was caught the latter part of January, 1922, with hook and
line in 8 fathoms of water about 8 miles off the coast of Sarasota
County, Fla. This specimen, which weighed over 8 pounds when
caught and the total length of whose body and tail was 17 inches, is
now in the United States National Museum collection.
The crawfish is found close to shore, and most of the fishing is
carried on within a mile of land. Rocky reefs and their adjacent ter-
ritories are the most favorable fishing grounds. Its range in the
United States extends from Beaufort, N. C., to the Florida Keys,
principally on the Atlantic side, and among the islands of the Dry
Tortugas. However, it is not numerous enough north of Miami,
Fla., to be of commercial importance. Large numbers are reported
from the Bahama Islands, and it is known to occur as far south as
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A spiny lobster resembling P. argus in gen-
eral appearance is found on the Pacific coast, but it is of a distinct
The same type of boat is employed in the spiny-lobster fishery
as that used in the hand-line fishery. Fishing lines are always kept
aboard, so that if crawfish fishing proves unsuccessful the fishermen
may return to port with a fare of fish. All boats in the vicinity of
U. S. B. F.-Doc 962.
Fai. 23.-Spiny lobster (Panulirus argus).
U. S. B. F.-Doc. 962.
FIG. 21.-Spny-lobster trap, also utilized for catching stone crabs and fish.
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FISHERIES OF KEY VMT.
Key West are equipped with fish well which, according to their
size, may accommodate from several hundred to about 1,000 crawfish.
When using the bully net or the grains a small flatboat is utilized in
making the catch. The typical flatboat has a rather blunt bow, to
afford sufficient room for standing. This is an important feature, as
the operator always works in the extreme bow of the boat. Some
flatboats are equipped with a small fish well, but this is not absolutely
essential for crawfish fishing, as the catch can be deposited from time
to time in the well of the larger boat. Crawfish fishermen often
remain away for a week or more at a time and seldom leave port with
less than a 10-day supply of staple food products.
Three methods are employed in catching the crawfish-trapping,
"bullying," and striking. The method of trapping crawfish differs
in no special way from that used in trapping the northern lobster
(Homaru amercanus), except that the trap itself is of a distinct
type. The traps are handmade and are built of heavy galvanized
wire. It requires considerable skill to manufacture a good trap,
and in 1919 only one person made them for sale. The price at that
time was $7. The trap is somewhat elbow-shaped and measures
about 4 feet in length, 2 feet in width, and is 1 feet in depth. Craw-
fish, crabs, and fish can enter through an opemng made in the center
of the vertical apex. The traps are baited with fish and placed in
favorable localities, generally within 1 mile of the shore. Buoys
are usually attached to the offshore traps, but are dispensed with
when fishing is done near land in shallow water. The traps are
lifted every morning when the weather is favorable. The crawfish
are taken out through a small door located on the upper part of the
trap. Stone crabs and fish are often caught along with the crawfish;
the crabs and larger fish are retained for market, while the smaller
fish are used to rebait the traps. The principal advantages of trap
fishing for crawfish are (a) one fisherman can work alone and inde-
pendently, (b) the traps will fish in deep water where at times most
of the crawfish migrate, and (o) fishing can be done during moder-
ately heavy weather when other methods of crawfish fishing are
While trap fishing is somewhat of a success on a small scale, as
yet no one has specialized in this method. It is not uncommon to
catch from 6 to 15 good-sized crawfish in one trap over night, while
4 per trap might be considered a very fair average The fishermen
do not lift their traps during periods of rough weather, and at
times they remain down for a week or more. When lifted at the
termination of such a period, they do not contain many more craw-
fish if any, than if they had been down but one night, and it is
evident that some of them must escape after being trapped. Ac-
cording to the fishermen, the disadvantages of trap fishing are the
high cost of the traps and the labor required for making them,
the frequent repairs that are necessary when corrosion begins, the
loss of traps through storms, theft, or otherwise, and the fact that
they must continually be baited with fish.
"Bully fishing for crawfish is done chiefly at night. Two men
generally work together, but some fishermen work alone and in-
dependently. Besides the small flatboat, the necessary equipment
consists of a bully net and a lantern. The bully net resembles a
long-handled dip net, but differs in having the iron hoop placed at
U. L BUREAU OF 113N5315.
right angles to the pole. The pole is 12 feet or more in length,
and the pocket of the net is about 24 inches deep. The lantern
is placed m a glass case as a protection from the wind and is set in
the bow of the boat.
When a "bully" fisherman discovers a crawfish crawling on the
bottom he gives his partner directions for maneuvering the boat to
a point of vantage, whereupon the bully net is carefully but swiftly
placed over the crawfish. With due caution the animal can be
approached without its becoming alarmed, but upon the slightest
touch of the net it makes a desperate'effort to escape. The hoop
of the net must entirely surround the crawfish and touch upon
even bottom or the animal will escape. When the crawfish finds
that it can not escape beneath the hcop it thrusts itself back into
the bunt of the net, and it is then that the fisherman raises the net to
the surface with the crawfish secure in the bunt, which hangs over
the side of the hoop. A fisherman working alone must push his
boat along with the bully pole and is at a great disadvantage,
especially n a strong tide.
During the course of a night one boat may capture as many as a
thousand crawfish, but frequently only a few dozen are taken. The
average catch probably ranges between 50 and 100.
Striking is perhaps the most productive as well as destructive
method of at g crawfish. The weapon used, known locally as
the grains," is a two-tined barbed spear, each prong being about
8 inches long. By means of a ferrule it fits on the end ofa ole
15 feet or more in length. This fishing is pursued in the date
and when the sea is smooth. The crawfish, which can umally be
distinguished by its long whiplike antenna protruding from the
shelter of a rock or sponge, is located by the use of a water glass.*
By touching the antenna the animal is usually frightened from its
shelter, and at the crucial moment it is speared with the grains
Many badly injured animals escape and soon die, while most of
those caught do not survive long, and if the fishermen remain out
too long a part of their catch isliable to spoil and can not be used
as food. This method of fishing, therefore, is destructive and
Several Key West dealers ship relatively large quantities of craw-
fish out of the city. The principal markets are hotels and restau-
rants located in Miami, Jacksonville, Atlanta, Washington, Phila-
delphia, New York, and Boston. The restaurants utilize the craw-
fish to prepare various fancy dishes calling for lobster meat other
than in the shell. For long-distance shipments two methods are em-
ployed in preparing crawfish-some are shipped alive and some are
shipped after being cooked.
When shipping live crawfish they are carefully packed in sugar
barrels. They must not be overcrowded, and therefore not more
than 6 dozens are placed in one container. A substantial layer of
ice is first placed in the bottom of a barrel, and on the ice is put a
layer of sponge clippings-a waste material obtained when prepar-
aA water IaM such as is aed in the Key West spon and crawfish fisher Is t ap
a wooden bucket, the bottom of which has been repacd by all oat beag e
watergt. It used wbhe the water is c and the bottcould not other be
seen. The operator holds It In the water with one hand, Usts his bet Into t pal.
and wtth the other hand holds his I meant of cat whether it be mto or
gratel. In vte roueh water it can Mot s be cameW ee o thbe veioat the boat.
FISHEBIES OF KEY WEST.
ing sponges for the market. The crawfish are then'placed in a single
ayer on the sponge and covered with more clippings and ice. Thus,
when completely packed, a barrel contains alternate layers of ice,
sponge, crawfish, and sponge The sponge clippings are used to
absorb moisture and to keep the crawfih from direct contact with
the ice. The barrels are conspicuously marked re-ice," and it is
sometimes necessary for transportation companies to re-ice a ship-
ment several times when it is consigned to a distant point.
During the experimental stage of shipping live crawfish many of
them were received in a spoiled condition, and it was thought that
shipments could not be made with profit. It developed, however,
that the most unsatisfactory shipments were caused by poor packing,
and by experimenting the system just described was established and
reduced losses to a minimum. It is very important that the craw-
fish be handled with great care from the time they are removed from
the water until they reach their final destination. No injured craw-
fish are shipped alive, which fact excludes all those captured with
More crawfish are shipped in a cooked state than alive. More labor
is required to prepare cooked crawfish, but shipping losses are very
small and considerable packing space is saved by the elimination of
the waste parts of the animal Crawfish that are to be shipped in
the cooked state are prepared as follows: The live animals are placed
in a steam cooker and cooked until they are sufficiently well done to
be eaten. After they have cooled sufficiently to be handled with
unprotected hands the abdomen, or tail, is removed and the remainder
of the animal is thrown away. The tail is split open and the meat
is removed from the shell. Four or five tails are placed in a No. 2
friction-top can, which is perforated with small holes to admit air.
These cans are then packed in a slack barrel, iced as in the case of
fish, and are ready for shipment. A standard barrel contains 64
cans of 105 pounds net weight, representing the meat of 24 dozen
crawfish. The barrels, however, vary somewhat in the weight of the
crawfish they contain. One dealer dispenses with the cans entirely
and packs the tails, without removing the shell, in barrels with an
abundance of broken ice. He has used this method for a number of
years with satisfactory results.
