Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Voices from the Past: Frank Forrester (1859)

A reader from Britain wrote me a question of which I didn't know the answer. He asked "I know the carp is not native to America. But who is the earliest American writer on carp fishing?"

I admit to never having pondered this before, so I did some quick research. the earliest instruction I could find came from Frank Forrester, the pseudonym of Henry William Herbert, who devoted a (short) chapter to carp fishing in his Fish and Fishing of the United States (1859). This was written not long after carp were first introduced to the Hudson river.

Here is the relevant section of Forrester's chapter:

This, I confess, I regard as very miserable sport, for though the fish is shy and wary, the difficulty in taking him arises only from his timidity and unwillingness to bite, and he is as lazy when hooked as he is slow to bite.

His proper haunts are deep, stagnant, slow-flowing streams, or ponds with muddy bottoms ; and he lies under weeds, and among the stems and flat leaves of water-lilies, flags, and marsh-grasses.

Not indigenous to this country, he has been naturalized in the waters of the Hudson, where he is, for the present, protected by severe legislative enactments.

He will doubtless, ere long, become very plentiful; and as he is a rich fish when cooked secundum artem, and by many esteemed a great delicacy, he is likely enough to become a favorite with the angler.

-- Dr. Todd

1 comment:

Sam said...

Dr. Todd
This post got me thinking, so I did some digging around, too.
Thought I would share this. In 1833 Jerome VC Smith wrote "The Natural History of fishes of Massachusettes."
He mentions carp, but says that "In the United States, we have not yet discovered the true carp of Europe." But he goes on to advocate for their propagation and planting in America. He says, "Thre are basins of water in every direction. . of no kind of use whatsoever. . . at present, that might become most valuable appendages to an estate, by stocking them with carp." (180)

While no carp yet, this might be an early plea for their stocking.