Graphic of A E T N Logo Graphic of P B S logo

On the Same Page with Mark Spitzer

Loading the player…

Author Mark Spitzer, a novelist, poet, essayist, literary translator, professor of writing at the University of Central Arkansas, and editor of Toad Suck Review, discusses his newest book, "Season of the Gar: Adventures in Pursuit of America's most Misunderstood Fish,"

Spitzer details his lengthy and often frustrating quest from Texas to Louisiana, Missouri and eventually Arkansas to catch his own gar. He draws on folklore, science, history, his own pet gar, and even gar recipes to tell this unique literary eco-tale about a fish that has inspired imaginations.
"Season of the Gar" takes readers to the prehistoric swamps and murky rivers seeking America's most feared and demonized fish. The book details his sometimes bizarre angling adventures in search of this air-breathing freshwater giant – up to 10 feet in length and well over 300 pounds – as he separates fact from fiction.

TRANSCRIPT

OUR GUEST TODAY ON THE SHOW WAS BORN IN MINNESOTA, EDUCATED IN LOUISIANA AND SPENT YEARS IN PARIS AND ALL THAT BROUGHT HIM TO THE STATE OF ARKANSAS WHERE HE LIVES AND WRITES ON A NUMBER OF SUBJECTS, BUT PERHAPS THE HE IS MOST PASSIONATE ABOUT IS THE ALLIGATOR GAR. MARK SPITZER IS OUR GUEST AND HIS BOOK IS "SEASON OF THE GAR."   MARK SPITZER, THANK YOU FOR COMING TO TALK ABOUT THE "SEASON OF THE GAR" HERE AND I LOVE THE BOOK. I HAVE TO TELL YOU, I THOUGHT IT WAS FASCINATING AND YOU GET RIGHT DOWN TO IT. PAGE 2 YOU HAVE THE PICTURE THAT PROBABLY MOST PEOPLE ASSOCIATE WITH THE BIG, BAD, ALLIGATOR GAR THAN MORE OTHERS AND IT'S LAYING RIGHT THERE AND YOU CITE IT AS AN IN[SPAO-EUGS/]ATION TO YOU AND PROBABLY INSPIRED A  LOT OF PEOPLE, GOOD OR BAD ABOUT THE ALLIGATOR [TKPWA-RBGS/] HASN'T IT?

  OH, YEAH, I SAW THAT PICTURE WAS A KID, 6 YEARS OLD AND LOOKING THROUGH A FISH BOOK AND  SAW THAT FISH AND COULDN'T BELIEVE THAT WE HAD MONSTERS LIKE THAT IN THESE AMERICAN WATERS.

  FRESHWATER.

  YES. SECOND LARGEST FRESHWATER FISH ON THE CONTINENT.

  IT HAS TO MAKE PEOPLE THINK WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO ME IF I FALL OUT OF THE BOAT? THIS IS THE THING THAT IS WAITING FOR ME DOWN HERE, RIGHT?

  A LOT OF PEOPLE TALK ABOUT THAT, BUT WE HAVEN'T HAD A LOT OF GAR SIGHTINGS UNTIL THE LAST 10-20 YEARS AND WHAT WE HAVE BEEN FINDING OUT IS THAT THEY DON'T ATTACK PEOPLE. THERE HAVE BEEN STORIES OF THEM ATTACKING PEOPLE, BUT NOTHING THAT REALLY OFFICIAL. AND BASICALLY THEY DON'T ATTACK PEOPLE BECAUSE THEY ONLY WILL BITE SOMETHING THAT THEY CAN SWALLOW. AND IF THEY BITE SOMETHING THAT IS LARGER THAN THAT THEY CAN SWALLOW, THEY WILL WEIGH AND IT IF IT'S TOO BIG THEY WILL LET IT OUT. SO THEY DON'T EAT PEOPLE AT ALL.

  YOU MAKE A CASE FOR THAT THROUGHOUT THE BOOK AND YET THAT HASN'T STOPPED US AS A GENERAL POP [HRO-UGS/] TO HAVE FEARS OF GAR. LET'S GO BACK TO THE BEGINNING AND I ASSUME YOU WERE INTERESTED IN FISHING FROM YOUR YOUTH.

