Beautifully Grotesque Fish of the American West


Beautifully Grotesque Fish of the American West

Mark Spitzer

Outdoor Lives Series

232 pages
37 photographs, 14 illustrations


March 2017


$24.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

March 2017


$24.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

March 2017


$24.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Fisherman Mark Spitzer takes readers on an action-packed investigation of the most fierce and fearsome freshwater grotesques of the American West ever to inspire both hatred and fascination. Through the lenses of history, folklore, biology, ecology, and politics, Beautifully Grotesque Fish of the American West depicts the environmental destruction plaguing the most maligned creatures in our midst while subtly interweaving Spitzer’s experiences of personal tragedy and self-discovery.

Join Spitzer as he noodles for flathead catfish in Oklahoma, snags paddlefish in Missouri, trotline- and electro-fishes American eels in Arkansas, studies razorback suckers in Arizona, bounty hunts for pikeminnows in Washington State, attends a burbot festival in Utah, stirs up Asian carp in Kansas, and breaks the state record for the largest yellow bullhead ever caught in Nebraska.

By examining freakish links in a vital chain and working with specialists in the field, Spitzer portrays a planet in environmental crisis and dispels the illusion that our actions don’t result in long-term, toxic consequences. Spitzer offers models for fisheries and provides other sources of hope in this informative epic of redemption that ultimately celebrates the wild and resilient beauty and remaining possibilities of the American West.

Visit the Where in the West is Mark Spitzer? blog series for additional reading and a look at more photographs not included in the book.

Author Bio

Mark Spitzer is an associate professor of writing at the University of Central Arkansas. He is the author of several novels, poems, essays, and literary translations, including Season of the Gar: Adventures in Pursuit of America’s Most Misunderstood Fish and Return of the Gar. Spitzer has consulted for Nat Geo’s Monster Fish and appeared on Animal Planet’s River Monsters.


"For anyone seeking a deeper understanding of what lies beneath the surface of Western waterways, Beautifully Grotesque Fish of the American Westoffers a lively primer to the region’s aquatic biodiversity."—Ben Goldfarb, High Country News

"This is a book that beautifully navigates the space between entertainment and information. Moments will stick with readers, and will make them look at the fish and fisheries with new eyes."—Erin H. Turner, Big Sky Journal

"Spitzer, like many of us, is looking for utility and finding it in the wildness of underappreciated fish. The beautifully grotesque fish represent possibilities for us in our ever-changing world."—Donald J. Orth, Pacific Northwest Quarterly

"Mark Spitzer's Beautifully Grotesque Fish of the American West is a compelling read about many of the lesser known, underappreciated, or "trash" fish of the western United States. One of the major western issues Spitzer anchors his study to (perhaps obviously) is water. Water scarcity, irrigation, power generation, dams, and so forth are all issues that affect both the people and fish of the West."—Cory Willard, Western American Literature

"Reading this book is a little like sipping on an old, rich whiskey—it's smooth, interesting and exactly what you need after a long day on the water."—Joshua Peterson, Casper Star Tribune

"A powerful, beautiful, and ultimately kind book. We're lucky to have it."—Max Wilson, Lesser Places

"[Spitzer's] a hard-core fisherman."—Daryl Bauer, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Fisheries Outreach Program Manager

"Here is a book that captures that rhythm. Every page. The fish-obsessed will smile knowingly and follow Spitzer as he encounters everything from endangered razorback suckers to burbot on ice. And along the way, you’ll realize you’re enjoying a lot of science and conservation as well."—Matt Miller, Cool Green Science

"We highly recommend Beautifully Grotesque Fish of the American West to scientists, conservation biologists, and all who consider themselves fish enthusiasts. . . . Those who believe there is beauty in the interesting and unique ecology of all fish species will find a strong connection with the theme of this book. Importantly, this general theme provides a solid framework and conversation ethic toward a group of animals that do not get as much attention as other species that have been marketed as more popular fisheries."—Keith B. Gido and Garrett W. Hopper, Great Plains Research

"This is a book I have to recommend highly for all fishermen and nature lovers. It is written in a humorous and colorful style with information that makes you smile, chuckle and think about the importance of fishes in the future of mankind."—Chuck Mattson, Denver Westerns Roundup

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: In Wildness Is the Preservation of the Grotesque and Vice Versa
1. Nature of the American Eel: An Aquatic Phantom in Our Own Back Yard
2. Environmental Lemonade: Dealing with the Creature That Put the “Ish” in “Fish”
3. Urban Sturgeon: A Totally Unique Fishery in Portland, Oregon
4. Snagging in the Ozarks: There’s Nothing Not Weird about Paddlefish
5. Alien Invaders in the West: This Isn’t Kansas Anymore
6. Nebraska, Bowfin, and the $8,000 Bullhead: Or How to Catch a State Record Fish
7. Fear and Noodling in Oklahoma: How I Came in First at the Okie Noodling Tournament Then Saw the Belly of the Beast
8. Muskie Hunting in Minnesota: An Education in “the Fish of Ten Thousand Casts”
9. Vision Questing Gator Gar in the Slick Texas Mud: Garvana Accomplished!
10. Rattlesnakes at the Razorback Roundup: Working with What We’ve Got
11. All Hail the Pikeminnow Bounty: Applying Anamnesis in the Northwest as a Working Model for Fisheries
Conclusion: Grotesques of the West and Beyond

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