The trap and bully furnish the most select crawfish and the only
ones that can be retained in captivity or shipped alive for long dis-
tances. Fortunately for the industry, many of the fishermen and
most of the dealers look with disfavor upon the striking" of craw-
fish. The abdomen or tail of a struck "crawfish usually removed
from the body before it is cooked, and by this operation much space
is saved in the cooking kettle or pot. Oin to the rapid deteriora-
tion of the flesh it is a question, however, wether this practice is a
good one, as crawfish lobsters, and crabs are in the best condition
when killed in the cooking process.
No crawfish are cannedin Key West at the present time (March,
1920). Several attempts to do so have been made during the past 10
years, all of which failed because of the tendency the meat has of
turning dark. It is believed, however that by experimenting along
these lines and carefully studying the methods used in canning
shrimp, lobsters, and crabs that the crawfish can be successfully
U. S. BUBRAU OF FISHBBIBS.
canned. It'is very probable that properly canned crawfish could
readily establish itself on the market.
Because of the large numbers of crawfish used for fish bait it is
difficult to estimate the annual catch with much exactness. The ap-
proximate catches made in previous years are as follows: 1895, 157,-
500 pounds; 1897, 161,500 pounds; 1902, 57,664 pounds; 1918, 845,518
pounds. During the month of December, 1918, shipments sent out
under the trade name of Florida lobsters totaled about 500 barrels.
This amount established a record up to that time, but this record was
exceeded several times during 1919. During the year 1919 about
300,000 crawfish, weighing approximately 875,000 pounds, were
caught. Of these about 40 per cent were shipped, 40 per cent were
consumed locally, and 20 per cent were used as bait by the fishermen.
On September 10, 1919, a severe hurricane visited Key West, wreck-
ing many of the boats and paralyzing the fishing industry for sev-
eral weeks; but for this incident the catch of crawfish would have
reached 400,000 pounds.
The crawfish is taken at all seasons of the year, but the period of
greatest abundance is from November to June. Most of the spawn-
ing, occurs during the spring and summer, but occasional eggbearers
are found as late as early winter. Unlike the northern lobster
(Homarue americaws), whose eggs are-carried for about 10 months
before hatching, the incubation period of the eggs of the Florida
spiny lobster is only about three weeks.
Large numbers of crawfish congregate along the shores during the
spring for the purpose of spawning, and they are easily captured
there. To conserve the supply of crawfish, the State of Florida has
enacted a law, approved May 23, 1919, and effective for the first time
during 1920, protecting the crawfish during the principal part of its
spawning season. The text of this law is as follows:
Stcnow 1. It shall be unlawful for any peron, firm, or corporation, or asso-
ciation of persons to take or catch any salt-water crawfish from the waters
of the State of Florida for commercial purposes, or to have in their, or its,
possession between the first day of March and the first day of June of any
year: Provided, That salt-water crawfish may be caught or taken at any time
for purposes of bait, for catching fsh, or for purposes of propagation or re-
search by any State or biological station.
Sic. 2. It shall be unlawful for any common carrier, agent, or employee of
such carrier to receive for carriage or permit the carriage of any such craw-
fish between the first day of March and the first day of June of any year.
Sac. 8. Any person, persons, firm, or corporation, or association of persons
violating any provision of this act shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and
upon conviction shall be punished by a fine of not more than two hundred and
ffty ($250) dollars, or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than
six months, or both.
The future of the crawfish industry appears to be promising. A
large commercial enterprise could hardly be supported by the de-
mands of southern Florida, but there is almost unlimited opportunity
for expansion by introducing this delicacy into the hotel and restau-
rant trade and even as a familiar object in the fishmonger's store.
The crawfish has already been put to the test and has been accepted
by some of the foremost epicures in this country.
At the present time one of the chief drawbacks to the crawfish
industry is the irregularity of the supply owing to weather condi-
tions. During windy weather, with its resultant high seas, it is im-
practicable to bully or strike crawfish and the small catch of the
FIBSEBIES OF KEY WEST.
traps at such times is usually insufficient to supply even local de-
mands. Thus it happens that at times dealers are unable to secure
a good supply for one or two weeks at a time. While crawfish can
be retained in live boxes for long periods of time, it appears that
dealers do not make a practice of accumulating large supplies.
The Florida stone crab (Menippe mercenary) is the only species
of crab that is of commercial importance in southern Florida. It
is found from Beaufort, N. C., to Matagorda Bay, Tex., and has
been recorded from Yucatan. A closely related species (M. nodi-
frons) is found from Cuba throughout the West Indies to Brazil,
with a single record from Cameron, La.
Judging from the small numbers to be seen in the markets through-
out the year, the stone crab is not found in great abundance. The
flesh of this crab may, indeed, be considered a delicacy, and it is
doubtful if there is any animal caught among the Florida keys that
surpasses it in excellence. The fishery is pursued almost entirely
with traps, although a few crabs are caught by hand and with nets.
Stone crabs do not necessarily inhabit rocky places, and they are
frequently found on bottoms of sand, marl, or clay, and among
corals, sponges, and other bottom growths.
These crustaceans are caught throughout the year, but the most
favorable fishing obtains during February, March, and April. They
are found rather near the shore and generally not farther than 1
mile from land. Very few fishermen specialize in catching crabs,
and most of those caught are taken incidently with crawfish. Dur-
ing periods of stormy weather when the traps are inaccessible the
markets are sometimes without crabs Unlike the crawfish, stone
crabs are not shipped out of the State, but during the winter small
numbers are supplied to seaside hotels in southern Florida.
When the weather is favorable the Key West catch varies from
about 10 to 50 dozens a day during the winter and spring season,
but no doubt more could be caught if they were more keenly sought
after. The estimated annual catch of.crabs is recorded for the fol-
lowing years: 1895, 4,680; 1902, 8,160; 1918, 18,400; and 1919, 22,000.
Small crabs, measuring about 3 inches in width across the carapace,
sell at retail for about $1 a dozen, while those 4 or more inches in
width bring from $1.50 to $2. The size of the claws, rather than
the size of the body, determines the value of the crab, for the body
meat is not eaten except in the very largest ones, because of the
tedious process of picking out the edible parts. Large crabs with
small claws are therefore classed with the small animals, and those
without claws are returned to the water without injury. It is not
unusual to find large crabs with claws weighing nearly half a pound
each. The maximum size attained by the stone crab is about 6
inches in width across the carapace. Since they have no large
lateral spines, such as the blue crab has, an individual of this size
with its great claws is larger than might be supposed. A crab hav-
ing a carapace 4.8 inches in width was found to weigh 18.ounces,
and one of 5.1 inches weighed 1 pound and 8 ounces. These speci-
mens both possessed claws of normal size.
U. S. NUULAU OF FINHI.
Stone crabs do not live long out of water and on a warm day
probably would not survive more than several hour. When dead
they deteriorate very rapidly, and in preparing them as food they
shoud by all means be killed in the cooking process. Stone crabs,
however, can be held in captivity for a long time, as a number were
retained in pens at the Key West biological station for over two
years, when they were finally lost in a hurricane.
Key West is one of the principal markets for marine turtles in
the United States. Three speces are seen in the markets-the green
turtle (Chelonia myda the loggerhead (Thalassohels caretta),
and the hawksbill (C. imbricat).
The green turtle is by far the most important, the loggerhead is
considered inferior and is eaten only by the fishermen, while the
hawksbill is scarce and used only for its shell Most of the turtles
are brought in by foreign boats, making Key West principally a
receiving station from which the turtles are forwarded to other mar-
kets in ftis country.
The green turtle inhabits the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans,
its preference being for the tropical and subtropical parts, although
it sometimes strays to the northern part of the Temperate Zone.
It is found in greatest abundance about the island of Ascension, the
West Indies, and the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua, between latitudes
11 80' and 140 10' N.
The three external characteristics by which the green turtle may
be distinguished from the loggerhead are the front flippers, head,
and coloration. The green turtle has but one nail on each of its
two front flippers, its head is considerably smaller than that of the
loggerhead, and the color of the carapace or back is not uniform
but may be a mixture of olive, olive green, and brown, which is
usually mottled or streaked with yellow, somewhat rsembling that
of the hawksbill Pleasing designs are often found, although the
carapace is not used commercially in Key West. The under parts
are pale yellowish. The turtle gets its name from the green color
of its fat. At the present day the maximum size is 4 fet, with a
weight of about 500 pounds, but examples weighing over 800 pounds
are seldom taken. In its natural habitat this turtle is herbivorous,
feedingon algi and turtle weed, but in captivity it is said to show
a preference for fb.
The egg-laying period is from April to July, at which time the
female leaves the water to deposit her eggs on a sandy beach above
the high-water mark and in a locality that receives the sun's rays.
With her flippers she scoops a hole in the sand, 12 to 18 inches in
depth, and alter depositing her eggs replaces the sand, instinctively
leaving the nest almost undetectable to the eye. This is accomplished
by crawling over the freshly filled-in sand and blinding her trail
so that the identity of the act is lost. A female is said to deposit
about 100 or more eggs in a nest and to repeat this act two or three
times during the several months of the egg-laying period. Many
turtles are captured after they have come ashore to lay their eggs.
