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Trout Management Of The Fry

A greatly varying period of time having elapsed and the yolk-sacs of the

alevins being nearly absorbed, the fish culturist will see that some of

the little fish begin to leave the pack at the bottom of the tray, and

to swim up against the current. When this is observed some very finely

divided food should be offered to these alevins. They will probably dart

at the minute pieces of food floating past and a little more may then be
given to them. If, however, they do not take any notice of little pieces

of food or any other matter which floats past them, they should not be

tried again till the next day. In a few days from the first of the

alevins beginning to feed, all of them will be working up with their

heads to the current, darting at any particles floating in the water.

The tray should now be lowered so that its edge is some three or four

inches below the surface and the little fish allowed to swim out into

the box.

As soon as the yolk-sacs of the alevins are absorbed the little fish

cease to be alevins, and are called "fry."

The alevin stage was that in which the fish give least trouble, the

stage I am now describing is that in which they give most. They must be

fed frequently--at least four times a day. "Little and often" is the

maxim which should rule the actions of the fish culturist with regard to

feeding the fry. If he can only feed his fish four times a day, he must

spend some time on each of these four occasions. The food must not be

thrown in all at once. If this be done the little fish will not get half

of it; the other half will sink to the bottom.

The food should be introduced in small quantities at a time, and if the

amateur has several boxes he should put a little food into each in

succession, coming back to the first when he has put some into the last,

repeating this operation at least half a dozen times. The less he puts

in at each time, and the oftener he does it, the better. The ideal plan

would be to put a very small quantity of food in each time, and to go on

doing this at intervals of from five to ten minutes all day.

Livingstone Stone says, "You need not be afraid of the young fry's

eating too much." And again, "I never knew any healthy young fry of mine

decline eating but once, and then I had fed them incessantly for two

hours, at the end of which time they gave up, beaten." Personally, I

have found no limit to the time that the fry will continue feeding. I

have kept on putting small quantities of food into a rearing box for a

whole afternoon, and I was tired of feeding before the fry were tired of

eating. My reader will infer from this that I believe that the fry

cannot be over-fed, and this is to a certain extent true. If finely

divided food is given in such small quantities that practically none of

it sinks to the bottom without their having a fair chance at it, I

believe that in a box containing only a couple of thousand fry, it would

be found that they never stopped feeding during the whole day. If,

however, too large pieces of food are offered to the little fish, many

of them are likely to be choked and to die, from trying to swallow a

piece a little too big for them.

The amateur will observe that shortly after the fry have been let out

into the box and are feeding freely, they will separate into two more or

less distinct groups. One at the upper end where the current comes in

and is strongest, and one at the lower end. The fish at the upper end

are the strongest and largest. This difference becomes more marked as

time goes on, and in six or eight weeks after they have begun to feed

the larger fish will be almost double the size of the smaller. In the

middle of April, if many fry are in each box, they should be thinned

out, and other boxes brought into use. The smaller fish may then be

taken from one or two boxes and put into another by themselves. In

feeding care should be taken that the small and weakly fish get a fair

share of the food.

No matter how carefully the feeding is managed, some of the food is sure

to escape the young fish and sink to the bottom. This, if left as it is,

will decay and cause great mischief. A very simple and easily applied

remedy for this evil exists in the use of mould dissolved in the water.

Livingstone Stone recommends the mould under a sod, and I have always

used this with the most beneficial effect. Earth, besides covering up

and deodorizing the decomposing food at the bottom, also contains some

materials which are apparently necessary to the well-being of trout. To

quote again from Livingstone Stone, who was the discoverer of this use

of mould: "Earth or mud is the last thing one would suppose suitable for

a fish so associated in our minds with pure, clean water; yet it is an

indispensable constituent in the diet of young trout, and unless they

get it, either naturally or artificially, they will not thrive."

