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Freshwater Fishes of Texas

No more "fishing around" for a positive ID.

By E. Dan Klepper

"The first comprehensive, illustrated field guide to the freshwater fishes of Texas," publisher Texas A&M University Press claims of their new Freshwater Fishes of Texas. Lone Star anglers, both old hands and new, will appreciate the conviction in that statement once they thumb through the results. The guide, and it is a true field guide, is simple, concise and informative. In fact, the only thing fishy about this first-ever field guide is, well, the fish. The photos are crisp, the habitat mapping is a helpful feature, and the text is clear and easy to understand. Best of all, the guide is well-organized, saving the sportsman from the frustrations of "fishing around" for identification.

Some outdoor folks may already be familiar with the guide's key for identifying fish. Traditionally used in many of the more detailed biological field guides, the dichotomous key navigates anglers through a series of yes/no questions designed to narrow possibilities. This type of key is simple to follow and anglers will find the easy-to-use sequence of couplets in the key extremely helpful in clearly identifying fish families (although it would have been even more useful if the key went all the way down to the species level). The couplets are based on the presence or absence of morphological characteristics inherent to, in this case, fish. Differences among the characteristics of fish families are relatively straightforward and recognizable. Features such as paired fins, a snake-like body, scales, paddle-shaped snouts, and head barbells are all criteria used in the dichotomous key to help anglers focus in on specifics. Then, once anglers are confident in having identified the family name of the fish they are trying to look up they can find the species using the additional details and photographs provided in the corresponding family sections.

The guide's photographs are vivid, often providing examples of the various color phases that indicate sexual differences and breeding periods. The visual details are distinct, aiding anglers in identifying what's hanging out in the shallows or off the tip of their rod. Texas anglers will appreciate the addition of Freshwater Fishes of Texas to their wildlife library. It also makes great fish camp reading or even a helpful addition to the boat gear. However, avoid sending the book overboard. Much like a noisy fishing companion, it's not waterproof.

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