U. S. B. F.-Doc 962.
Fro. 23.-Stone crab (Menippi mercenarfa).
U. S. B. F.-Doc. 962.
FIt;. 24.-Green turtle (Chtlunia mydas). (Illustration taken from "l eptilrs of the World," by R. I,. Ditmars. Courtesy of Doubleday, Page & Co.)
U. S. B. F.-Doc. 962.
I'lo. 25.-Loggcrhead turtle ( Thalassochelyacareta). (Illustration taken from Ieptiles of the World," by t1. L. Ditmiirs. Courtesy of
Doubklday, Page & Co.)
"~I' Q" ";'
FISMBERES OF KEY WEST. 51
There is but one dealer in Key West who buys green turtles, and
besides making shipments to the north he operates a small soup
The turtles are landed by fishing schooners known as "turtle
boats" most of which fly the British flag. As soon as they are re-
ceived in Key West the turtles are placed in a turtle crawl. This
crawl--the only one in this region-is an inclosure of about 40 by 70
feet, which is surrounded by palmetto logs placed close together in
water 15 feet in depth. It is divided into a number of smaller
crawls in order that the turtles may be separated into different size
groups. In these pens or crawls the turtles will live for a long time,
and there is practically no loss to the dealer through mortality. As
many as 800 turtles occasionally are held in captivity at one time.
Most of the turtles are landed during the spring and early sum-
mer which is the egg-laying season. During May, 1919, five vessels
landed 1,250 green turtles in Key West, each cargo containing from
225 to 300 animals. Many more were received throughout the summer,
but by the end of November deliveries practically ceased. Very few
turtles are received from December to March, but a good supply is
kept on hand in the late fall to last throughout the winter. It is
estimated that 170,000 pounds of green turtles were landed in Key
West during 1919.
To remove a turtle from the crawl, a loop of manila rope is
dropped into the water for the purpose of catching the flipper of a
turtle when the animals come to the surface to breathe. When a
flipper has been thus caught, the rope is at once made taut and several
men haul the turtle up to the .dock, where it is turned over on its
back to prevent its escape and the rope is removed.
Turtles that are used for canning purposes are slaughtered on the
turtle dock. Each day during the greater part of the year five or
six are killed at 3.30 p. m., at which time an inspector is present to
see that the butchering is done in a sanitary manner. No turtles are
killed until the desired number has been removed from the pens and
laid about 1 foot apart on the dock. Then one person takes a sharp
ax and strikes the head and four flippers off each turtle, going from
one to the other with great rapidity. In each case the appendages
are almost completely severed, allowing the animals to bleed freely.
Immediately after the axman finishes, two men commence cutting
away the plastron and then remove the entrails. During the opera-
tion sea water is thrown over the carcasses to wash away the blood
and slime. The edible portions of the turtle are removed in four
large pieces, each of which contains one of the flippers. The flesh
is cut away from the carapace and thrown into a barrel of sea
water, where it is thoroughly washed. It is then taken to the can-
nery, where it is hung on hooks and allowed to remain over night
for use the next day. The following day a small portion of the meat
may be sold for local consumption, but the greater part is used in
preparing canned turtle soup.
At least one prominent chef has stated that the carapace is one of
the best parts of the green turtle for the making of soup, but the
Key West cannery disposes of that part as well as the plastron and
entrails by dumping them into the sea some distance from shore.
During May, June, and July the females contain eggs in various
stages of development, which greatly enhances their value, as there
IT. S. S1XRflAtt oP lOF lSFlhS.
is a great demand for the eggs. The white or mature eggs sell for
25 cents a dozen, while the yellow or immature ones bring about 50
cents a pound and are considered a great delicacy. The turtle has
two ovaries, and the immature eggs are found in a large cluster in
each one. The mature eggs, which are somewhat smaller than a
golf ball, are found practically unattached inside the ovaries and
have tough parchmentlike shells, which will not break even though
the eggs are thrown down with force. A female is said to contain
from 6 to 80 pounds of eggs, according to its size and condition.
The smaller turtles are shipped alive to the North, as they com-
mand a somewhat higher price per pound than do the larger ones.
The following quotations are taken from the New York wholesale
market prices of December 29, 1919: Turtles (green) under 100
pounds, 18 cents per pound; 100 to 150 pounds, 17 cents; 150 to 200
pounds, 16 cents; over 200 pounds, 13J cents. New York, however,
obtains only a part of its green turtles from Key West, for many
are brought by steamship direct from the West Indies and Central
In preparing turtles for shipment on the coastwise steamships the
four flippers are pierced and tied together, and the animals are
placed back down. This method of shipping turtles has been
branded as cruel, but it appears to be a necessity. The piercing of
the flippers, however, is not absolutely essential. Because the marine
turtles live almost entirely in the water the plastron is developed in
such a way that it is not capable of sustaining the weight of the
body without injuring the internal organs Placing a green or a
loggerhead turtle in its "natural" position when out of water re-
sults in pressure from the plastron against the lungs, causing death
The loggerhead turtle is recorded from all tropical and subtropical
seas. The writer has observed one in New York Bay one off Lon
Island, and several off the New Jersey coast. Since the loggeea
turtle is of much less commercial value than the green turtle, it has
been fished for less aggressively, and for that reason it is probably
the more abundant of te two.
The front flippers of the loggerhead are supplied with two nails,
except occasionally in old examples, which have but one. The head
of the loggerhead turtle is larger than that of the green turtle. The
color of the carapace is usually a uniform brown, but sometimes it
is faintly marked with yellow. The under parts are yellowish.
Loggerheads weighing more than 700 pounds are comparatively rare,
the usual size ranging between 40 and 400 pounds. This turtle is
mostly carnivorous in its habits, but is said to feed also on a certain
grass that fishermen call "turtle weed."
Most of the egg laying takes place during May and June. During
the egg laying season one female, according to size and condition,
may lay from 50 to 1,000 eggs. The eggs, which hatch in from
six to eight weeks, are deposited in the same manner as those of the
green turtle. The loggerhead is strictly a marine animal and, like
the green turtle, the female forsakes the sea only to lay her eggs.
The loggerhead turtle is fairly plentiful in Florida waters, but
it is most abundant on the southwest coast. Compared with the
green turtle its value is slight, but it is utilized for food to some
IJIUIEKIS or KRY WEST.
extent in the small fishing villages, and it is not infrequently found
in the markets of certain large cities.
Two methods are employed in catching both the green and the
loggerhead turtle in the vicinity of Key est-netting and pegging.
There are well recognized localities that turtles are known to fre-
quent in search of food, and it is at these places that the turtle
fishermen look for them. The senses of smell and taste appear to
be well developed, and they will travel long distances in search of
their favorite food and feeding grounds.
In netting turtles a large-meshed net is used, and when one or more
turtles are discovered in one locality the net is set in a straight line
at a favorable place to intercept their progress As all turtles must
rise to the surface for air at more or less frequent intervals they are
very liable to be seen in smooth water, and on calm days they can be
located several hundred feet away by the sound made when they
forcibly exhale air at the surface. While a turtle can not gill itself
as fish do, the net nevertheless acts very much in the manner of a
gill net. Upon striking the net the turtle usually becomes entangled
in the meshes by its head and flippers, and after a futile struggle it
rises to the surface where the fishermen are ready to haul it aboard
their dory. Some of the turtles, of course, avoid the net, and others
that strike it fail to become entangled, but a large percentage of
those that strike the meshes are captured.
Pegging turtles is somewhat similar to spearing swordfish. A
sm sharp barbed spear, to which a line is attached, is fitted loosely
on a staff, and upon approaching within a suitable distance of the
turtle the spear is plunged into its back. The spearhead usually sep-
arates from the staff when it becomes embedded in the back of the
turtle, and the animal is held by the line. If the spear is firmly
embedded, the capture of the animal in a short time is assured.
Fishermen living in isolated places and who desire turtles for food
usually employ this method.
In the West Indies and off Central America the greater part of
the catch is made during the egg-laying period in the spring, when
the turtles are captured on sandy beaches upon which the females
have emerged for the purpose of laying their eggs. The marine
turtles are poorly equipped for travel on land, and their movements
are slow and laborious. or this reason if carefully approached they
are easily captured, and by being placed on their backs they are ren-
dered helpless to escape.
The hawksbill turtle is found in the Gulf of Mexico and in the
West Indies southward to Brazil. This species is easily recognized
by its small size and hard, imbricated shields, of which there are 13
large ones normally surrounded by 24 marginal plates. The carapace
shields overlap each other like shingles on a roof, differing in this
respect from the green and loggerhead turtles whose shields are
smooth. The fore and hind flippers each have two nails, and the
horny covers of the jaws form a sharp hooked beak, from which the
name "hawksbill" is derived. The carapace of the adult is beauti-
fully mottled with yellow on a dark brown background. The tor-
toise shell of commerce is obtained from the carapace of this turtle.