  I GREW UP FISHING IN MINNESOTA AND THE GREAT LAKES THERE AND ALWAYS BEEN INTERESTED IN FISH.

  AND THEN THE GAR PICTURE CAME ALONG AND SET YOU ON THE COURSE.

YES.

  WHAT DID YOU DECIDE AT THAT POINT? I'M GOING TO CATCH ONE? I WANT TO LEARN ABOUT THEM? I WANT TO WRITE ABOUT THEM OR ALL OF THE ABOVE?

  IT WAS ALWAYS A MYTHICAL CREATURE FOR ME, BECAUSE IN MINNESOTA THERE IS NOT MANY GAR UP THERE. I WASN'T TO GRAD SCHOOL IN 1997 TO THE UNIVERSITY OF LOUISIANA AT LAFAYETTE DOWN IN THE CAJUN SWAMP IN LOWNDES  LOUISIANA AND I WAS RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF GAR COUNTRY AND FIGURED IT'S TIME FOR ME TO GO OUT AND CATCH SOME NOW TO LEARN MORE ABOUT. SO I DECIDED TO MAKE IT MY QUEST TO CATCH A GAR FISH AND RESEARCH  GAR FISH AND THAT IS HOW I REALLY GOT INTO IT.

  WERE YOU SUCCESSFUL YOUR FIRST OUTING TO GO OUT AND CATCH A GAR?

  THE FIRST TIME I WENT OUT TO CATCH A GAR, THIS GUY TOLD ME WHERE I COULD CATCH  SOME AND THERE WAS A GAR SWIMMING RIGHT THERE. SO I DROPPED MY WORM RIGHT IN FRONT OF IT, A SINGLE HOOK AND WORM. [ LAUGHTER ] AND THE THING BUILT AND I COULDN'T SEAL THE DEAL.

  DID HE BREAK YOUR LEADER OR COULDN'T BE HOOKED?

  COULDN'T BE HOOKED. THEY HAVE A REALLY BONY MOUTH AND IT'S HARD TO GET THEM WITH A MONORAIL.

  THEY WEAR LIKE A SUIT OF ARMOR, BASICALLY. THE SCALES ARE ALMOST IMPENETRABLE?

  EXACTLY. THEIR SCALES ARE COVERED WITH DENTINE, WHICH IS WHAT OUR TEETH ARE MADE OF ARE AND FROM THE FRENCH EXPLORERS CAME OVER CALLED IT "LE POISSON ARME," OR ARMORED FISH AND MUSKET BALLS WOULD BOUNCE OFF. [ APPLAUSE ]

  I GUESS THAT WAS PROBABLY THE START OF ALL THE BAD PUBLICITY THAT THE ALLIGATOR GAR HAS HAD THROUGH THE YEARS THROUGH WESTERN FOLKS AND NON-NATIVE FOLKS. MOST SOCIETIES I GUESS HAVE A MYTH OF SOME SORT OF DEVIL FISH OR SEA MONSTER AND FOR MIDDLE AMERICA THAT IS OUR DEVIL FISH, ISN'T IT?

  OH, YEAH, IT'S REALLY VILLAINIZED, DEMONIZED FISH AND PEOPLE HAVE COME TO HATE THE FISH THROUGH THE CENTURIES BECAUSE OF THE  PROPAGANDA SPREAD BY STATE AGENCIES IN THE SOUTH, USUALLY, LOUISIANA, TEXAS IN THE   20S AND 30S THEY  BASICALLY WANTED TO GET RID OF THEM.

  BUT IT WAS LIKE THERE WAS NO BASIS, IN FACT, FOR KILLING THESE FISH.

  RIGHT.

  BECAUSE THEIR SIDE OF THE ARGUMENT WAS THAT THEY KILL ALL OF THE FAVORITE SPORT FISH AND FOOD FISH AND THE BOOK POINTS OUT THAT IS NOT THE CASE, RIGHT?

