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Cover for An Entirely Synthetic Fish

An Entirely Synthetic Fish

How Rainbow Trout Beguiled America and Overran the World

Anders Halverson


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Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (6/28/2011)


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.

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

“With prose as engaging as it is thoughtful, Halverson has crafted an absorbing cautionary tale of ecological trial and error, documenting our tardy but increasing understanding of biological interdependence and its immeasurable value.”--Washington Post 

“Anyone interested in life as metaphor will find here the fascinating historical story of how different people saw their highest ideals and aspirations through the lens of a single, uncommonly compelling fish. And like democracy—but with perhaps more success—they spread it around the world. This unusually well-written, interesting book deserves a place of honor for everyone who sees in trout more than ''just'' a fish."—Carl Safina, author of Song for the Blue Ocean, Eye of the Albatross, and The View From Lazy Point
-Carl Safina

"A fascinating story of man’s urge to cultivate and disseminate a beautiful coldwater fish—at times to the detriment of native species but also the joy of anglers who would not otherwise have the opportunity to catch a trout. A gripping blend of early American history, discussions on taxonomy, and questions of how best to preserve wildness and the indigenous in a world where the human relationship to Nature is complex and always changing."—James Prosek, author of Trout of the World
-James Prosek

"In this brilliant study, Anders Halverson illuminates the astonishing history of the rainbow trout, a native of  the tributaries of eastern and western Pacific coastal rivers, introduced to at least 45 countries, and every continent except Antarctica. But why does he call it ''an entirely synthetic fish?'' You’ll have to read this remarkable book for the answer."—Richard Ellis, author of Tuna: A Love Story and On Thin Ice: The Changing World of the Polar Bear
-Richard Ellis

“Halverson''s book is a microhistory, an examination of America''s involvement with a favored fish that sheds light on broader truths regarding our recent relationship with the natural world.”--Chronicle Review

“Make no mistake, this book is a major event in the history of angling and ecological analysis. It needs to become the stuff of every angler’s conversation and practice. And it’s such a pleasure to read!”--Gordon Wickstrom, American Angler


-Gordon Wickstrom

“Halverson entertainingly introduces some of the most tangled questions in conservation biology: What is a species? What is native? What is natural? What is wild?”--Jared Farmer, Science 


-Jared Farmer

“A well-paced, completely absorbing tale of how man and trout have changed the landscape of the planet.”--Ralph Cutter, California Fly Fisher

-Ralph Cutter

"Intelligent, fair-minded and uncommonly readable."--Rob Oden, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

-Rob Oden

Winner of the 2010 National Outdoor Book Award in the Natural History Literature category, as given by the National Outdoor Book Awards Foundation, Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education, and Idaho State University
-National Outdoor Book Award in the Natural History Literature category

"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)."--Tom Chandler, The Trout Underground

-Tom Chandler

"Fly fishing for trout retains its image as a clean, low-impact outdoor activity. Rightly so, perhaps, but after reading Halverson’s book, you will think twice about how close to nature you are when you cast that line out over a rocky pool."—Laurence A. Marschall, Natural History
-Laurence A. Marschall

Yale University Press, 9780300140873, 288pp.

Publication Date: March 1, 2010

About the Author

Anders Halverson is a journalist with a Ph.D. in aquatic ecology from Yale University. He lives in Boulder, CO.