The shields can be fused by pressure and heat to form pieces of any
V. a. bUrakU OF SHERIS.
The hawksbill turtle is too scarce about Key West to be considered
of much commercial importance. The shells of the few that are
caught by local fishermen are kept or sold as novelties. The size of
those that are seen ranges from 10 to 15 inches, measured over the
longest distance of the back In Key West these turtles bring from
$1.0 to $10 each, according to the size and condition of the plates.
The largest specimen of which there is a record measured 4 inches.
Detailed accounts of the Florida sponge fishery have already been
published,4 and therefore the subject wil be treated only very briefly
m this paper. The old methods of buying, selling and packing
sponges used 80 and 40 years ago are still m vogue, an the fi
to-day is much the same as it was many years ago. The publication
by Dr. H. F. Moore gives an exhaustive account of the sponge fish-
eries and has been drawn upon liberally in securing data for this
orilda sponges had a limited domestic use among the inhabitants
as far back as the early part of the nineteenth century, or soon after
Key West was settled m 1822. It was not until 1849, however, that
these sponges became of commercial value. In that year a cargo of
sponges was sent to New York on a venture and resulted in the grad-
ual building up of this industry in Florida.
Until 1891 Key West held almost an absolute monopoly of the trade
in the United States, but at that time a small sponge mart was
established at Tarpon Springs. Because of more advantageous local
conditions, the waning of the catch on the Key grounds, and especially
because of the development of diving for sponges, Tarpon Springs
has become the leading sponge center, relegating Key West to a poor
Table 6 shows the extent of the sponge fishery' on the Gulf Coast
of Florida for the years indicated, from 1895 to 1918. The weights
used are taken after the sponges have been cleaned and dried and
before they are baled for shipment. The average weights of different
grades are as follows: Glove, wire, and yellow, each l pounds per
bunch; grass and large wool, 2 pounds per bunch; small wool, 1
pound per bunch.
TAB I &--Quantity and vklue of sponges taken on the Gulf coast of Flor4da
in oertn years from 1895 to 1918.
18 m l 1100 0 1918
a Pg__ns V Pamd Valu. PPen e Value. Pound Value. Ponds Value.
Spwol..... 272 1W B WO 181 s au 3a 8 TWii 7, 8 ,B7B7
Yellow.......... 11, 790' 3 18 ,02 1G ,4 4404t 7S,787 1118 C13 2187
aGrm.......... ,387 6,464 3,1a M 116I ,m Ia M7 i 1N
Othnr.......... 16 S 1,0 ,171 1 2 B 817 ,346 02
Toral ......,10 mi s, s, a, 2o 6 s,10 8 ase se sB M43 m18s 7aU
Comminreel Spong and the SpoUge riseria By H. F. Moore. Buletdn, U. 8.
Bureau of berl.VoL XXVIII. 19=S (1910) Part I. B. P. Doe. No. 667.
lary Indutri of the United States. Report of the Drlvion of Stattiics and
Metbod of the lbaherle for 1919. By Lewis Raddllffe. Apendix X Report U. S. Com-
f-iamer ot Fiserie Sor 1919 (1921), pp. 160-161. B.. Doe. No. S9.
FIBRERnIE OF KEY WEST.
TAazi 7.-Relative importance of Key West and Tarpon Springs as sponge
centers from 1888 to 1918.
1888 Is 117 1900 1902 1918
Loaty. Num-. Per Nm.I Per Ne-aI Per N0m- Per Num- Per Num- Per
bertf at d bearf lad t berf at t d er b at ber of t of ber of otof
Sd towa totwl p-a totld -ond" total padjtotal WWpoaa tow
0t40. Odr L eth. bOd eeltch. aisL Q&catch bided. tch. aadd tch.
xWe S088 N s 372 2 927O00 82 M l 86 W,841 77 107,743 24
S ............ A, 5 ,000 16 A,17 138 7,218 19 445 78
... 404 4,640 S 508 1 1 4 ...............
In 1919 the quantity of sponges sold at the Tarpon Springs ex-
change amounted to 424075 pounds, valued at $707,964, and in 1920
the quantity sold was 409,746 pounds, valued at $678"209. The catch
at Key West for these years is not available, but it is probable that
it did not exceed 125,000 pounds for either year.
In 1921 the quantity of sponges sold at the sponge exchange, Tar-
pon Springs, Fla., was 386,890 pounds, valued at $540,093, of which
178,723 pounds, valued at $463,170 were large wool; 63,786 pounds,
valued at $28,705, small wool; 70,218 pounds, valued at 30,428,
yellow; 65,745 pounds, valued at $12,623, grass; and 12,918 pounds,
valued at $5,167, wire. The prices of the small wool sponges were so
low in the latter part of 1920 that several thousand bunches were
held over for sale in 1921. For this reason the 1921 totals were larger
than for the preceding year. It is estimated that sponges amounting
in value to $40,000 were sold outside of the exchange at Tarpon
In 92 the quantity of sponges sold at the sponge exchange, Tar-
pon Springs, was 526,885 pounds, valued at $699,092, of which
248,475 pounds, valued at $596,199 were large wool; 70,478 pounds,
valued at $42,286, small wool; 115,455 pounds, valued at $37,637,
yellow; 84892 pounds, valued at $20,879, grass; and 7,585 pounds,
valued at $,588, wire. It is estimated that sponges to the value of
$50,000 were sold outside of the exchange at Tarpon Springs.
The principal kinds of sponges brought into Key West, in the order
of their importance, are the sheepswool, yellow and grss. These
are divided into numerous subvarieties and grades. Glove sponges,
although generally common throughout the Florida keys, have but
a small commercial value and are sold only in limited quantities.
Other kinds, such as velvet and wire sponges, are of minor importance
in the Key West market.
"The sponging grounds as at present developed are broadly di-
vided into two widely separated areas-the 'bay grounds,' lying in
the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico from about Johns Pass to St.
Marks, and the 'key grounds,' stretching along and among the reefs
and keys from Cape Florida to Boca Grande Key." (Moore, 1908.)
Doctor Moore states further that "the grounds as exploited and
*WIry Indutries of the United State o of the Divislon of Flabery Indus-
ti for 1921. B Lewis Badclffe. Appendix Report, U. S. Commissioner t4 Flab-
Sor 1922 (19). p. 70. B. P. Doe. No. 9.
Flbery Industrie of the United Statea Report of the Division of Fishery Industries
for 1922. By Harden F. Tlor. Appendix V, Report, U. S. Commissioner of Fiaheries
tor 1928 p. 68. B. Doe No. 95.
V. B. 3V31&U or FUNUMUs.
worked by the hookers up to the time of the introduction of diving
apparatus, in April, 1905, covered an area of 4,50 square miles, of
which the bay grounds contained about 3,400 and the key grounds
about 950 square miles. It must not be considered, however, that all
of this area is productive, for, on the contrary, the actual sponge-
producing bottom in any given field is far less than the barren areas
with which it is mingled." Since the introduction of diving a con-
siderable area has been added to the sponge grounds, because opera-
tions can be carried on at greater depths.
In Florida two methods are used in gathering sponges-diving and
hooking. A sponge-diver's outfit generally consists of a schooner of
between 10 and 20 tons register and one or two machine boats. The
schooner is used as living quarters for the crew and a place of de-
posit for the sponges. The machine boats carry the usual diving ap-
paratus and are of the Greek type, with high bows and sterns. The
diving dress consists of a helmet, rubber suit, breastplate, shoes, and
weights. Generally seven to nine men are carried, consisting of a
captain, deckhand, cook, and a diving crew. The great majority of
divers' boats operate from Tarpon Springs.
The divers generally operate at a depth of 60 feet or less and re-
main down for about two hours at a time. As there are two divers
to a boat, each man works about two hours and rests for a like
period. At greater depths the working time is shorter and the rests
longer. The sponges are gathered by hand and placed in a -net
basket, which is pulled to the surface from time to time to be
emptied. The divers often work in places that are inaccessible to
the "hookers," and it is probable that the sponges found in such
localities could not be obtained by any other method. The daily
catch varies considerably, but it usually averages from 10 to 15
bunches for each boat. Occasionally a prolific bed is found, result-
ing in a catch of 40 or 50 bunches in one day. The boats often re-
main away for one to two months, but sometimes a good catch is
made in one week.
The Key West fishermen use the sponge hook almost exclusively.
Prior to 1905 all sponges in this country were taken with hooks.
but diving has proven so much superior that the old method is now
of small importance in the fishery.
The sponge hook has the one advantage that it can be used by one
or two men and at practically no expense. The hook is attached
to a pole of convenient length and has three tines bent at right angles
to the handle, so that a sponge may be lifted perpendicularly from
the bottom. The typical hook fisherman has a sloop 25 to 40 feet
long on which he lives and a 12 or 14 foot dory in which he works
Sails are generally depended upon in going to and from the grounds,
as only a few of the boats used are equipped with auxiliary engines.
The hook fisherman usually operates among the keys where the
water is clear and about 6 to 16 feet in depth. Except when the
water is very smooth a sponge glass (that is, a wooden bucket with a
glass bottom) is used for locating the sponges. When two men
work together, the hooker remains m the bow with the sponge glass
and directs his companion in the movements of the boat. Sometimes
one man works independently, in which case he weights the stern of
the dory with iron and propels the boat by pushing on the bottom
PI8H ERIES OF KEY WEST.
with his sponge hook. It is seldom that a fisherman working alone is
able to use the sponge glass.
