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

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  176 ratings  ·  20 reviews
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 official ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published March 2nd 2010 by Yale University Press (first published 2010)
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Scott C
Feb 25, 2010 Scott C rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anglers, those interested in science and history
Sometime within the past ten years or so I became interested in native fish. I have nothing against any species, I just like to see fish that are “supposed” to be in a watershed, in that watershed, not some other species occupying that water. This desire to find native species in their native range has taken my fishing buddy and me to some out-of-the-way little creeks—we’re talking about places in the middle of the desert 100 miles from the nearest town. Creeks whose widths are measured in inche ...more
A really interesting, and well-researched book about the perils of messing with Mother Nature (in this case, by introducing rainbow trout to bodies of water for the purpose of creating excellent fishing spots). This book is also quite well-written.
Dan Bischoff
I'll never look at any trout the same way. It's not just for people who like fish -- it's a great book for anyone interested in nature and the history of our country.
H R Koelling
Amazing book. Especially for someone like me who has spent much of his life in pursuit of various trout.

I was worried this book might be too scientific and full of jargon that the non-scientist might find hard to understand, but it was actually a very enjoyable and easily read book.

I learned so much from this book and I plan to talk about it amongst my fishing buddies when we are out on the Rogue or Deschutes some time.
It is sad to learn that all American streams, except perhaps in Alaska, have been stocked with non-native fish. The extent to which nature has been altered is sobering.
The author is a journalist with a Ph.D. in ecology. The writing is engaging and the subject is well-researched. I supposed what one gets from this book will vary depending on how much one already knows about trout in North America. For me, this wasn’t much. The book tells what original ranges were of the various trout and a little
Dennis Robbins
Eighty million Rainbow Trout are stocked in American waters every year. In total, nearly 20 million pounds. That's 20 trout per every new American born every year. Since the 1870s Rainbows have been introduced into every State and eighty different countries. The genes of this fish can be traced to fish that lived in the upper reaches of the McCloud River in California. Today, there are more than 75 strains of Rainbow Trout, genetically manipulated to living in a wide range of conditions, hence t ...more
I sincerely enjoyed the read. Given Halverson's academic background, I suppose I expected more of an academic, technical writing style: not necessarily a vocabulary that is technical to the point of cumbersome (which would really be inappropriate and quickly descend into gobbledygook in a text marketed to the general public), but the sparser writing style that I would expect of a professional scientist, a style reduced to almost bare-bones concision. This book is very much not that. It is a warm ...more
Peter Mogielnicki
A fabulous story about the consequences of meddling with nature this book by a Professor of ecology and avid fly-fisherman traces the spread of a single species of fish around the globe and the resultant impact on the habitats in which it has been introduced. Worth reading it for the history, the natural history and the allegory.
I'm not a big fan of fishing, but I am a big fan of fish, and this well-researched book sheds a lot of light on trout, fish hatcheries (I enjoy them so much we visited one on our honeymoon!), and the practice of stocking. I naively thought that many rivers, streams, and lakes were in a "natural" state as far as fish populations go, but Halverson educated me about wild, native, and hatchery-raised trout, and much of the history behind them. The chapter on Chronic Whirling Disease is especially in ...more
Robert Dean
This book is much more than just a fly fisherman's history lesson on rainbow trout. In particular, I found the evolution of U.S. environmental policy regarding mgmt. of inland waters and fisheries to be bizarrely entertaining. I'd recommend it to anglers and outdoorsman of all types.
A well-researched, interesting story about the century-long effort to stock U.S. waters with rainbow trout — and the recent policy reversal that now sees the fish being eradicated from some waters. I particularly enjoyed Anders's chapters about the nineteenth-century birth of U.S. fish stocking, and about recent research showing the subtle ways that non-native fish like rainbow trout impact native species. Communicating that research in a mainstream book is vital, and Anders does so in very read ...more
Cassandra Cridland
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Anders Halverson took a complicated subjected and made it understandable. While explaining the history behind the stocking of rainbow trout, he also explores the audacity of mankind.

I've already begun recommending this book to my friends. You'll find it a good read even if you only have a passing interest in fish, politics, or history. Over and over, you'll shake your head and think, 'I can't believe they did something so crazy.'

If you like non-fiction, don't miss
Sarah Giannetta
The first few chapters of this book were a little dry (mostly history on hatcheries and the origin of the US Fish & Wildlife Dept.), but I hung in there and made it to the second half where Halverson talks about the sociological aspects of trout stocking. Pretty interesting--I had no idea hatcheries existed solely to stock waters for fishing. Sadly, probably the most interesting part of the book is the chapter explaining the intentional poisoning of waters to rid them of native species of fi ...more
What an interesting book...details the pitfalls of stocking non-native species and the trickle-down effects that their proliferation can have, from aquatic invertebrates to genetic diversity and hybridization. Works in historical state and federal policy, some intriguing personalities, and even a little fishing. Written conversationally and compassionately, the writing style is nothing poetic but workmanlike, serviceable, and at the very least tells a good story. If I could give this book 3.5 st ...more
It was the policy of this country until a few years ago to stock game fish and seek to limit of destroy native non-game fish. The author tell a horror story of poisoning and entire river system in order to stock game fish. He tell us that raibow trout have hybredized with native species and in some cases no native non-hybreds are left. This is a very good book and an eye opener.
Florence Millo
An Entirely Synthetic Fish by Anders Halverson

Thoroughly enjoyable read on a subject about which I knew absolutely nothing. His style of writing is so easy and conversational that it's like having a favorite professor explaining the subject. Humorous at times and in earnest at others but always carefully researched and clearly explained. Good book.
Ryan Rountree
Really interesting history of fish stocking throughout the US. I had no idea this could be so interesting! Worth a read if you like fishing or natural history.
Tom Lewoc
Great book on the introduction of Rainbow trout into U.S. waterways. Not to mention how amazing it is to see how our shift in thinking over the last 100 years and the "bigger picture" of environmental awareness.
Bill Parenteau
Oh, the arrogance of mankind. Great book on how the US fisheries came to be.
A good read for the dedicated fish geek or trout bum. Thoroughly researched, this book gives an indication of the impact of our desire to catch "wild fish".
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