Introduction of the Black Bass into the Ohio and the Potomac Rivers


In the summer of 1860 I was informed that the black bass
had been introduced into the Potomac river from the Ohio some
years previously by Wm. M. Shriver, Esq., of Wheeling, and
that they had multiplied so as to be taken in large numbers in
the vicinity of Cumberland.

Feeling much interest in the subject, I addressed a letter dated
September 4th, 1860, to Mr. Shriver asking further information.
His reply was dated September 7th, 1860, in which my queries
were answered, and much valuable information given me on this
interesting subject.

It seems that this disciple of Isaac Walton had long before
desired to introduce some varieties of the "finest game fish" of
the Ohio into the Upper Potomac, but there were no satisfactory
means for doing so, until after the completion of the Baltimore &
Ohio Railroad to Cumberland in 1853.

Mr. Shriver placed the fish in a perforated tin bucket made to
pass through the openings, or man-holes, of the water tanks
which were constantly supplied with fresh water. Fish of small
size, but fresh and active, were placed in the bucket, and accompanying
his precious charges on each of several trips, Mr. Shriver
placed them in fine order in the canal basin at Cumberland, from
whence they could pass up or down the river. This privilege, it
will appear, the fish of at least one species availed themselves of

Mr. Shriver with commendable perseverance transferred jive
kinds of fine game fish (about twelve of each kind) into the
Potomac during the autumn of 1854, making six trips on the

He sent me the following list of them :

1. Black, or green bass, which attain the weight of five pounds
in the Ohio.
2. Perch, attain the weight of 15 pounds.
3. Salmon, attain the weight of 18 pounds.
4. Jack Salmon, attain the weight of 3 pounds.
5. Blue Catfish, attain the weight of 20 pounds.

It is stated that the above named fish ascend the streams with
the first rise of waters in the spring to spawn and remain until
the autumn when they descend, and upon the approach of winter
take up their quarters in deep water.

Mr. Shriver adds that " these fish are to be found in all parts
of the Ohio river and all the northern lakes west of Niagara
Falls, but we must extend the limits, at least of the black bass,
further east and south."

Two members of this Society took the bass with hook and line
in August last among the Thousand Isles in the St. Lawrence,
and they exist in Lake Champlain and Lake George. They are
also taken in several of the smaller lakes in the interior of New
York, and from one of them they were introduced into Lake
Skaneateles some five or six years ago.

The species of fish that most interests us at this time is the
first on the list, the bass, as it is that species only, so far as we
know, which has largely increased in the Potomac.

This fish has many synonyms. The vulgar names are green
and black bass. In the New York Natural History Reports,
Dr. Decay adopts (I think from Le Seur) the name Gentrarehus
fasaiatus and gives sundry synonyms. Agassiz calls it Grystes

It is stated that the bass attains a weight of five pounds in the
Ohio river, but grows larger in some of the affluents of Lake
Erie, as Prof. Ackley took one in the Cuyahoga river weighing
over eight pounds.

The largest yet taken in the Potomac, so far as I have heard,
weighed four and a half pounds, so that the bass does not seem
to have degenerated in the waters of that river. They are taken
in great numbers in the Potomac with hook and line, from near
Harper's Ferry up to the vicinity of Piedmont, a range of more
than 125 miles. They bite vigorously and one of large size not
easily drawn out of the water and secured.

It appears that the bass of northern New York seldom exceed
two pounds in weight.

I have been unable to get any certain information in reference
to the increase of the other four species of fish put into the Potomac
by Mr. Shriver. Some seven or eight years since I learned
that an unknown fish weighing about 15 pounds was taken near
Williamsport, and recently that an unusually large catfish was
taken in the Potomac above Cumberland. During a recent trip
to that region I was informed that the black bass were even more
abundant in the south branch than in the north branch of the

It can scarcely be doubted that they will range to Georgetown,
and also to the head waters of both branches of the Potomac and
up their affluents until arrested by mill dams.

Mr. Shriver states that he "was ridiculed by some of the
enlightened citizens of Cumberland" for his pains, but now all
are much pleased at having an abundance of fine fish within their
reach, where formerly there were none of importance.

There are many other streams into which these fish should be
introduced, especially as it can be done at so little trouble and

I would name the Patapsco and Gunpowder rivers above
tidewater; the Little Falls of Gunpowder, the Patuxent (both
branches). Winter's Run, Deer Creek, Octorora Creek, Little and
Big Elk rivers and perhaps others of less size. As mill dams
exist on some of these streams, the fish should be placed in each
of the largest dams.

About thirty bass were taken from the Potomac river some three
years since by Edw. Stabler, Esq., of Montgomery County, and
placed in Swann Lake, which will eventually stock Jones' Falls.
I have learned that the credit of introducing the bass into the
Potomac has been claimed for another party, but there is abundant
evidence that the merit of this important work belongs to Mr.
Shriver alone.