A Canadian Manor and Its Seigneurs eBook

George MacKinnon Wrong
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 279 pages of information about A Canadian Manor and Its Seigneurs.

The beluga is greedy.  In the early spring, when he is thin and half starved, capelin and smelt in great numbers come to spawn along the north and south shores of the St. Lawrence.  With high tide comes the beluga’s chance to feed on the spawning fish and he will rush in quite near to shore for his favourite food.  So voracious is he that with the fish he takes quantities of sand into his stomach.  In eight or ten days he will eat enough to form from five to eight inches of fat over his whole body.  “The facility with which he thus grows fat is explained,” says the Abbe Casgrain, “by the easy assimilation of such food and by the considerable development of his digestive apparatus.”

No doubt the beluga enjoys himself hugely.  But Nemesis awaits him.  His fish diet has a soporific effect; gorged with food he becomes stupid and is easily taken.  Man’s trap for him is simple and ingenious.  A century and a half ago it was to be seen at Pointe au Pic and to-day it is in operation at Riviere Ouelle on the south side of the river.  The weir or fishery for the beluga must be on a large scale and is expensive to keep up; it is for this reason that when the number of these creatures declined it was no longer possible to maintain the fishery at Pointe au Pic.  At Riviere Ouelle annually more than 7000 stakes, from 18 to 20 feet long, are necessary to keep in repair the fishery which is almost entirely destroyed each year by ice.  Beginning at the shore a line of stakes is carried out into the river placed perhaps a foot apart to form a rough semi-circle about a mile and a third long.  The stakes curve back to the shore leaving however a passage of perhaps 1000 feet open between the farther end and the shore.  This outer end of the weir is completed by a smaller circle of stakes, so arranged as to make entrance easy by following within the line of stakes, but exit difficult.  The distance between high and low water mark at Riviere Ouelle is about a mile and a half and along this great stretch of beach the small fish come in great numbers to spawn.  There is a considerable point at the mouth of the little Riviere Ouelle.  The wide beach, bare at low water, and this point furnish an admirable combination for the beluga fishery.  At high tide the beluga comes rushing in near to shore after his prey, sometimes in water so shallow that his whole body comes into view.  In his progress along the shore he is checked by the stakes reaching out from the point, so close together that he cannot get through.  The stakes sway with the current and sometimes strike together making considerable noise.  Early whalers thought the beluga would try to pass by squeezing between the stakes and to prevent this they fastened the stakes together with ropes.  But this was not necessary.  Frightened by the noise the timid beluga’s instinct leads him to make for the open water.  He dashes across the semi-circle of the fishery only to be checked by the line of stakes on its outer edge.  The line like

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A Canadian Manor and Its Seigneurs from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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