By Bruce Ingram
Whether you’re an angler or a wildlife enthusiast, the new Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes of Virginia is well worth your time to read. Recently retired DGIF fisheries biologist Paul Bugas, who collaborated with many others to create the finished product, is proud of the result.
“The biggest accomplishment of this book was finally assembling a fantastic team of writers, artists, editors and a great publisher to pull our dream together,” he says. “Our intent was to provide a colorful field version of Jenkins and Burkhead’s definitive 1994 reference book, Freshwater Fishes of Virginia. It continues to be a go-to reference for scientists, but we wanted a tackle box-ready version that would appeal to most naturalists, students, and anglers.
“Involving Val Kells put the book in overdrive. Her detailed artwork, organizational skills, and publishing experience give the guide its eye-catching color and consistency. With permission, we also utilized many pieces of fish art done by nationally recognized painter Joe Tomellari. We were able to insert black-and-white taxonomic drawings that are found in Jenkins and Burkhead’s book. Also, we incorporated some stunning underwater photos, many taken by co-author Derek Wheaton, that add to the appeal of the guide.”
Bugas says that once the team of six authors was assembled in 2016, everyone worked hard to meet deadlines. The project took over two years to produce before it was sent to Johns Hopkins University Press in December 2018. With the assistance of many editors, the written content developed an acceptable consistency and style.
The former fisheries biologist adds that the work is much more than a fish ID book.
“It speaks to the reasons why Virginia is blessed with 225-plus freshwater fishes,” he says. “We also get into conservation, management, and collecting and caring for fish. In our ‘species accounts,’ we attempted to insert as much information into each species, or group of species, to allow the reader to become intimate with the 25-plus families. We also built in a ‘Notes’ section with the species accounts that instruct the reader about certain interesting aspects about the animal.”
Bugas believes the average angler will immediately recognize his or her favorite quarry, but they will soon be equally impressed with the array of non-game fishes that call Virginia home.
“Ms. Kells accurately painted the males of many minnow and perch species in ‘spawning dress,’” he says. “This is an annual springtime rite that brings out stunning male coloration to help attract females for reproduction. I think anglers, being keen naturalists in their own right, will also be interested in learning about some of the baitfish that they come into contact with.”
Reviews are already starting to appear and the praise has been universal. Dr. Robert Jenkins, professor emeritus, Roanoke College, offered these comments.
“This guide is a stunning portrayal of the high diversity and colorful beauty of the freshwater fishes of Virginia,” he says. “It is essential for identifying the species and summarizes their biology and geography. Conservation needs within the fauna are pervasively recognized.”Buy Your Copy