Looking Backward: Carpe Diem, Baldwinsville!

The Seneca River is a favorite of fishermen, beginning with those whose camps lined its banks long before Baldwinsville came to be. The best source of insight into the river is Dr. William Beauchamp, namesake of our local history club. He wrote "Past and Present of Syracuse and Onondaga County, NY, from Prehistoric Times to the Beginning of 1908." It devotes an entire chapter to the county's zoology, including "Fish and Fishing."

Beauchamp's book lists an abundance of fish in the river including catfish, dace, pike, moon-eye, burbot, sunfish, bass, wall-eye, perch, eel and even sturgeon. The history of another, of the genus Cyprinus and the species Carpio, is a study in contrasts and contradictions. In fact, the Common, or German Carp, has experienced a remarkable reversal in status over the past century.

In 1898, one local paper reported a Farmers' Club meeting to discuss the potential of fish culture. "One (question) by Mr. Tappan drew from the speaker (Walter McGregor) the opinion that the German carp, lately developed in considerable abundance in Seneca River, is a hideous fish, unfit for food, a gross feeder, and very destructive to other fish. The carp is certainly a great eater and exceedingly fond of vegetable diet. Martin Montague of Baldwinsville declares that it sometimes gets out into the meadows in the nighttime and eats off the clover. Mr. Ritter was ready to believe that it climbs apple trees."

In 1902, another article appeared, entitled "Voracious Carp Eat Other Fish." It stated that "the introduction of German carp in many Western New York waters has proved a great calamity the commission has been unable to exterminate them in any waters. The carp are a lazy, worthless fish and grow to giant size." Beauchamp concurred in his 1908 book. "Carp are now taken of a large size .in Seneca River, but are not highly esteemed."

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