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Quest for the Golden Trout

Environmental Loss and America's Iconic Fish

Douglas M. Thompson

Publication Year: 2013

The angler's dream of fishing pristine waters in unspoiled country for sleek, healthy trout has turned fishing into a form of theater. It is a manufactured experience--much to the detriment of our rivers and streams. Americans' love of trout has reached a level of fervor that borders on the religious. Federal and state agencies, as well as nongovernmental lobbying groups, invest billions of dollars on river restoration projects and fish-stocking programs. Yet, their decisions are based on faulty logic and risk destroying species they are tasked with protecting. River ecosystems are modified with engineered structures to improve fishing, native species that compete with trout are eradicated, and nonnative invasive game fish are indiscriminately introduced, genetically modified, and selectively bred to produce more appealing targets for anglers--including the freakishly contrived "golden trout."
The Quest for the Golden Trout is about looking at our nation's rivers with a more critical eye--and asking more questions about both historic and current practices in fisheries management.

Published by: University Press of New England

Title Page

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pp. 4-5


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pp. 6-7


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pp. vii-9

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pp. ix-13

I want to thank my wife, Rebecca, for her support and patience throughout the research and writing of this book. She was gracious enough to read multiple versions of chapters that were fortunately not nearly as boring as most of my writings. Our daughter, Haley, was a critical partner in crime on many...

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IntroductIon: In Search of Gold

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pp. 1-4

At select little rock and mineral shops dotting the countryside, especially in regions where the history of resource extraction runs deep, a curious game of deception calls to old and young alike. For a few dollars, eager children can take their chances at panning for gold. One day I decided...

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1 | Controversy over the Salmon’s Migration

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pp. 5-35

To understand the role trout play in driving management decisions it helps to first talk about a related fish and a place that borrowed its name. For a century and a half, beginning about 1809, the people of Connecticut faced the awkward question: “What happened to the salmon of the...

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2 | First-Class Entertainment

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pp. 36-66

If I happen to stand by a river some day and hear two well-clad anglers talk about poached salmon, chances are they will not be exchanging recipes. Wealthy anglers have concerned themselves about the “theft” of fish from “their” streams for centuries. In fact, laws prohibiting poaching have...

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3 | Fish Factories Feed Lots

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pp. 67-90

Although it may be stupid to feel empathy for an animal that may itself be beyond reason, hatcheries are sad places for me. The preordained fate that awaits trout seems unfair. It is hard not to see these places as prisons with little for the fish to do but grow fat and long. Each tank...

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4 | Educating the Masses

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pp. 91-113

Our nation is at a crossroads with our educational system. I spend sleepless nights wondering what is best for my daughter. Politicians and parents complain about low achievement in public schools. Private schools are scrutinized from social and economic perspectives. At places like the institution...

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5 | The Lucky Charm

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pp. 114-140

If I want to increase my fishing luck, I will purchase a trout pendant crafted out of either sterling silver or, preferably, 24K gold. A chain made by a skilled jeweler would support my adornment. A goldsmith takes precious wire and carefully manipulates it to serve a sole purpose: the chain...

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6 | To Serve a Higher Soul

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pp. 141-161

It is worth pondering how humans justify the control of nature in our nation’s rivers; religion is a useful place to start. Religions serve many roles in the modern world. Faith can give people hope for the future. Morality and a sense of good are the underpinnings for a healthy society and often...

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7 | Building a Dream Home

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pp. 162-178

The first hatchery I remember was a trout facility in Massachusetts on the Swift River below Quabbin Reservoir. I do not remember many details of my visit because I was just a cub scout at the time, traveling to the hatchery with my dad. Like most distant memories, what I recall is a...

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8 | Stream Improvement Plows Ahead

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pp. 179-199

Although techniques for modifying river habitat predate the 1930s, stream improvement became a product of the depression. When I think of the Great Depression, stories jump to mind of the stock market crash that directly impacted many wealthy anglers. Perhaps some sold Long...

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9 | Structural Failures in the System

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pp. 200-225

Mount Washington and the surrounding peaks of the Presidential Range provide a backdrop for the most rugged and gorgeous region in New England. New Hampshire’s whitish-gray granite pokes above timberline while white birches blanket lower slopes of these balding peaks. High...

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10 | The Economy of Scales

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pp. 226-249

History shows that trout somehow create their own economic system, where people spend money to buy equipment, raise fish, eradicate competing species, and modify rivers. The interplay of economic drivers that includes individual, industry, state, and federal involvement raises questions...

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11 | Reel Retreats Restored to Real Places

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pp. 250-257

In 2011, I decided to go back to Massachusetts to find the deflectors on the Swift River I had stumbled upon as a kid. Part of me wondered if my Swift childhood recollections accurately reflected the realities of the river or were influenced by more recent experiences. These deflectors subconsciously...


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pp. 259-292

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 293-298

About the Illustrations

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pp. 299-313


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pp. 301-311

E-ISBN-13: 9781611684827
E-ISBN-10: 161168482X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611683196

Page Count: 324
Publication Year: 2013