06 May 2014

Book Review: Walleye and Sauger

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Biology, Management, and Culture of Walleye and Sauger.  Edited by Bruce A. Barton. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, Maryland.  2011. 600 pages. US$79

BOOK-REVIEW-SAUGERWhy would a group of fisheries scientists and managers take it upon themselves, under the auspices of the Walleye Technical Committee, North Central Division of the American Fisheries Society, to write this 600-page reference book?  We learn in the preface and introduction that a revision of the 1979 FAO Synopsis of Biological Data on Walleye was long overdue and there is a wealth of information produced in the recent decades on congenerics (Sauger, Saugeye Hybrids, and Zander) to report and summarize. The widespread popularity of this group of fishes and the huge numbers of Walleyes, Saugers, and their hybrids produced and stocked in the U.S. and Canada also argue for a book that provides one-stop shopping for up-to-date references and information for anyone and everyone (undergraduates, graduate students; management and research biologists; academicians) working with Sander spp.

All of the topics relating to a species’ biology and management are covered in detail by 33 authors of 13 stand-alone, well-referenced chapters that review and discuss systematics, zoogeography, genetics, habitat, life histories, reproduction, environmental biology, feeding ecology, population dynamics, harvest and regulations, sampling, marking, and culture of Sander.  I found it very easy to read those chapters that discussed topics outside my field of expertise (e.g., molecular systematics [Chapter 3] and population genetics [Chapter 4]), as well as those chapters discussing more familiar topics, especially Chapters 5 (habitat) and 7 (life histories).  If you just hired a graduate student or entry-level biologist who will work with Sander spp., give them a copy of this book and say “Read this and get back to me when you’re done.”  The authors and the editor have done much of the heavy lifting associated with writing a thesis proposal, or pitching a research topic to a supervisor, or learning how to do a better job of rearing, stocking, sampling, or managing Sander populations, their habitat, and those who exploit them.

Those interested in Sauger might be disappointed that some chapters, or sections of chapters, are devoted wholly to Walleye, which reflects the simple fact that for every peer-reviewed paper on Sauger biology or management, there are probably 30 (or 40? 50?) Walleye manuscripts, agency reports, and theses published.  The relative paucity of Sauger research presented in this heavily-referenced text will motivate anyone sitting on unpublished Sauger data to contribute to the literature.

Production quality was very high and I have but few negative comments.  Black & white photographs in Chapter 13 (Culture) were poorly reproduced and in stark contrast to the excellent line drawings and figures throughout the book. I question the inclusion of a chapter on phylogenetic analysis of Percidae using osteology (Chapter 2).  It was one of the longest chapters at 40 pages and that narrowly-focused (albeit scholarly) material was jarringly out-of-place in this book and might have found a better home in a journal monograph series. Finally, only Chapter 13 (Culture) ended with “Suggestions for Future Research.” Suggestions in other chapters were implied, as in “We found no study that looked at this-or-that…” Ending all chapters with explicit suggestions for future research would have been a nice touch.

I agree with Peter Colby, who wrote the introduction and produced the 1979 FAO Synopsis, stating that it would be ideal to turn this publishing effort someday into a living (virtual) document, one that could be easily updated and refined. I also agree with him that “this book is not only a useful reference, but a new beginning!

Phillip W. Bettoli

U.S. Geological Survey

Box 5114, Cookeville, Tennessee 38505 USA

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For more information or to order the book, click Walleye and Sauger book