By Tom Earnhardt
The Lyons Press, 123 W. 18th St.,
New York, NY 10011; Softcover, $29.95
These days a new boat can cost as much as a three-bedroom house used to cost a few years ago. Fortunately, Tom Earnhardt is here to help you figure out which boat to buy. This book, “written specifically for fly-fishermen and light-tackle anglers,” covers all types of rigid-hulled boats (no inflatables) “that can be carried on or trailered behind a passenger or sport utility vehicle.
“There is no perfect boat for all fish and all water conditions,” Earnhardt warns. “Be sure that in choosing a ‘compromise boat’ you don’t end up with a boat that is unsuitable for your favorite kind of fishing and the water conditions that you normally encounter. Remember: Too many anglers buy boats for the fishing they might do, rather than for the fishing they usually do.”
Much of the book is devoted to powerboats, which makes sense because these represent the majority of fishing boats (and most of the money invested in boats and motors). Different chapters explore hull designs (flat-bottomed, V-shaped, flats-boat hulls, tri-hulls, catamarans and round bottoms) and the advantages and disadvantages of each; trim (keeping your boat trimmed properly, correct weight distribution, use of trim tabs, trimming the motor); and materials and construction (including pros and cons of E-glass, S-glass, Kevlar, graphite, aluminum and wood).
A section on “Human-Powered Boats” deals with skiffs, dinghies, prams, drift boats, kayaks and canoes, weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each, along with the pros and cons of various construction materials. Earnhardt also explores “quiet propulsion” methods, including push poles, oars, paddles and electric motors.
The book concludes with a pair of chapters on safety and angling etiquette.
Earnhardt offers plenty of anecdotes to help illustrate his points and writes with an easy, relaxed style. If you already own a boat, this book will help you get more out of it and take better care of it. If you’re contemplating buying a new boat, it will help even more.
– Steve Raymond
Fishing Grounds: Defining a New Era for American Fisheries Management
by The H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment
Island Press, 1718 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20009
This is a book you should read, even if you don’t enjoy it – and you probably won’t. Compiled by the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, a nonprofit institution established to continue the work of Sen. John Heinz, it offers a probing look at the tangled mess of modern American fisheries management.
The book, based on interviews with 77 fisheries “stakeholders,” including representatives of government, environmental organizations, the fishing industry and academia, concludes that “the status of fishery management is seen by almost all the stakeholders … as weak.” Big surprise.
Those interviewed identified many “chronic” problems, including “difficulties in maintaining fishery productivity, confusion about ownership, complicated decision making, mismatched incentives, incomplete science, and a failure to evaluate management performance.” These problems “speak to a lingering need for clarification, integration and resolution,” the authors say.
All these issues are spelled out in detail in the book’s nine chapters. Unfortunately, recreational fishing is treated almost as an afterthought. Of the 77 people interviewed, only two had anything at all to do with sport fishing – both officers of angling associations – and their voices are virtually drowned out by all the others.
There were no interviews with guides, tackle-shop owners, boat builders, marina owners, motor manufacturers or any of the countless other businesses associated with sport fishing. As a result, the book’s lengthy discussion of fishing economics fails to take into account the fact, proven by study after study, that a sport-caught fish has much greater economic value than one harvested commercially. Thus the book’s treatment of both the social and economic aspects of fisheries management is incomplete and badly flawed.
Nevertheless, anglers will find the book worthwhile for its remarkably clear explanation of the American fisheries-management bureaucracy and how it works (or doesn’t work). The book also demonstrates the fearful complexity of some of these problems, which defy easy or conventional solutions.
So despite its biases and weaknesses, Fishing Grounds still offers many details and insights that will help anglers fight the battles necessary to solve America’s fisheries management problems and assure sustainable fisheries in the future. That’s why you should read it, even if you don’t enjoy it.
– Steve Raymond