The effect of earth given in this way upon the young fish is simply

marvellous. They become more lively and feed more freely. This is the

effect of a spate--which is, after all, only a dose of earth--upon wild


The mould should be mixed with water in a bucket, and, when the water is

very thick and muddy, poured into the rearing boxes. The water in the

rearing boxes should be so thick that neither the bottom nor the young

fish, except when they come to the surface to take some passing particle

of food, can be seen. The amateur should not wait till something goes

wrong before giving this dose of earth; it is advisable to give it once

a week at any rate, and oftener if the fish seem to be ailing in any


In dealing with the subject of food for the young fish, I would begin by

impressing upon my reader that the greater variety of food he can give

the better it will be for the fish. He should also give them, at any

rate after they have been feeding some weeks, a certain proportion of

natural food. Probably the best of all food for the fry is pounded

shrimps or other crustaceans. It is, however, difficult in the very

early stages of the trout's life to pound shrimps up small enough, and

the little fish are much given to trying to swallow pieces of food which

are too large for them to manage. This evil proclivity often causes the

death of the fry, and therefore great care must be taken that no pieces

of food which are too large, get into the rearing box. Pounded liver

shaken up in a bottle with water, and after the larger particles have

been allowed to settle at the bottom, poured into the rearing box in

small quantities, is a good form of food for the alevins when they first

begin to feed. The yolks of eggs boiled for about half an hour and

pounded up, dog biscuit very finely pounded, or the fine food supplied

by several of the fish cultural establishments are also excellent. In

giving moist food such as pounded shrimps, liver, meat, or the yolks of

eggs, a good plan while the fry are very small is to put the food in a

small net made of fine muslin mounted on a wire ring, and dipping the

end of this net into the water, allow small particles to escape through

the muslin. This ensures no large pieces getting into the rearing boxes.

As the fry grow larger, these precautions are of course modified, as the

little fish are capable of swallowing larger pieces of food.

With regard to natural food, the amateur should take care to ensure a

good stock for the young fish. Many of the creatures suitable for food

may be cultivated in separate ponds at the same time as the fish, if a

natural supply is not at hand. The _Daphnia pulex_ (water flea) and the

_Cyclops quadricornis_ may be introduced into the boxes very soon after

the fish have began to feed. _Daphnia_ breeds at the rate which is

almost inconceivable. The female produces her first brood of young when

she is ten days old, and goes on breeding at an average of three or four

times a month. The female and her progeny are rendered fertile by one

act of coition, probably for fifteen generations at least, without any

further intervention of the male. Both _Daphnia_ and _Cyclops_ are bred

in stagnant water in which there should be a good stock of weeds.

The fresh water shrimp (_Gammarus pulex_) is an excellent form of food

for young and old trout, and should be given to the fry as soon as they

are old enough to manage them. _Corixae_ and other small insects should

also be given as often as possible. The fresh-water shrimp is bred in

running water, _Corixae_ in still or slow running water. Weeds are

necessary to the well-being of both.

The boxes must be kept carefully covered, as I have already pointed out.

A kingfisher would make short work of a box of fry, and other birds and

beasts of various kinds are partial to them. There are only two courses

open to the fish culturist in dealing with these enemies--to protect his

fish or kill the enemies. I prefer to protect the fish first and kill

the enemies afterwards.

The greatest care must be taken not to introduce, or allow to intrude,

any water beetles or the larger carnivorous aquatic larvae of insects,

into the rearing boxes. I have known cases where the larvae of the

_Dytiscus marginalis_, the largest of our carnivorous water beetles,

have destroyed almost all the fry in a rearing pond. The adult _D.

marginalis_ itself is not a whit less voracious, and much stronger than

its larva.

If the wooden parts of the apparatus have been properly prepared,

according to my previous instructions, there should be no risk of the

fry developing fungus. Quite a small spot of woodwork, however, left

uncovered by asphalt-varnish, or enamel, or uncharred, will render the

chance of the development of this disease probable.

Should by any misfortune fungus get into the rearing boxes, a dose of

salt may very likely cure it. Sea water is the best, but if this is not

obtainable, a solution of salt and water run through the boxes will

probably cure the disease. Considerable good may also be done to the

young fish by occasionally putting a lump of rock salt in at the inlet,

and the water allowed to run over and dissolve it.



In the last chapter I brought my reader up to the point where the fry,

which had been feeding for some time in the rearing boxes, had been

judiciously separated, the weaker and smaller fish which took up their

positions at the lower ends of the boxes having been put into separate

boxes and induced as much as possible to keep at the head near to where

the current enters.

It is difficult to lay down any certain rule as to what is the best time

at which to take the next step--that of turning the fry out into the

rearing ponds. When the fry have got into more or less regular habits,

and showing no fear of whoever it is who feeds them, come up readily and

seize the food boldly, is probably the best time to let them out into

the larger space of the pond. I do not mean to say that when a certain

proportion of the fish have got over their natural shyness, and feed

boldly and without hesitation, the whole of them should be set free.