A few larger boats of the small schooner type engage in hooking.
Two or three dories are carried, each of which is manned by two
men. Fishing is done in water ranging from 12 to 30 feet in depth,
necessitating long poles that are difficu to handle.
When removing sponges from the bottom care must be taken not
to mutilate them. Sometimes they are firmly attached, and the
sponge hook either fails to dislodge them or tears them in such a way
that their value is materially reduced. The diver, since he gathers
them by hand, is able to take most of his sponges in perfect condition.
The sponge as an article of commerce is merely the skeleton of the
living animal and is of very different appearance than when first
removed from the water. When first taken, it is a comparatively
heavy mass of living matter, most of the porousness of the market
sponge being filled with live animal tissue. The color of live com-
mercal sponges is usually dark brown or black.
After the sponges have been taken aboard the deposit boat they
are laid on deck, where they undergo a three or four day exposure to
the air to kill all of the living tissue. In this state decomposition
sets in and some of the liquid organic matter drains away. It is
advantageous to shade the sponges, or the sun will quickly dry the
outside skin and render the subsequent cleaning more diffcult.
After sufficient exposure the sponges are beaten with a short heavy
club to loosen the remaining skin, dead tissue, and foreign matter.
They are then strung on strong cord and thrown overboard, where
they are allowed to remain for several days to macerate by the action
of the tide. Another method of cleansing sponges by tide action is
to place them in crawls. Crawls are small inclosures made with
stakes set closely together in shallow water generally very near to
shore. "Usually on Friday night the vessels run in to the crawls,
and Saturday is spent in crawling' the dead sponges of the recent
catch and cleaning those deposited on the Saturday previous."
With a dull knife the remaining particles of the outside skin are
scraped off, and with a stout club the small pieces of shell, coral, and
other matter, together with the remaining dead tissue, are pounded
out of the skeleton. Finally, water is taken up and squeezed through
them a number of times, and after being strung in bunches they are
ready for the auction market.
Sheepswool sponges caught on the Key grounds are usually small
in size and of weak fiber as compared to those taken in the deeper
water of the bay grounds. Inferior sponges can be distinguished
readily by the red-brown color of the inner fiber. In some sponges
this reddening is found only at the root, but in the most inferior it
penetrates well into the body. The best quality sponges are of a
grayish hue throughout, although some may show a reddish spot at
the point of attachment to the ocean bed. The color itself is one of
the least important factors in determining the value of a sponge,
however. A fine sponge is determined by the following characteris-
tics: Size and shape, softness, fineness, toughness and durability, re-
siliency and absortiveness.
The fishermen sel their catch by the bunch--a piece of cord 4j feet
in length being strung with sponges placed end to end. As far as
58 U. 8. BUBA. o F IHIXBBS.
practicable, sponges of the same grade and size are bunched together.
In order to display them to the best advantage they are dampened
and laid out on the sponge wharf, where they may be critically
examined by the buyers.
The method of selling is rather unique. The auction is carried on
in comparative silence, as the buyers are men of experience and
require no advice as to the value of the various lots of sponges. The
hour before the sale is spent by the buyers in examnimg the mer-
chandise and making note of the highest price they will pay per
bunch for each of the various lots. During the sale the auctioneer
announces the number of bunches in the lot being offered and re-
ceives the offer of each bidder written on a small piece of folded
paper. The highest bidder is awarded the sponges without argu-
ment, providing the owner considers the amount sufficient No more
ceremony enters into a $5,000 sale than in one of $5. The prices paid
for any one variety of sponge may vary considerably according to
quality and size. Selecting the extremes, the wide variation of prices
is illustrated from the following data collected at Key West on
January 21, 1920, during the morning's auction sale:
Sheepewool sponges: One lot of 200 bunches, $1427; one lot of
226 bunches, $1,587; one lot of 17 bunches, $12; one lot of 5 bunches,
$4. The best quality brought $7.131 a bunch for a lot of 200 bunches,
while the most inferior brought only 70 cents a bunch for a lot of 17
bunches. A feature of the sale, aside from the several lots of fine
wool sponges, was the disposal of 9 very large wool sponges for $48,
or $5.33 a sponge. These sponges were truly as large as a bushel
basket" and are now quite rare in the market The highest price
paid for yellow sponges was 96 cents a bunch for a lot of 49 and the
lowest price was 56 cents a bunch for a lot of 48 bunches. he only
lot of gram sponges (5 bunches) sold at 48 cents a buncn.
After the dealers purchase the sponges they prepare them for the
market by trimming and shaping and by removing the remaining
foreign matter which the fishermen did not succeed in beating out.
The sponges are packed in burlap bales of 15, 80, 50, or 60 pounds
net weight, and in each bale is placed but one variety and as a rule
but one grade. Sponges that have large crab or coral holes and
that are badly torn or otherwise imperfect are cut into smaller
shapes known as "cuts." Those that have imperfections but do not
require cutting are termed seconds," while the whole perfect speci-
mens are known as forms."
The production of sponges on the Florida beds has not kept pace
with the great demand, and the result is that the shallower grounds
have been greatly depleted and in places completely devastated. This
has necessitated fishing in deeper and deeper water and has forced
many of the fishermen to resort to different occupations. This con-
dition shows clearly that sponges should be allowed to propagate
under natural conditions, and that they should be fully protected
In 1917 the State of Florida enacted a law requiring that the mini-
mum size of commercial sponges taken from State waters should be
not less than 5 inches in horizontal diameter. A few years prior
to that time the United States Government had enacted a similar law
with regard to sponges taken from waters under its jurisdiction.
This law if rigidly enforced should prove beneficial to the sponge
FISHERIES OF KEY WEST.
industry. The law of Florida prohibits sponge divers from operat-
ing in State waters. However, most of the divers' boats fish not
closer than 9 miles from shore.
Sponges have been grown by artificial culture but comparatively
little has been done in this direction during the past 10 years.
The conch of Key West (Stromb gigas) is a large gastropod
that is used to a limited extent as food. It is found in shallow
water near the shores of the keys and is easily captured with a sponge
hook or by hand. It is also found in the Bahamas and the West
Indies. It sometimes attains a length of 1 foot and a weight of 5
pounds. The animal itself, which averages about 1 pound in weight,
is inmeased by a large thick shell. Very often the inner lining of the
shell is beautifully tinted with pink, and choice specimens are sold
in local novelty shops for 25 or 50 cents each. When sold as food,
the flesh of the animal is removed from the shell and for convenience
in handling is strung on a small stick. It is peddled about the city
at about 5 cents for each conch. During 1918 about 2,000 pounds,
worth $100, were sold in Key West.
The conch requires several hours' cooking to render it palatable.
One person in the city prepares a chowder in concentrated form,
which is preserved in glass jars or friction-top cans. In this form
small quantities of the preparation are sold by mail. In the West
Indies and the Bahamas the most desirable parts of the conch shell
are exported to Europe, where they are utilized by cameo cutters.
Conchs are plentiful enough to supply the present demand, but the
supply could easily be depleted by overfishing.
CLAM INDUSTRY OF SOUTHERN FLORIDA.
What is probably the largest bed of hard clams in the United
States is to be found off the southwest coast of Florida, in the region
of the Ten Thousand Islands. The bed is about 40 miles long and 5
miles wide and is estimated to contain an area of nearly 150 square
miles that produces clams. The southern part of this bed is about
70 miles from Key West and can be reached in less than 24 hours
with a small sailboat
The hard clam is of minor importance in the Key West fisheries
but of considerable importance on the southwest coast of Florida.
The small catch landed in Key West is due to the lack of demand
by the local population rather than to the distance of the clam beds
from the city.
Since 1889, at least, Key West boats have made occasional trips for
clams during the spring, summer, and fall. The journey is seldom
made during the winter because more profit can be made at that time
in catching kingfish and spiny lobsters. From 1889 to 1915 the
annual catch landed in Key West varied from 10,000 to 25,000 clams.
During 1918 eleven trips were made by two fishermen, who operated
the only boat engaged in this business. The total catch for the year
amounted to 38,000 clams.
SA Practial Method of on Culture. By H. F. Moore. Bulletin U. 8. Bureau of
1aWWtie, VoL XXVIII, 19i (1910). B. F. Doe. No. 669.
U. S. BUREAU OF FIBHRBIES.
The Florida hard clam (Venus mercenaria mortoni) bears a close
resemblance to the New England quahaug (V. mercenaria). It
is difficult to separate the two varieties when comparing specimens
3 or 3) inches in length, but in general the southern clam attains a
larger size and has a thicker and-heavier shell. It is not unusual to
find these clams weighing more than 2 pounds each. About 125
clams of average size fill a 5-peck basket, and as a full basket weighs
about 125 pounds the average weight of a clam is 1 pound.
