I was in the middle of holding a rather uncooperative cat down for a blood draw the other day when my cell phone buzzed notifying me I had a text message.
Once we had obtained our sample and determined that said cat had not extracted any of our blood, I glanced at my phone and saw that the message was from my fishin’ buddy, Sean. It was written in text-speak, which sort of resembles ancient Hebrew in that most of the vowels and punctuation are missing, but when all six letters were properly arranged it loosely translated as: “Dude, just got a copy of a new book for us to review. I think you’ll like it when you see it. I’ll give it to you tomorrow.
Sure enough, the next day at church, Sean handed me a copy of “Fishing for Buffalo – A Guide to the Pursuit and Cuisine of Carp, Suckers, Eelpout, Gar and Other Rough Fish”.
By carefully holding my Bible in front of the subtitle and just letting the words “Fishing for Buffalo” show, I was able to convince most casual Sunday observers that Sean had just given me a treatise on evangelizing upstate New York rather than a smack down tome on ghetto fishing – I know, I know — I’m still a work in progress.
Right off the blocks though, I was excited. After a lifetime of reading research papers with titles such as, “Shoaling Preferences and the Effects of Sex Ratio on Spawning and Aggression in Small Laboratory Populations of Zebrafish”, a book with a title like “Fishing for Buffalo…” sounded like a an intriguing read.
Naturally, the Buffalo the authors, Rob Buffler and Tom Dickson, are referring to in the title is the large carp-like fish called Buffalo (which, BTW, is found primarily in the Midwest and Mississippi River drainage) and NOT the large, horned mammal of the Great Plains…duh!
Every other born-and-raised barrio brother from East L.A. I spoke with seemed to know that, so I was a bit miffed that I did not learn this vital fact until I read page 33 – blasted public education!
Anyway, I scanned the table of contents and happily noted that all eleven chapters are devoted to the once accepted but now somewhat disreputable pursuit of those North American fish species generally termed “rough fish”.
Now, before you send the kids out of the room and intentionally misplace Grandma’s glasses, “rough fish” is just a term that is applied to the less charismatic, but sometimes more interesting, fish that inhabit our North American waters. If Trout, Bass, Walleye, and Perch are the freshwater game fish superstars, then Carp, Buffalo, Suckers and the other species highlighted in this book are the rough fish –often ugly, frequently maligned, commonly held in disdain but always fun to catch.
So far, so good?
Well, turns out that the authors carefully, sometimes hilariously, but always interestingly take the reader on a journey explaining the biology, ecology, taxonomy and history of several key species of rough fish as well as how to catch them, how to eat them and (important) how to protect them for future generations.
Besides providing a ton of practical fishing information in a fairly concise manner, they also show how rough fish played a crucial role all throughout the history of North America and are thus deserving of far more respect than is generally shown them.
Several myths, mostly with regard to how these fish tie in to the ecology of a watershed, are dispelled and some good research is presented in an easy to read style.
Overall, I found this 200-page book a delight to read.
I enjoyed the obvious enthusiasm of the authors as well their attention to detail with regard to the science of these fish.
And while most of the species mentioned in the book are found East of the Sierras, there is enough info on Carp, Sturgeon and Catfish to make this a worthwhile addition to the SoCal Anglers library too.
There are line drawings and flow charts a plenty but these are not burdensome and function to help un-muddy that waters as to exactly what fish is what. I found them to be useful and easy to use and a guarantee that this book will not just sit on the shelf but will be thumbed through frequently. There are also lots of pictures, but some are more helpful than others.
Because it is a practical book, should you decide to invest in “Fishing for Buffalo”, you might want to consider two copies, one for the library and one for the field. I’ve found that such an arrangement goes far in the domestic tranquility department, if you catch my drift…something about fish scales clashing with the throw pillows and the smell of Carp not conducive to making visitors want to linger over coffee…
In any event, it is obvious that “Fishing for Buffalo” is a labor of love. I would recommend it and the attitude of shear exuberance that fairly seeps from the pages to anyone who loves fishing and wants to learn more about catching new or forgotten species.
Rough fish – they may not be pretty but they sure are fun!
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