What I mean is, that when the habit of associating the appearance of a

certain individual with a meal has been well established among them for

a week or so, they should be allowed to escape from the box into the


This is best done in the same way that the alevins were allowed to

escape from the hatching tray into the box--by lowering the level of the

box so that its upper edges are some two or three inches below the

surface of the water. The food should now be thrown into the pond higher

up, so that the little fish may be induced to swim up and station

themselves as near the inlet as possible. Probably some of the little

fish will not leave the box at all of their own free will. These, of

course, will have to be turned out. The box should not, however, be

lifted out of the water and the fish and water together be poured out,

as this is very likely to cause them severe injury. The box should be

gradually tilted over and lifted out of the water bottom first, so that

the fish are hardly disturbed at all and certainly not injured in any


An important matter to consider before turning the little fish out into

the pond is, how the ponds are to be protected so that their many

enemies may be kept away from the fry. Kingfishers, herons, and other

creatures are very partial to young trout and will cause enormous

destruction if not prevented. Kingfishers have, in my experience, been

the worst offenders. Some years ago I was rearing some trout in a part

of the country where many of the inhabitants bewailed the extermination

of the kingfisher. Before I began rearing trout I agreed with these

people, for a kingfisher flitting along a stream looking like a little

mass of jewels is a pleasing sight, and one which I had never enjoyed in

that particular part of the country.

When the time came to set my little fish free in the rearing ponds, as a

matter of principle I covered the ponds with herring-net, closely pegged

down on the banks so that I could not even get my hand under the edge. I

did not think that there were any kingfishers or herons about, and so

was very surprised when one morning, on going down to feed the fish, I

found a kingfisher under the net, flying up and down the pond trying to

get out. By carefully introducing a landing-net under the netting over

the pond, I was able to catch the intruder, and caught four more in the

same way in about three weeks. Since that time I have not agreed with

the people who have stated that the kingfisher is almost extinct, at

least in that part of the country. I may say that there are but few

streams there, and that it is not at all an apparently likely place for

kingfishers. I am quite sure that wherever any one begins to rear fish

there he will find that kingfishers are fairly common. The amateur will

probably be also surprised at the way herons appear, if he conducts his

fish-rearing operations, as he should do, in a secluded spot.

Many of the directions I gave as to the management of the fry and the

rearing boxes, apply also to the fry after they have been turned out

into the ponds. The doses of earth should still be given regularly, and

salt may be applied also in the way I have already described. The little

fish will be found to scatter over the pond or to divide again into two

bodies, one at the upper and one at the lower end of the pond, as they

did in the boxes. The fish culturist should try to induce these fish to

come to the head of the pond as much as possible. It is a good thing to

place some boards across the head of the pond to give shade and shelter

to the fry. It will probably be found that if much artificial food is

given to the little fish, a scum will be formed on the surface of the

water. This scum is composed of grease, and should be removed, as soon

as it is observed, with a gauze net.

All the time that these operations have been going on with regard to the

little fish themselves, due attention should have been given to the

vegetation round the ponds. The alders and willows which I before

recommended to be planted round the ponds should be induced as much as

possible to overhang the water. Grass and other vegetation should be

allowed to grow freely round the margins, as many insects are then

likely to fall into the water.

This vegetation will supply the little fish with a certain amount of

natural floating food, without any interference on the part of the fish

culturist; but he should, however, give them other floating food, both

natural and artificial, as much as possible, for this will get them in

their youth to adopt the habit of feeding freely at the surface. When

the alders and willows have grown sufficiently and are well covered with

leaves, they will probably give enough shelter to the fish to make the

boards at the upper end of the pond unnecessary.

As time goes on, and the little fish grow, they should be thinned out,

the smaller and weaker being removed into another pond. Despite the best

endeavours of the fish culturist, a certain number of these small fish

are sure to keep to the lower end of the pond, and it is these which

should be removed first. If they are left, the difference in size

between the smaller and the larger will soon become so great that the

large fish will very likely be tempted to eat the small ones, thus

developing a cannibalistic habit which they will keep always.

At the end of August or the beginning of September the little fish will

have got over the most dangerous part of their lives. After this time

they are called yearlings, are much more hardy and not subject to nearly

as many risks as up to that time.

The great points to remember are:--That the food should be varied as

much as possible; and as much natural food, of a hard description such

as shrimps, _corixae_, snails, bivalves, etc., be given. That the little

fish should be well protected from enemies. That they should not be

over-crowded, but the weakly and small fish be separated from the larger

fish. That frequent doses of earth should be given to keep the bottom

sweet and clean.[2] That the inlets and outlets should be frequently

cleaned and kept clear, to ensure a good flow of water through the

ponds, and that a careful watch should be kept for such misfortunes as

fungus and dead fish, in order that they may be dealt with at once.

[2] See two letters in Appendix.--Page 93