The clams may be divided into three types, although they all be-
long to one species. There is a thick-lipped type, a thin-lipped type,
an an intermediate type. The thick-pped clams are sometimes
known as "bullnose," and are said to be somewhat inferior to the
thinner-lipped variety. The shell of the thin-lipped clam is some-
what lighter than that of the "bullnose," but it is heavier than the
shell ofthe northern quahaug. It is probable that the thickness of
the shell at the lips is due to some extent to age and retarded growth,
but the fact remains that small thick-lipped clams may be found in
places where the clams are scattered, and large thin-lipped ones are
found where clams of all three types are exceedingly abundant. The
relative abundance of each type, judged by the averages obtained
from numerous examinations made in various parts of the great clam
bed, is as follows: Thick-lipped, 50 per cent; thin-lipped, 30 per
cent; and intermediate, 20 per cent. The average size of 50 thick-
lipped and 50 thin-lipped clams selected at random was 3) inches
for the former and 3j inches for the latter variety. Measurements
were taken with calipers, the points of which touched the hinge liga-
ment and the farthest opposite point. Measured in this way about
95 per cent of the clams, whether dug by hand pickers or dredge,
ranged between 21 and 5 inches in length.
Dead clamshells are found almost everywhere on the clam beds.
In some places they are very abundant, while in others they are
occasional It is said that the clam dredge kills many of the clams,
but this is improbable for the following reasons: (a) The dead
shells are found over almost the entire bar; (b) the dredge has
worked over but a small portion of the clam bar and only in two or
three restricted localities; (o) nearly all the shells are unbroken,
while many of them would likely be mutilated had the dredge been
responsible; (d) the writer dug several hundred clams in a locality
where the dredge certainly never had operated and found many dead
shells; and (e) sometimes a single valve was lying flat on the bottom
and sometimes the two valves were intact and filled with mud but
were buried in the same position as when living.
It is but natural that many clams should die where their numbers
are vast and when they live in a region almost untouched by man.
Like all living things, clams must die at some time of old age, if
for no other reason, and this may be responsible for the presence of
many dead shells. Sudden changes in the salinity of the water may
also cause a part'of the mortality. Fresh water supplied by the
numerous small rivers of the Ten Thousand Islands lowers the
density of the water on the clam bar, particularly during the rainy
season. This brackish condition of the water is especially suitable
for the growth of the clams. During the winter, however, when rains
are very infrequent, the density of the water increases until it is
equal to that of Key West or other points not affected by fresh water.
U. S. B. F.-Doc. 962.
FIG. 26.-Hook fisherman searching for sponges, aided by a water glass.
FIG. 27.-Sponge yard at Key West. showing the sponges dryin.
U. S. B. F.-Doc. 962.
FIG. 28.-This dredge was used for digging dams along the coast of the Ten Thousand Islands,
Fla., and until September, 1922, when a second dredge was put in operation, it was the only
one of its kind in existence. As pictured, the dredge was stationed at Marco for repairs.
FIG. 29.-The dock of the Marco clam cannery and freight boat n-rdy to leave for Key West
with a cargo of canned clam products. At Key West the cases of clams arc placed aboard a
coastwise steamship for delivery in New York.
FISHERIES OF KEY WEST.
It is believed that long periods of high salinity have a deleterious
effect on the clams.
Clams are found in varying abundance from Gullivan's Bay to
Shark Point. The bed gradually widens from Coon Key to Pavilion
Key, and thence continues to Porpoise Point, after which it narrows
until Shark Point is reached. Below Shark Point the bottom is
mostly of firm sand and is unsuitable for the growth of clams.
The clams are very plentiful over a large part of the bed, and no
difficulty is encountered in finding a suitable locality for digging.
The areas of greatest abundance occur immediately north to north-
west of Pavilion Key, between Seminole and Porpoise Points and
directly off Clam Point. There are places where few or no clams
are found, and as a rule none are present within a few hundred feet
The following data will illustrate the general abundance of clams
in the areas designated. The terms used can be interpreted as fol-
lows: "Scattered," where not more than five clams per square yard
are present. Fairly abundant," abundant," and very abundant,"
where from more than five to many clams per square yard are present.
Coon Key.-Two and one-eighth miles southwest of Pyramid
Light; depth, 4 feet, mean low water. Clams abundant. One mile
WSW. of Pyramid Light; depth, 41 feet. Bottom of rather firm
gray mud with scattering shell. No clams found. One-half mile
SE. of Pyramid Light; depth, 5 feet. Bottom of sticky mud with
much eelgrass. Clams very abundant. One-third mile S. by E. of
Coon Key, within a few hundred feet of Pyramid Light; depth, 4
feet. Bottom of mud and eelgrass. Clams abundant. One and
one-fourth miles southeast of Pyramid Light; depth, 6 feet. Bottom
of shell and hard mud; eelgrass. Clams fairly abundant. One and
one-half miles southeast of Pyramid Light; depth, 7 feet. Bottom of
mud and shell; eelgrass. Clams fairly abundant. Two miles south-
east of Pyramid Light; depth, 7 feet. Bottom soft; broken shell.
Horse Key.--One mile S. by W. I W. of Horse Key; depth, 7 feet.
Bottom of rather hard mud and broken shell. Clams scattered. One
mile W. j N. of outer shore of Horse Key. Bottom hard; eelgrass.
Clams fairly abundant. Directly inshore from the last-mentioned
locality and 600 feet from the shore of an unnamed island. Bottom
hard mud and shell. No clams. One-half mile W. by N. of Horse
Key; depth, 6 feet. Bottom soft mud- eelgrass Clams scattered.
Of Horse Key, close to shore; a reef of coon oysters surrounds this
key and is exposed at low tide. Tests for clams were made several
hundred feet beyond the reef, but none were found.
Panther Key.--One mile SSW. of Panther Key; depth, 7 feet.
Bottom hard mud. Clams widely scattered. One-half mile SSW.
of Panther Key; depth, 6 feet. Bottom rather hard; eelgrass. Clams
Round Key.-Close to the shore of Round Key very few clams
were found. Offshore 1 mile clams were abundant.
Tiger Key.-Three-eighths of a mile WSW. of the southeast end
of Tiger Key; depth, 5 feet. Bottom hard mud. No clams. One-
half mile S. by W. I W. of the southeast end of Tiger Key; depth,
7 feet. Bottom rather hard mud. Clams fairly abundant.
U. 8. BUREAU OF fIKHIXKIS.
Indian Key.-One and one-fourth miles SE. by E. j E. of Indian
Key depth 6 feet. Bottom hard mud. No clams.
CAokoosk Pass.--One mile WNW. of mouth of pas; depth, 4
feet. Bottom hard. No clams. Mouth of pass; depth, l to 5 feet.
Places were found with hard bottom and without eelgrass where
no clams were located. Other places where the bottom was some-
what softer and on which eelgres was growing contained an
abundance of clams
Rabbt Key.-One and one-fourth miles NW. by W. of Rabbit
Key; depth, 6 feet. Bottom hard with light stratum of silt; eel-
grass spar Clams fairly abundant. One-fourth mile NW. by
. of abit Key; depth, 5 feet. Bottom hard. ams uttered.
One-eighth mile SW. by W. of north end of Rabbit Key;.depth,
5 feet. Bottom hard mud and broken shell; eelgrass. Clams
Paovsion Key.-Two miles northwest of Pavilion Key; depth,
41 feet Bottom varies from hard to rather soft mud- eelgrae
lams abundant. One and one-half miles NW. by N. of Pvilion
Key lies a bar 1 mile long and one-half mile wide which contains
clams in great abundance. The depth of water varies from 1 to 3
feet, mean ebb tide, and clams can be dug by hand during low tide.
The bottom is of sticky mud and eelgrass, which easily bears the
weight of a person. One mile N. J W. of the north end of Pavilion
Key. In this general locality the clam dredge has been working
for several years. Although thousands of bushels of clams have
been dug, they appear to be abundant still. One-half mile west
of the center of Pavilion Key; depth, 5 feet. Bottom hard. No
clams. One and one-half miles southeast of Pavilion Key; depth, 5
feet Bottom hard with light stratum of silt. Clams very scat-
tered. Two miles southeast of Pavilion Key; depth, 7 feet. Bottom
hard, with stratum of silt. Clams fairly abundant. Two and one-
half miles southeast of Pavilion Key; depth, 7 feet. Bottom rather
hard with stratum of silt; eelgrass Clams abundant.
Clam Point.--One mile WW. of Clam Point; depth, 6 feet.
Bottom rather hard with stratum of silt; eelgrass Clas abundant.
In and about the shore of Clam Point clams are very abundant.
The bottom is of sticky mud and elgrass At low tide parts of
the bar are almost uncovered and the clams can easily be dug
by hand. Here the writer obtained 200 clams in 1 hour with but
Turkey Key.-One-half mile WNW. of Turkey Key; depth, 5
feet. Bottom sticky mud; eelgrass. Clams abundant.