  THAT IS TRUE. AL  ALLIGATOR GAR ARE THE LASTEST OF THE SPECIES, AND THEY EAT MOSTLY BIG MINNOWS, CARP, DRUM, BUFFALO, SHAD, AND THESE ARE THE  FISH THAT WRECK OTHER NETS OF OTHER FISH. THE MORE ALLIGATOR GAR YOU TAKE OUT OF THE RIVER SYSTEM THE MORE BIG MINNOW YOU HAVE AND LESS LARGE GAME FISH.

  BASS FRY AND CRAPPIE FRY AND THEY ARE JUST NOT LOVEABLE TO LOOK AT  --  TO YOU, MAYBE [ LAUGHTER ] [ LAUGHTER ] PEOPLE SEE THE PREHISTORIC FISH.

  THEY HAVE BEEN HERE SINCE BEFORE THE DINOSAURS. EVEN THE DINOSAURS COULDN'T KILL THEM. [ LAUGHTER ]

  THAT IS SOMETHING LIKE PROBABLY 30,000 MILLENNIA THEY HAVE BEEN AROUND, BUT YET YOUR BOOK POINTS OUT THEY COULD BE GONE IN LESS THAN A QUARTER OF MILIENIA.

  THE BIGGEST THE SPECIES, THE EASIER IT IS TO WIPE THEM OUT BECAUSE THEIR REPRODUCTION SYSTEM IS SO SENSITIVE. WE BASICALLY WIPED OUT THE ALLIGATOR GAR IN THE '50S. PEOPLE WERE COMING FROM AROUND THE WORLD TO FISH FOR THEM ON ROD AND REEL AND BOW-HUNTING AND THEY BECAME A BIG-TROPHY FISH. AND BETWEEN '57 AND '58 AND '59, BASICALLY ALL THE ALLIGATOR GAR WERE WIPED OUT AND WE HAVE BEEN TRYING TO REBUILD THE POPULATIONS.

  THIS WAS BEFORE CATCH AND RELEASE IN THE '50S. YOU CAN'T RELEASE A BOW-CAUGHT FISH, BUT EVEN CAUGHT HOOK AND LINE, WHAT WOULD THEY DO WITH THEM?

  SHOOT THEM IN THE HEAD AND THROW THEM ON THE SHORE. PEOPLE WEREN'T REALLY INTO EATING THEM, ALTHOUGH THEIR MEET  MEAT IS JUST FINE TO EAT. IT'S GOOD? ?

  YEAH.

  IT'S WHITE, FLAKY, LIKE PIKE OR WALLEYE.

  IT'S A THICK MEAT, LIKE THE DENSITY OF CHICKEN IN A WAY. I WOULDN'T SAY IT TASTES LIKE CHICKEN, BUT IT'S THICK AND SORT OF CHEWY, BUT A CLEAN, WYATT, SORT OF SWEETMEAT.

  YOU HAVE SOME RECIPES?

  YES.

  IN THE BOOK FOR GAR BALLS IS THE ONES YOU BLEND THEM UP WITH THE SPICES AND FRY THEM UP. YOU HAVE TRIED THAT, RIGHT?

  OH, IT'S GOOD STUFF.

  LET'S GETS BACK TO THE LURID STUFF, THE SEA MONSTER TALES. YOU GO TO THE NORTHEAST, NOT A GREAT LAKE, BUT A BIG  LAKE CHAMPAGNE.

  CHAMPLAIN CAME OVER IN THE 1700S WITH THE IROQUOIS INDIANS AND GOT TO SEE SOME OF THE BIG FISH THAT WERE IN THE SYSTEM UP THERE. AND HE WROTE ABOUT HIM IN HIS DIARY, I THINK IT WAS 1609 OR SOMETHING. 1609, SO THE 1600'S AND HE WROTE ABOUT THE FISH, THE NATIVES CALLED THEM "CHAOUSAROU," I THINK AND CHAMPLAIN DESCRIBED THE FISH AND THE INTERESTING THING HE DESCRIBED IS CLEARLY A GAR. YOU LOOK AT  ILLUSTRATION, IT'S A GAR WITH THE SAME STRUCTURE AND TEETH. BUT HE DESCRIBES THE FISH AS HAVING AN UPPERROW OF DOUBLE TEETH. AND THE ALLIGATOR GAR IS THE ONLY SPECIES OF GAR THAT HAS A DOUBLE ROW OF TEENAGER. TEETH.  SO IT'S REALLY INTERESTING THAT HE SAW 400, 500 YEARS AGO SAW AN ALLIGATOR GAR UP IN THE NORTHEAST UNITED STATES.

