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An Entirely Synthetic Fish: How Rainbow…

An Entirely Synthetic Fish: How Rainbow Trout Beguiled America and Overran…

by Anders Halverson

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An Entirely Synthetic Fish Review

The last century has seen the rapid spread of the rainbow trout across the USA, and Anders Halverson's award-winning book "An Entirely Synthetic Fish" does an excellent job of chronicling the rainbow trout's manmade diaspora - along with the negative effects on native fish populations.

Halverson is a thorough researcher and a fine storyteller, and his engaging book never lags or lapses into biologist "geekspeak."

Instead, it's an engrossing read - one that's hard to put down, and just as hard to forget.

Halverson dives into the history of the rainbow trout starting with the expedition up the still-wild (and dangerous) McCloud River to establish a hatchery.

With sportsmen cheering every step of the way, Halverson highlights the rainbow's rapid spread across the USA (and the planet), and the displacement (and wholesale extinction) of the native species who get in the way.

Fortunately, he manages to do this without casting the fisheries managers behind the rainbow diaspora as "bad guys."

It was a "conqeur the wilderness" era, and it wasn't until the watershed event on the Green River - where biologists used tons of Rotenone to poison out every last native species so millions of rainbows could be stocked - that fisheries people finally blinked.

Halverson's account of the Green River project was gripping, and in fact, read a lot like a novel (I half-expected Bond to show up).

Later, Halverson examined Montana's "no stocking" legacy, the impact of whirling disease on several key fisheries, and the ill-fated decision of Colorado's hatchery program to knowingly stock whirling-infected rainbow trout in almost all the state's waters.

Halverson's examination of the Sierra lakes hit closer to home, where rainbow trout introductions into formerly fishless alpine lakes played havoc with amphibian populations.

As someone who lives and fishes in the mountains of California, I've heard a great deal of grumbling from "sportsmen" about the high country fish removal policies, especially since "our" trout are being removed to protect frogs, which most people don't fish for.

Clearly, the "sportsmen first, natives second" attitudes of the past century still loom large in many of today's outdoorsmen (witness the cutthroat recovery and wolf reintroduction issues of the Northern Rockies), and while it's tempting to dismiss Halverson's book as documenting a bygone era, that's more self-delusion than reality.

Overall, An Entirely Synthetic Fish is an engrossing book that sometimes reads like a novel (though its 30 page bibliography will dissuade you from that thought).

It deservedly won a National Outdoor Book Award, and is well worth any fly fishermen's time.

( )
  TCWriter | Mar 31, 2013 |
A well written and knowledgeable review of the history and current status of the introduction of rainbow trout into the fisheries of the world. The author is a biologist with a storyteller's gift for bringing to life what could have been a dull historical review. Impressively researched, the book tells the story of how rainbow trout, native only to the Pacific Coast of North America, come to be found in all the waters of the world. Along the way we learn how the fish have affected us, our science, our recreation and our viewpoint regarding nature. The author is an angler and a scientist. As such he presents an even handed viewpoint on a subject ripe with conflicting interests and illuminates many decisions by governmental agencies that would be otherwise incomprehensible. For example, he explains how the California Department of fish & game stocked high Sierra lakes with trout for years and then reversed course and began to eradicate the non-natives. As one who has witnessed these eradication efforts with disapproval and misunderstanding I am pleased to learn that there appears to be a rational basis for the effort and that it is not directed at wiping out trout from all Sierra lakes. Further, my own preference for catch and release fishing of wild native species, or non hatchery fish at least, is shared by the author and his preference is supported and explained by this gem of a book. Bravo! ( )
  terbby | Sep 28, 2010 |
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According to Halverson, the rainbow trout was an unassuming victor. Its global success resulted from its relatively easy propagation and ability to survive compared with other coldwater game fish. Along the way, propagated rainbows became political bargaining chips for politicians needing to keep their constituents and voters happy, many of whom were sportsmen with political clout. Despite unassuming beginnings, rainbows quickly rose the ranks of sporting preference. They are beautiful, challenging, and put up a good fight. And, if you were to poll anglers today, you would find that many still prefer rainbows to many native trout for all the same reasons.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0300140878, Hardcover)

Anders Halverson provides an exhaustively researched and grippingly rendered account of the rainbow trout and why it has become the most commonly stocked and controversial freshwater fish in the United States. Discovered in the remote waters of northern California, rainbow trout have been artificially propagated and distributed for more than 130 years by government officials eager to present Americans with an opportunity to get back to nature by going fishing. Proudly dubbed “an entirely synthetic fish” by fisheries managers, the rainbow trout has been introduced into every state and province in the United States and Canada and to every continent except Antarctica, often with devastating effects on the native fauna. Halverson examines the paradoxes and reveals a range of characters, from nineteenth-century boosters who believed rainbows could be the saviors of democracy to twenty-first-century biologists who now seek to eradicate them from waters around the globe. Ultimately, the story of the rainbow trout is the story of our relationship with the natural world—how it has changed and how it startlingly has not.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:51 -0400)

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