The Fisheries of Long island Pre: 1875


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In my very early youth, I remember, in the spring of each year, the inhabitants of Long island, from River Head to Oyster-pond Point, engaged from four to six weeks in fishing for moss bunkers for the express purpose of manuring their lands.

A number of the farmers would unite together and have a large seine manufactured, in which they all took shares, and when the fishing season arrived they would employ a number of men to man and manage one of these immense seines, which were placed on the beach and inlets in the bays between River Head and Oyster-pond. Immense windlasses were erected on the beach to draw the seine when a school of fish was discovered by the men. These seines, on an average, would compass a circle of two miles. There have been numerous instances in which the fishermen would watch day and night for a week together without seeing a school; then again they would come in with a perfect rush.

I recollect one day, with my father, visiting my uncle Halleck, whose large farm was about a mile south of Southold Town, and where a large inlet extended some three or four miles. On the beach the fishermen had erected their shanties and the large windlasses. On going down to the beach that morning I beheld a sight I can never forget the whole beach for a mile or more was literally covered with the fish. It was estimated the haul of that morning would reach tow and a half millions of moss bunkers. On this particular occasion many of the large land-owners, who were shareholders, could not find vehicles sufficient to remove their proportion of the haul. The lands in this neighborhood have been made rich by these fish productions, and I believe the same fisheries that prevailed eighty years ago are still carried on in a greater or less degree.

It is well known that Long island Sound has long been noted in connection with fisheries for the immense number of porpoises it contains. I remember, when a boy, that some of our fishermen clubbed together and manufactured a seine for porpoise fishing, for the express purpose of obtaining the oil; it proved, however, a failure, and was abandoned after two or three years.

Whale Ships.

What marvellous changes have occurred within the past sixty years! Thousands upon thousands have been born, and thousands upon thousands have died in that period of time; thousands of wealthy and influential families have become impoverished, and thousands of poor have become wealthy; business has increased beyond all calculation from a dozen brokers in produce fifty years ago, they can now be numbered by regiments, and still they come. During the early days of my brokerage life, I did a large business in supplying our fleet of whaling ships with beef and pork for their voyages out and home. In several of them I had an interest. When a new whaler was being built, the cost was put into shares of $250 each, to which, when requested by the agents, I subscribed from one to five shares. Some of them paid good dividends, while others were not so fortunate.

The fleet of whalers at present is reduced to a very small number; this fact is principally owing to the great increase of the petroleum productions of later years, which has proved a substitute for whale oil, and is sold at such low prices that the whaling interest is nearly banished from the ocean. Twenty or thirty years ago, on visiting the large whaling ports down east, viz.: New Bedford, New London, Nantucket, Sag Harbor, and Greenport, the wharves were literally alive with business in discharging the arrivals of whale ships, and the preparations in fitting-out and loading others for their long voyages. Visit those places now and you will find them almost utterly deserted; instead of their former activity, you will find their wharves fast going to decay, and scarcely anything doing on their former busy wharves. The few whalers now on the ocean are on the track for sperm whales, for a good cargo of sperm oil would still pay a good profit over the cost of obtaining it.


Website: The History
Article Name: The Fisheries of Long island Pre: 1875
Researcher/Preparer/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Autobiography of N. T. Hubbard : with personal reminiscences of New York City from 1798 to 1875. New York: J.F. Trow & Son, 1875
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