Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Fishes of Ohio

I remember clearly over 20 years ago reading Fishes of Ohio by Milton Trautman. First published in 1957, the book is primarily a key and description to the fishes of the state.

The part I remember most was the introduction. I remember it describing Ohio when settlers first came to settle Ohio. Trautman summarized early records and painted a picture of lands with clear waters and an amazing abundance of fish.

In my mind, the abundance of fish was represented by a story that the boardwalks of Cleveland were built on the backs of fish.

I related that story the other day, but thought I should go back and find if I was remembering the details correctly. So, I purchased a copy, sat down, and started working through the 700+ page tome.

"The state of Ohio, situated in the midlands of the United States, is squarish in outline". It's not the most flattering beginning to a book, but it's a true representation of the state.

After this, Trautman describes historical accounts of Ohio. The waters were so clear that "early pioneers drank as readily from flowing streams as the did from springs." The abundances of fish are characterized, too. Before 1800, in the Maumee River "A spear may be thrown into the water at random, and will rarely miss killing one!"

After 1800, things start to go downhill.

I looked through this introduction and couldn't find the line about the boardwalk.

I went into the sections on individual fish.

In my mind, the boardwalks were built on the backs of sturgeon or maybe blue pike, a subspecies of walleye.

The section on lake sturgeon describes them being so abundant that fisherman sometimes placed them in large piles and set fire to them. Nothing on boardwalks.

Blue pike? 26M pounds caught in the 1950's, but nothing on their use as a base for sidewalks.

Google books has been no help, nor google. Nor bing.

I don't think it was in this book.

I have no idea where I read that.

Still, it was good to read through it again. Books like these just don't get written much anymore. And certainly there are few individuals left that spend more than 25 years making more than 2000 collections of fish--some half million individuals identified-- to help map the distribution of fish of a state.

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