Book Reviews

John Holyoke

Nate Lindsay

Ken Allen

V. Paul Reynolds

John HolyokeTracewski Book Hooks Readers
John Holyoke

Every now and then, a book comes along that makes other writers pay attention…shake their heads…and say something that they (or we, as the case may be) don’t like to say.

I wish I had written that book.

Most of the time, we conveniently convince ourselves that if we had written the book, we would have done it differently. And (we’d only admit in our most private moments) we’d have done it better.

In Monday’s mail, I received a review copy of Kevin Tracewski’s book, A Fisherman’s Guide To Maine. After 20 pages, I was hooked. After 40, I was entranced. And long before I finished its 160 pages, I had thought, I wish I had written that book, about a thousand times.

Never, however, did I come across anything I would have changed…or done better.

That’s not modesty, nor puffery. That’s just the truth.

If you read one fishing book this year, I’d highly recommend Tracewski’s.

Tracewski is a biology professor at the University of Maine, lives in Old Town, and researched and wrote the book over a seven-year period.

His research paid off, and readers will reap the rewards.

Tracewski’s book does exactly what a fishing guidebook should do: It educates, entertains and informs. It tosses in a healthy dose of history, introduces you to some interesting local characters, and (you knew this part was coming) it tells you how to be a more effective angler; no matter which part of Maine you’re visiting.

In a genre dominated by self-published books that are unfortunately often self-edited as well, Tracewski’s is neither.

He wrote it. CountrySport Press in Camden published it. And the editing (or, perhaps Tracewski’s writing) is virtually flawless.

Typographical errors are extremely rare. Glaring factual blunders don’t exist. And that leaves the reader with nothing to do but sit back, open the book, and enjoy the experience.

While A Fisherman’s Guide to Maine has plenty of how-to and where-to information, its real strength is its painstakingly compiled historical accounts of some of the state’s most popular fishing destinations.

That was intentional, Tracewski said.

“The one thing that kicked off the book was all the historical stuff,” Tracewski said. “Because when I go Down East or to Rangeley or Moosehead, I really enjoy thinking about the people who have been standing in the same spot for 150 years, casting to the same landlocked salmon that I am.”

The history comes to life, thanks to a variety of photos that date back to the 1800s.

Tracewski tells readers how fishing used to be, and why it isn’t any more. He tells where fishing is good. Where it’s not. And, as much as possible, he tells you what kinds of bait or flies are likely to work at different times of year.

There are exceptions, of course. Tracewski delicately works his way around the issue of giving away the location of productive, but little-known, ponds.

“I can’t really write and give directions to remote ponds,” he said. “The fisheries are just too fragile.”

With that said, any angler who reads Tracewski’s book and doesn’t walk away with 10 years’ worth of potential new fishing trips, either has done a great deal of fishing on his own, or hasn’t paid attention to the book.

The book is divided into eight sections that each cover a specific part of Maine. Southern Maine, the Rangeley Lakes Region, the Kennebec River Region, Down East, the Penobscot River Drainage, the North Woods, and Aroostook County are all included.

Each section contains a detailed map that shows the area that is described, and a prominent guide or expert from each region is profiled. Salt water fishing is mentioned frequently.

Tracewski said that he had already invested plenty of time in the book before he even explored having it published.

“I was going to [write it] anyway,” he said. “I didn’t even write a query letter to [Down East Enterprises, the publisher’s parent company] until I was four years into it.”

After one query letter, he had a publisher, and he continued to research, fish, and write.

The fact that his work schedule revolves around a university’s academic schedule made the project possible, he said.

“I sort of had to expand my range [from Greater Bangor] to do a statewide [book],” he said. “That’s the beauty of having my university job. I’m pretty flexible during the time of year that the fish are available.”

Tracewski said the project never became a burden.

“It’s just something that’s been running in the background of my life. It was fun,” he said.

Buying and reading the book will not only make you more knowledgeable about Maine and its fishing, it will also help our fisheries in a tangible way.

Tracewski is donating half of his royalties from the book to a non-profit conservation fund he has established.

The fund, “Land for Future Maine Fisheries,” will be used to purchase land and obtain easements in areas that surround critical fish habitat that needs protection.

In addition, Tracewski said, Down East Books will donate a percentage of their profits to the same fund.

Even if the book wasn’t an eye-opener, which it is, that would seem to make buying it worthwhile.

Now you’ve go two reason to head to your local bookstore.