Where in the Monster Fish World is Mark Spitzer?

Mark Spitzer is an associate professor of writing at the University of Central Arkansas. He is the author of more than twenty-five books, including Season of the Gar: Adventures in Pursuit of America’s Most Misunderstood Fish, Beautifully Grotesque Fish of the American West (Bison Books, 2017)and In Search of Monster Fish: Angling for a More Sustainable Planet (Nebraska, 2019). Spitzer has consulted for Nat Geo’s Monster Fish and appeared on Animal Planet’s River Monsters.

The cover image for In Search of Monster Fish: Angling for a More Sustainable Planet shows me holding one monstrous goldfish. I caught that seventeen-pound German koi at Iktus in France, a pair of carp-fishing lakes near the border of Spain—because in Europe, carp ain’t invasive “trash fish” like they are in the United States; they’re sportfish, dammit!

In Search of Monster Fish cover

I also caught three other common carp at Iktus verging on thirty pounds. Those were the days when you could just hop on a plane, fly to a place stocked with sixty-pound carp (and mammoth sturgeon), and totally feel the adrenal rush of hooking into a big fat hog of a fish that roars like a freight train straight to the bottom. The line peals, the drag screams, and you are left buzzing for days.

But I also caught something else in France: a better understanding of Euro-carp-fishing culture, which basically arose from all those gravel pits crossing the continent that lent to industry and infrastructure. After they took all that stone and stuff out of those holes to make cement for roads and bridges and buildings and parking lots, the rains came and filled them up. This led to the creation of recreational fisheries from the UK to Russia. And with these fisheries, science and technology followed, giving rise to all sorts of specialized knots and gear and chemistry for baits and lines, plus tackle that rivals the unique niche-equipment developed explicitly for fly fishing. That’s why it’s safe to say that over in Europe, carp are respected and prized. When caught in these ponds, they’re handled on padded mats, doctored with anti-bacterial ointments, and released to be enjoyed again. Not only that, they’re still farmed for food and sold in markets for everyday eating and celebrating holidays. Yep, carp have a place at the family table for Easter, Christmas, New Years, and more.

Spitzer with healthy wild carp recently caught and released in NY State.

So what’s my point? Carpe diem, that’s my point! And carpe diem carpez-vous! That’s right, seize the day by seizing carp because carp have a lot to offer. As does In Search of Monster Fish, the book I’m most proud of ever having researched and written—especially for the unexpected turn it takes in the following chapter. So as the whole world goes to hell in a handbag, seize a copy for yourself.

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