Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Dr. James A. Henshall, Fish Culturist, by Clyde Drury

I was recently asked to contribute a piece on Dr. James Henshall's career as a fish culturist to the outstanding new journal Eddies: Reflections on Fisheries Conservation, which I strongly suggest anyone with an interest in preserving our fishing history should subscribe to immediately.

In the course of researching this material, I wrote Clyde Drury, the premier Henshall authority in the world and editor of the recently released Autobiography of Dr. James Alexander Henshall, for his take on Henshall's work in this field. He sent me far more than I needed, and has kindly allowed me to reproduce a portion of his correspondence as it adds greatly to our knowledge of Henshall.

Dr. J.A. Henshall as a Fish Culturist

by Clyde E. Drury

In 1865 while working as a medical doctor in New York, Henshall began studying the scientific and life history of fishes as a means of rest and relaxation. His study of the writings of all the leading ichthyologists of the day served him well in the scientific section of his “Book of the Black Bass.” It was there that he established priority for the scientific names gives to the largemouth and smallmouth bass.

When he moved to Oconomowoc, Wisconsin he began to study the fish up close. He stocked a pond on the property with adult bass and studied their breeding, spawning, and feeding habits for several years. He also studied the bass in several other nearby lakes and another hatchery run by Colonel George Shears of Beaver Lake.

The months of February, March, and April, 1889, were spent by Henshall in making an ichthyologic exploration of the southern coast of Florida, together with the U.S. Fish Commission schooner Grampus.

During the months of January, February, and March, 1892, he was engaged in collecting a series of the salt-water fishes of Florida for use in preparing the exhibit of the U. S. Fish Commission at the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893.

Some key dates in Henshall's fish culture career:

1886-1892 – secretary and then President of the Ohio Fish commission
1891-1892 – President of the American Fisheries Society
1897-1909 – for 12 years Superintendent, Bozeman Montana Hatchery, US Fish Commission
1909–1917 – Superintendent of Tupelo Mississippi Hatchery

Here is a brief list of works written by Henshall on the subject of fish culture:

Henshall, James A., Dr. "Contributions to the Ichthyology of Ohio: No. I." Journal of the Cincinnati Society of Natural History 11 (July-October 1888): 76-80.

Henshall, James A., Dr. "Contributions to the Ichthyology of Ohio: No. 2." Journal of the Cincinnati Society of Natural History 11 (January 1889): 122-126.

Henshall, James A., Dr. "On Some Peculiarities of the Ova of Fishes." Journal of the Cincinnati Society of Natural History 11 (July-October 1888): 81-85.

Henshall, James A., Dr. "Some Observations on Ohio Fishes." Journal of the Cincinnati Society of Natural History 12 (January 1890): 114-125.

Henshall, James A., Dr. - Report Upon A Collection Of Fishes Made In Southern Florida During 1889. 4to. Pages 371-389. 1891. U. S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries. Document 167. Washington DC. Extracted from the Bulletin Of The United States Fish Commission, Volume ix, For 1889.

Henshall, James A., Dr. - Notes On Fishes Collected In Florida In 1892. 8vo. 15 pages. 1894. U.S. Fish Commission Bulletin for 1894, Article 17. Softbound. Washington DC. Reprinted 1987.

Henshall, James A., Dr. - A Plea For The Development And Protec¬tion Of Florida Fish And Fisheries. Taken from Proceedings And Papers Of The National Fishery Congress held at Tampa Florida, January 19-24, 1898. Ex¬tracted from U. S. Fish Commission Bulletin for 1897. Article 8, pages 253 to 255.

Henshall, James A., Dr. - A List Of The Fishes Of Montana With Notes On The Game Fishes. 8vo. 12 pages. 1906. University of Montana. Missoula MT. A descriptive paragraph on Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass. Indicates that Bass had been planted in the western portion of the state where the waters were warmer. He also says “The colder waters of the eastern part of the state are totally unsuited to black bass; moreover, they should never be planted in ponds or streams containing trout.” Four pages are devoted to trout, and grayling with a short paragraph on the Rocky Mountain whitefish. Reprinted 1985.

Henshall, James A., Dr. - Culture Of The Montana Grayling. 4to. 7 pages. 1907. Fisheries Document #628. U. S. Dept. of Commerce and Labor. Washington DC. Softbound.

Many thanks to my friend Clyde for penning this brief piece, which along with my own biography of Henshall's fish culture work, should be a great start for anyone interested in reading more on his work in this field.

-- Dr. Todd

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