8eminole Point.-One-half mile southwest of Seminole Point;
depth, 5J feet. Bottom of firm mud; elgras Clams abundant
ArJgator Poit to Porpoise Point.-Clms are very abundant
nearly everywhere in this territory. An extremely prolific bar lies
about three-fourths of a mile off Alligator Point, and it is here
that the Key West boats obtain their clams. A white house, one of
the few landmarks to be seen on the long stretch of coast adjoin-
ing the clam bar, is located on Porpoise Point, locally known as
Lowmans River.-One mile SW. I W. of the mouth of Loesmans
River; depth, 2 feet. Bottom of mud, broken shell, and eelgrass
Clams fairly abundant. One and one-half and 2 miles southwest
FISHERIES OF KEY WEST.
of the mouth of Lossmans River; depth, 3 to 7 feet. Bottom rather
hard mud; small broken shells. Clams widely scattered. Dead
clamshells were very plentiful.
Highland Point.-One and one-fourth miles southwest of High-
land Point; depth, 6 feet. Bottom sticky mud; eelgrass. Clams
Rodgers River.--One and one-half miles west of Rodgers River;
depth, 4- feet. Bottom sandy mud. Clams abundant. Two miles
southwest of Rodgers River; depth, 5 feet. Bottom sandy mud.
Clams fairly abundant.
Shark Point.-One mile W. by N. of Shark Point; depth, 5j feet.
Bottom sticky mud. Clams scattered. Two and one-fourth miles
SSW. of Shark Point; depth, 5 feet. Bottom hard sand. No clams.
Along the coast of the Ten Thousand Islands the shore slopes very
gradually into the Gulf. At 1 mile offshore the depth varies from
4 to 7 feet at mean low tide, and from there to the 5-mile line the
slope is about 2 feet per mile. Because of this small depth of water
the clams can readily be taken over the entire bar. The offshore
part of the bed, however, has never been worked, for clams are to be
found in great abundance near shore where the water is very shallow
and protection is afforded from the sea.
The bottom of most of the clam bed is of rather firm gray mud,
on top of which is a stratum of silt several inches in depth. Eel-
grass thrives in nearly all places where clams are abundant. In
most places where this grass is absent few or no clams are present.
Two methods are used in procuring the clams-hand digging and
dredging. No tongs are used in this region, for the clams are too
abundant and accessible to require such apparatus. Furthermore,
the consistency of the soil, which is a sticky mud. would render tong-
Digging clams by hand was the sole method used before the advent
of the dredge. After the dredge came into use hand digging, was
resorted to from time to time only when the dredge became tempo-
rarily disabled. From 1919 to 1922 considerable hand digging was
done owing to frequent breakdowns of the dredge and its inability
to supply the two canneries with sufficient clams. During this time
from 10 to 15 diggers were employed. They received 40 cents for a
5-peck basket of clams and could dig, according to the individual,
from 10 to 20 such basketsful a day.
Hand digging can be done at all times except, perhaps, when the
tide is at its highest point. The diggers keep pace with the tides,
working away from shore during the ebb and toward the shore
during the flood. To work with any degree of comfort, the maxi-
mum depth of the water should not be much greater than an arm's
The clams are located by wading about in the water, for which
reason this method is sometimes called "treading clams." The
clams are so plentiful that a digger can work within a small area
for days at a time. When a clam is located with the foot it is
removed from the mud with a 2-tined fork having a 6-inch handle.
Each hand digger is equipped with a small flat-bottom boat, in
which the clams are deposited after they are dug. The boat is
U. S. BUREAU OF FISH BIES.
pushed along with one hand and afords a means of balance while
the operator stoops over to disembed the clams. When a boat be-
comes loaded, it is poled or pushed to shore, where the clams are
cached in shallow water to await the arrival of a run boat," which
brings them to the canneries. During the course of a day a hand
digger makes several trips to shore with clams.
edging is by far the most efficient method of procuring clams.
The dredge used in the Key West region is of a unique type, one that
is not used in any other part of the world. The first dredge was
operated about 1905, but some years afterwards it was destroyed
by fire Later a new dredge was built and was still in use at the time
of this writing. In September, 1922, a second dredge was put in
operation to supply the increasing demands of the canneries. After
the second dredge began working hand digging ceased entirely, for
the two dredges have been able to dig sufficient clams to supply all
demands. The new dredge has not been observed by the author,
but it is understood that aside from a few improvements it was built
on the same general plan as the old one, a description of which
In general appearance the dredge resembles a houseboat. It is
about 90 feet long and 20 feet wide and has two stories. Dividing
it into thirds, the digger is situated in the middle, the machinery
and tool room on one end and storage space for the clams on the
other end. The second story is devoted to sleeping quarters and
The machinery is gasoline driven, a 36-horsepower engine being
used, and heavy chain belts drive the various wheels and gears. The
digger itself is a rather powerful machine. It has 10 rows of teeth,
each row being separated by a distance of about 2 feet. The teeth are
detachable in series of two and are attached by bolts to heavy strap
iron, 18 teeth forming a complete row. The ends of the strap iron
are attached to the chain belt, which revolves the digger. Each
tooth when new is 6 inches long and curved, and a complete series
of 18 digs an area about 6 feet in width.
The digging apparatus, which resembles a thick rectangular
figure rounded on each end where the cogwheels are located, is set
at an angle, allowing one row of teeth to dig at a time. The position
of the digger is regulated to the depth of water by two heavy
counterweights, which are placed at the extreme end of the dredge.
The clams, soil, etc., are carried up by the curved teeth, and on the
downward turn they are deposited on a moving wooden escalator
or conveyor, which is provided with raised strips of wood at con-
venient intervals to prevent the clams from rolling back into the
water. This escalator is an unique appliance-it might better be
called a wooden belt conveyor. That part of the conveyor upon
which the clams are deposited is under water, so that when the
clams reach the pickers they are partially cleansed of mud.
At the top of the wooden conveyor two or more men pick the
live clams, which are thrown into baskets. One man is employed
to remove the filled baskets and to replace them with empty ones,
as the pickers can not move from their positions without missing
some clams, which would be carried over and into the water by the
conveyor on its downward turn. When three baskets have been
FISHERIES OF KEY WEST. 55
filled they are placed on a small car and rolled to the end of the
dredge, where they are piled up until transferred to the run boat.
From two to four men are required to pick the clams from the
conveyor, which moves at a speed of about 1 foot per second. At
times a moment will pass when there are no clams, but suddenly a
dozen or more will appear in a cluster. The pickers are generally
kept continuously busy, and they are very skilled in picking out the
live clams from the masses of debris and dead shells. The fact that
all undesired material is automatically cast back into the water, with-
out the slightest physical effort, is one of the principles that made
this type of dredge a success. A full crew consists of a captain, engi-
neer, cook, rope man, four clam pickers, and one man to care for the
baskets as they are filled.
The dredge moves slowly while digging, traveling 1,200 feet in
about one and one-half hours. This slow movement is accomplished
by drawing in on a 1,200-foot cable attached to an 800-pound anchor.
The distance traveled when the full length of the cable has been
drawn aboard and the dredge reaches the anchor is termed a run."
With the anchor as a center each run of the dredge compares with
the radius of a circle. Upon the completion of a run the cable is
released and the dredge drifts back with the wind and the tide, and
because of their variation the dredge never digs over the same course
twice except possibly near the anchor where all the radii meet.
Because of the great abundance of clams it is said that the dredge
has been able to dig in one locality for several months at a time
without shifting its anchor.
It has been claimed that large mounds of mud are left on both
sides of the strip of bottom that is being dug over, but from the
mechanism and operation of the machine this would seem very im-
probable, as the soil is not dumped to one side or the other but is
merely worked over and deposited again more or less uniformly.
The teeth of the dredge dig an area about 5 inches deep and nearly
6 feet wide. As the teeth strike the bottom, part of the muddy soil
passes through the interspaces, while whatever mud adheres to the
teeth is partly washed away before it reaches the wooden belt con-
veyor. The conveyor casts the residue back into the water, breaking
it up still further before it reaches the bottom, and much of the mud
settles back evenly on the bottom from which it was taken. For,
this reason it is not believed that clams or other animals are smoth-
ered by becoming buried beneath a heavy layer of soil and debris.
The majority of the clams dug by the dredge are from 24 to 5
inches in size, measured from the hinge ligament to the farthest oppo-
site point. Very few small clams are dug, but it is possible that they
pass between the teeth of the dredge or are otherwise lost before
reaching the wooden conveyor. About 3 per cent of the clams are
broken by the digger, and are discarded as they would be decomposed
by the time they reach the canneries.
The dredge digs from 80 to 120 five-peck baskets of clams on one
run, and from 350 to 450 baskets during a day. As there are now
(1928) two dredges in operation, this quantity of clams is utilized
by each of the two canneries every working day. During 1922 the
one dredge in operation worked about 300 days, digging continu-
ously throughout the year except during part of August and Sep-
tember, which is known as the gale season."
U. S. BUREAU OF FISHERIES.
During 1918 the dredge dug about 28,000 baskets of clams (35,000
bushels). In 1919 it dug 34,489 baskets (43,049 bushels) and hand
pickers dug 4,000 baskets (5,000 bushels), making a total of 48 049
bushels for this region. In 1922 one dredge dug 112,500 baskets
(140,625 bushels); the new dredge dug about 22.000 baskets (27,500
bushels) during October November, and December, and hand pickers
secured about 30,000 baskets (37,500 bushels) during the year. This
total of 205,625 bushels is by far the greatest number of clams ever
taken from the waters of Florida in one year.