  BETWEEN VERMONT AND NEW YORK?

  YES.

  AND ALLIGATOR GAR ARE BASICALLY IN THE SOUTH AND DON'T GET HIGHER THAN THE LOWER MISSOURI. THERE IS OTHER GAR SPECIES AROUND THE COUNTRY, BUT THE ALLIGATOR GAR, ITS RANGE USED TO BE AS FAR AS CANADA. THEY HAVE JUST BEEN EXTRICATED THROUGH THE COUNTRY.

  THROUGH FISHING AND LOSS OF HABITAT. LAKE MURRAY, IS IT SAM RAYBURN HAD A FISH TALE OF A MONSTER?

  OH, YES. WHEREVER YOU HAVE GOT ALLIGATOR GAR, YOU END UP WITH STORIES OF SEA MONSTERS. IT JUST HAPPENS. PEOPLE SEE THESE THINGS SLASHING AROUND, USUALLY WHEN THEY ARE MATING, AND THEY CREATE QUITE A DISTURBANCE. AND THAT LEADS TO STORIES.

  STORIES AS WE KNOW ESPECIALLY RELATED TO FISHING, FISHING IS ONE THE SPORT IT'S A REFUGE FROM THE TRUTH. PEOPLE JUST LIKE TO LEAVE THE TRUTH BEHIND AND TELL STORIES AND I'M SURE PEOPLE WILL SAY THEY HAVE SEEN THEM PULL COWS OFF THE BANKS AND ATTACK PEOPLE, WHICH IS TOTALLY SPURIOUS. IT'S FALSE. ALTHOUGH THAT HAS NOT STOPPED THE STORIS FROM BEING PRINTED OVER THE YEARS.

  EXACTLY.

  AND YOU GO THROUGH A VERY PAINSTAKING PROCESS OF DEBUNKING MOST OF THAT OR POINTING OUT RIGHTLY SO THERE IS NO TRUTH. WOULD YOU ASSUME THAT NOWADAYS THAT STILL MOST PEOPLE WHO ARE FAMILIAR OR AT LEAST HAVE HEARD OF ALLIGATOR GAR BELIEVE THEY MIGHT ATTACK A PERSON?

  I THINK PEOPLE ARE STARTING TO GET AN AWARENESS AND STARTING TO BE LESS AFRAID. IT'S  SLOW, IT'S GRADUAL, BUT THE SHOW "RIVER MONSTERS," HAS DONE WELL FOR THE ALLIGATOR GAR. SOME OF MY RESEARCH WENT INTO THE ALLIGATOR GAR EPISODE.

  YOU WERE IN IT?

  YES.

  AND SO THE CONCLUSION OF THE SHOW IS THAT THESE FISH DO NOT EAT PEOPLE AND THEY NEVER DID. AND SO THIS SHOW GETS SEEN BY MILLIONS OF PEOPLE ALL OVER THE WORLD, ALL THE TIME, RERUNS AND SO THAT SHOW HAS DONE A LOT TO HELP THE ALLIGATOR GAR'S REPUTATION, I THINK. PEOPLE ARE STILL AFRAID OF THEM, BUT IS  THIS IS A TIME WITH A LOT MORE SCIENCE GOING ON. THE STATE AGENCIES AND CONSERVATION SOCIETIES ARE WORKING  TOGETHER RIGHT NOW AND THERE IS A LOT OF SCIENCE AND CONSERVATION EFFORTS ACROSS THE UNITED STATES RIGHT NOW TO PROTECT THESE FISH AND PRESERVE THEM.

