Sunday, May 11, 2008

He Who Smelt It... (Governor Francis Bernard)

Once upon a time, there were smelts in Jamaica Pond - who knew? This article on the introduction of smelts into the pond makes me wonder what happened to them. Were they fished out? Did they die off naturally? They seemed to have lasted there for many a smelt generation. Smelts naturally live in nearshore ocean waters, moving into fresh water streams to breed in the spring. I do remember a time in the mid-late 1960s when the pond was "reclaimed" - that is, the fish were all poisoned out to remove unwanted "trash" fish, and replace them with more popular game fish. People were walking the banks of the pond, picking up dead fish to take home. I hope the smelts of Jamaica Pond didn't survive that long, only to be poisoned out of existence.

Farmers' Register - 1840


From the Proceedings of the Boston Society of Natural History, 1840.

Dr Storer presented the following report on the fishes referred to him at the last meeting of the society.

The fishes presented to the society at its last meeting, as having been taken from the Jamaica pond, about five miles from the city, are the Osmerus sperlanus, common smelt. You may be surprised at the circumstance of salt water fishes being taken in a fresh water pond entirely disconnected from the sea. During the preparation of my report upon the fishes of Massachusetts, I learned from Benjamin Weld, Esq. of Roxbury, it was generally understood that the smelts found in Jamaica pond, were originally placed there by Governor Bernard Investigating the subject, to procure some data, I met with the following extract, in a note, by Daines Barrington, the then vice president of the Royal Society, to a letter from John Reinhold Foster, "on the management of Carp in Polish Prussia:" "I have been informed by Sir Francis Bernard (the late Governor of New England) that in a large pool which he rented not far from Boston, and which had not the least communication with the sea, several of these fish, originally introduced from the salt water, had lived many years and were, to all appearances, very healthy." As I have never heard of this fish having been taken in any other pond in the neighborhood, there can be but little doubt that the "large pool" referred to in the above note was Jamaica pond. The specimens you perceive are considerably smaller than those purchased in our market - all that I have seen from this pond, for the last year, are smaller than those commonly met with. From the quantities yearly taken, however, they must have increased considerably in number; and their flesh has lost nothing of its sweetness or flavor, as I have repeatedly had opportunities of testing.

[the article leaves Jamaica pond here]

Source: Salt Water Fish Naturalized in Fresh Water Ponds.

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