With the exception of the few brought to Key West, all the clams
dug in this region are utilized by two canneries, one of which is
located at Marco and the other at Caxambas, Lee County. The
Marco cannery has an annual capacity of 100,000 cases of clam
preparations, but the Caxambas factory is somewhat smaller. The
Marco factory canned to its full capacity during 1922 and has con-
tinued to pack 2,000 cases a week up until the time of this writing
(August, 1923). The following preparations are canned:
Little-neck clams.-These clams are not as small as the little-
neck variety of the North but they usually measure less than 31
inches from hinge ligament to the farthest opposite point. They are
packed in No. 1 cans, 2 and 4 dozens to the case, and in No. 2 cans,
2 dozens to the case.
Steamed clams.-These are the larger clams, measuring 38
inches or more, and they are packed in No. 1 and 2 cans, 2 dozens to
Minced clame.-These are the larger clams that have been chopped
up for use in preparing chowder, soups, fritters, etc. Minced clams
are packed like "little necks."
Clam chowder.-Minced clams enter into the preparation of clam
chowder. Most of the vegetables used in making the chowder are
obtained from New York via Key West. Even the potatoes used
are shipped from the North, as it is said that the Florida potatoes
fall to pieces and do not hold their shape when diced and cooked.
Clam juice, plain.-This is the pure liquor of the clam, and it is
packed in No. 1 cans, 2 and 4 dozens to the case, and in No. 2 cans,
2 dozens to the case. It is also packed in glass bottles, 1 dozen to the
Clam juice, concentrated.-Packed the same as clam juice plain.
The Marco clam cannery commenced operation in 1909, but was
replaced by a more modern structure in 1919. The new building is
constructed of corrugated galvanized iron with a cement floor.
Within the building has been built a large concrete cistern to hold
rainwater, which is obtained from the broad expanse of the roof.
Thus far attempts to locate an adequate and dependable supply of
good fresh water have met with failure. Considerable water is
needed to prepare the various clam products, making the conserva-
tion of the supply furnished by the heavy rains during the summer
of great importance for the successful operation of the cannery.
The cannery has been equipped with the most modern and effi-
cient machinery peculiar to its needs. The general routing of opera-
tions embraces a good example of straight-line production, as the
raw material is received at one dock and in the course of prepara-
tion passes through the building in an undeviating line and is deliv-
ered at another dock in the form of the finished product, packed
FISHERIES OF KEY WEST.
and ready for shipment. The various methods of procedure will
be briefly described.
When the clams are received aboard the run boat from the dredge
they are deposited in a heap on deck, and the baskets are retained
by the dredge. The run boat generally starts on the homeward jour-
ney about midnight, arriving in the vicinity of Marco about day-
break, and delivery is made early in the morning. A reserve supply
of clams is rarely kept on hand, and the cannery, therefore, depends
upon a fresh supply from day to day.
The population of Marco in 1919 was about 150 persons, and aside
from a small amount of fishing and hunting the cannery furnished
the only means of support to the inhabitants. Because of weather
conditions and an occasional breakdown of the dredge it is never
certain on which days work will be available, and for this reason as
soon as a load of clams is sighted from the village the factory whis-
tle is blown to notify the people that they should come to work.
When the run boat arrives at the receiving dock, the clams are
unloaded as quickly as possible. This is accomplished with very lit-
tle labor by an endless-chain bucket conveyor. The clams are shov-
eled into a short, heavy, iron chute, which reaches the deck of the
boat and is adjustable to the stage of the tide. The clams are gath-
ered up by elongate V-shaped iron buckets and are carried overhead,
about 10 feet above the dock, where they are deposited in a large
wire-meshed cylinder set at an incline. The cylinder revolves in a
tank of water and finally carries the cleansed clams to a chute that
empties into iron cars similar to those used in oyster canneries. The
dock is covered with a series of tracks and is equipped with a turn-
table that makes it possible to turn the cars at right angles when
Three cars at a time, loaded with clams, are pushed into the in-
terior of the cannery and placed inside a large iron cylinder. The
cylinder is then sealed by a massive iron door fitted with heavy lugs,
after which the steam is turned on in order to kill the clams. The
clams die quickly and the shells open and lose their liquid contents,
which collects at the bottom of the long cylinder and is carried away
by an underground porcelain-lined pipe, emptying into a large ga-
vanized-iron tank set below the floor's level in another room. The
liquid is collected from this tank for use in the various products.
After the clams are killed the cars containing them are rolled out
of the cylinder. The meats are then removed from the shells, put
into buckets, and dumped into a large spray and washing machine,
which is used to thoroughly cleanse them of grit. The washer con-
sists of a large cylinderbuilt of heavy mesh galvanized wire, which
revolves in a tank of water, and it also has a spiral track that
gradually carries the clams to the exit. Upon leaving the washer the
clams are deposited through a short chute upon a wide rubber belt
conveyor, which looks like a table with a moving top. Four operators
on each side of the conveyor sort the clams. Some of them pick out
the small white clams while others select the large dark ones. The
sorted clams are thrust into a short offset spout, placed beside each
operator, through which they are deposited in buckets beneath. Since
the clams are used for different preparations, as already explained,
sorting is necessary.
U. 8. BUREAU OF FISHERIES.
Next to the sorting table lies the clam mincer, which is a large food
chopper operated by electricity. The large dark clams, used for
chowder and canned minced clams are minced in this machine. The
potato peeler is situated next. After peeling, the potatoes are diced
by hand as are the other vegetables. Onions and seasoning are also
prepared by hand.
The various cookers, retorts, filling machines, capping machines,
etc., are similar to those used in any modern vegetable or fruit can-
nery. The chowder is cooked in a 400-gallon glass-lined iron cook-
ing pot and is kept stirred by a glazed propeller that reaches nearly
to the bottom of the pot. The canned whole clams are cooked in six
large steam retorts, each of which has a capacity of 900 No. 2 cans.
After the canned product has been cooled in a tank of water the cans
are labeled, packed in boxes, and brought to the opposite end of the
building for shipment. The cases of clam products leave the cannery
on a ball-bearing declined roller track which delivers them to a
freight boat to be carried to Key West for shipment via coastwise
The State of Florida levies various taxes on the catching and pre-
paring of clams. Besides a tax of 2 cents per barrel on all clams
removed from the waters of the State, taxes are payable each year
on runboats, dredges, process kettles, etc. The shellfish laws are
published in booklet form, and are obtainable from the shellfish
commissioner, at Tallahassee, Fla.
The clam resources of southern Florida can bear considerably
more fishing. The chief drawbacks at the present time to the further
utilization of the product and the expansion of the industry are the
inaccessibility of the beds to transportation lines and their remote-
ness from northern markets.
In the Northeastern States the quahaug has been gradually declin-
ing in abundance and rising in value. Along our North Atlantic
coast the small clam beds have been far from adequate to keep pace
with the ever-increasing demands for this popular mollusk m the
fresh state. The large clam beds of the Ten Thousand Islands, Fla.,
however, are practically virgin and await development.
FISHES AND FISHERIES.
AnDAM, A. C., and Wrx.AM CONVEB KNDALL.
1891. Report upon an investigation of the fishing grounds off the west
coast of Florida. Bulletin, U. 8. Fish Commission, Vol. IX, 1889
(1891), pp. 289-312. Washington.
1905. Notes on Bermudian fishes. Bulletin, Museum of Comparative
Zoology, Vol. XLVI, No. 7, pp. 107-134, 4 pl. Cambridge.
BIEcLow, Hiwry B., and WurLIau W. W aSH.
1924. Flshes of the Gulf of Maine. Bulletin, U. S. Bureau of Fisheries,
Vol. XL, 1924, Part I. Washington. [In press.]
Bucz, JOHN J.
189N The fish and fisheries of the coastal waters of Florida. Report,
U. S. Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries, 1896 (1898), pp. 263-
SThis bblloaphy was prepared to include thows publication that relate directly to
the Florida fle or that will serve a useful purpose in amplifying the Information
given In this paper.
FISHERIES OF KEY WEST.
COBB, JoHN N.
1898. Possibilities for an increased development of Florida's fishery re-
sources. Bulletin, U. S. Fish Commission, Vol XVII, 1897 (1898),
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1905. Ibid., 1903 (1905), pp. 86-88.
1907. [Experiments in sponge culture.] Report, U. S. Commissioner of
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PISHEBIES OF KEY WEST. 73
U. S. COMMISSIONER OF FISHERIE--Continued.
1908. Ibid., 1906 (1908), p. 13.
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1910. Ibid., 1908 (1910), p. 10.
1911. Ibid., 1900 (1911), pp. 14-15.
1911a. Ibid., 1910 (1911), p. 17.
1911b. [The Florida sponge law.] Ibid., 1910 (1911), pp. 37-38.
1913. Ibid., 1911 (1913), p. 52.
1914. Ibid., 1918 (1914), pp. 68-69.
Wu.aON, HENBY V.
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