The Founding FishBook - 2002
A study of the American shad traces its annual migrations and life cycle in both freshwater rivers and the ocean, focusing on those living in the Delaware River and discussing issues related to tidal power and catch-and-release campaigns.
A long-awaited new book by the nonfiction master, winner of the Pulitzer Prize
Few fish are as beloved-or as obsessed over-as the American shad. Although shad spend most of their lives in salt water, they enter rivers by the hundreds of thousands in the spring and swim upstream heroic distances in order to spawn, then return to the ocean.
John McPhee is a shad fisherman, and his passion for the annual shad run has led him, over the years, to learn much of what there is to know about the fish known as Alosa sapidissima, or "most savory." In The Founding Fish McPhee makes of his obsession a work of literary art. In characteristically bold and spirited prose-inflected, here and there, with wry humor-McPhee places the fish within natural history and American history. He explores the fish's cameo role in the lives of William Penn, Washington, Jefferson, Thoreau, Lincoln, and John Wilkes Booth. He travels with various ichthyologists, including a fish behaviorist and an anatomist of fishes; takes instruction in the making of shad darts from a master of the art; and cooks shad and shad roe a variety of ways (delectably explained at the end of the book). Mostly, though, McPhee goes fishing for shad-standing for hours in the Delaware River in stocking waders and cleated boots, or gently bumping over rapids in a chocolate-colored Kevlar canoe. His adventures in the pursuit of shad occasion the kind of writing, at once expert and ardent, in which he has no equal.
Even those who don't think they're interested in fish will find McPhee's latest a compelling read. The subject is shad, prized from colonial times. McPhee describes the history of American fishing for shad, recent studies and research on the fish, and his observations on fishing and cooking shad and its roe. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Blackwell North Amer
The Founding Fish, John McPhee's twenty-sixth book, is a braid of personal history, natural history, and American history, in descending order of volume. McPhee is a shad fisherman. He waits all year for the short spring season when delicious American shad - Alosa sapidissima - leave the ocean in hundreds of thousands and run up rivers heroic distances to spawn. He approaches them with a catch-and-eat philosophy. After all, their specific name means "most savory."
A natural study of the American shad traces its annual migrations and life cycle in both freshwater rivers and the ocean, focusing in particular on those living in the Delaware River and discussing issues related to tidal power and catch-and-release campaigns. 75,000 first printing.