An Entirely Synthetic Fish

Last night we went to Hamilton College to hear Anders Halverson the author of An Entirely Synthetic Fish: How Rainbow Trout Beguiled America and Overran the World discuss his book.  It was enlightening.  Who knew that Rainbow Trout had such a limited native range and were so heavily promoted.

Suppose that, more than a century ago, U.S. government officials became concerned democracy itself was at risk because men seemed to be less virile. And to reverse this trend they decided to populate streams, rivers, and lakes with “an entirely ‘synthetic’ fish”—quarry with which Americans could rediscover their abilities to capture and kill animals. And suppose that, up to the present, these creatures were still being produced and distributed on a massive scale, sometimes even being trained like gladiators and pumped full of the same supplements as the best human athletes so that they would provide a better fight.

Such is the true story of the rainbow trout. Sometimes vilified for their devastating effects on the native fauna, sometimes glorified as the preeminent sport fish, the rainbow trout is the repository of more than a century of America’s often contradictory philosophies about the natural world. Exhaustively researched and grippingly rendered by award-winning journalist, aquatic ecologist, and lifelong fisherman Anders Halverson, this book chronicles the discovery of rainbow trout, their artificial propagation and distribution, and why they are being eradicated in some waters yet are still the most commonly stocked fish in the United States.

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