  THERE IS A WHOLE CHAPTER IN THE BOOK, WE'RE TALKING WITH MARK SPITZER  ABOUT HIS BOOK "SEASON OF THE GAR."  AND THE WHOLE CHAPTER DEDICATED TO THE CREW OF THE EPISODE OF "RIVER MONSTERS." THE FUNNY THING THAT STRUCK ME IS THE HOST ASKED YOU I UNDERSTAND YOU HAVE A MAMMAL YOU ARE GOING TO FISH WITH. AN ALL  AN ACTUAL MAMMAL AND YOU SAID WHAT?

  HE WENT TO ROANOKE AND THE PONDS AND GOT ALL SORTS OF CARP AND DRUM AND KOI AND GINOBL GOLDFISH AND I TOLD THEM ABOUT THE BAIT I WAS BRINGING AND I TALKED ABOUT THE DRUM. I TOLD THEM IT WAS SHEEP'S HEAD WHICH IS ANOTHER WORD FOR "FRESHWATER DRUM."  AND THEY THOUGHT THAT WAS VERY INTERESTING. AND THEN SO THEY HAD ME ON THE CAMERA AND TALKING  --  THEY WERE ASKING ME ABOUT THIS "MAMMAL," THAT I BROUGHT FOR BAIT. I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT. AND THEN THE SHEEP'S HEAD, [ LAUGHTER ] OH, THAT IS A FISH. THAT IS NOT A MAMMAL.

  THEY WERE REALLY COUNTING ON THAT TO BE A BIG VISUAL ELEMENT IN THE SHOW THERE WITH THE SHEEP'S HEAD OFF THE BOAT.

  REPORTER}  RIGHT.

  SORRY TO DISAPPOINT THEM. IT'S GETTING THE WORD OUT ON THEM. ANOTHER FISHING TRIP, SAME AREA WITH THE FAMOUS CAPTAIN KIRK AS A BIG PART OF YOUR BOOK AND THE FIRST TRIP DOWN THERE TO VISIT WITH CAPTAIN KIRK IS THAT WORD-FOR-WORD IT'S HAPPENED OR A LITTLE BIT OF WRITERS EMBELLISHMENT IN THE BOOK?

  THIS BOOK HERE IT'S A SERIOUS BOOK AND TRYING TO MAKE IT FUN, IT'S INTERSPERSED WITH PERSONAL NARRATIVES ABOUT ME GOING FISHING AND I'M SORT OF INFLUENCED BY HUNTER S. THOMPSON AND MY FRIEND HIPPY AND I GO DOWN TO TEXAS AND HAVE WILD TIMES, SO YEAH, IT'S A LITTLE EMBELLISHED.

  IT MOVES ON AND IT'S A LOT OF FUN AND SOUNDS LIKE A TRIP YOU WOULD WANT TO BE ON FOR A WHILE. THIS CAPTAIN KIRK FELLOW IS THE JEDI MASTER OF ALLIGATOR GAR FISHING.

  HE IS.

  TELL US ABOUT HIS METHOD, HOW HE IS SUCCESSFUL WITH THAT?

  HE FISHES ON THE TRINITY RIVER IN TEXAS AND THAT RIVER IS JUST THE RICHEST RIVER SYSTEM OF ALLIGATOR GAR, 5-FOOTERS, 6-FOOTERS, 7-FOOTERS. HE GIVES YOU A BIG OLD CARP AND GIANT ROD LIKE YOU WERE SAYING EARLIER, A BROOMSTICK. THAT IS HOW FAT IT IS AND IT'S GOT A GIANT BAIT CASTING REEL ON IT. BASICALLY WHAT YOU DO IS THAT YOU THROW THE  --  YOU HOOK THE CARP AND THROW IT INTO THE RIVER AND IT SINKS ONTO THE SANDY BOTTOM. AND THEN HE HAS THESE ROD HOLDERS. HE TAKES YOU TO THE SHORE AND YOU PUT THE ROD HOLDER THERE AND SET THE ROD THERE AND THERE IS AN ALARM SYSTEM.  SO YOU SET A WHOLE BUNCH  --

  KIND OF A TIP OFF FOR ICE FISHING WITH THE FLAG UP?

  YOU GET A BEEP, A HIGH-PITCHED SIGNAL.  SO WE SET UP MAYBE SIX OR SEVEN OF THESE ALONG THE SHORE AND THEN WE WENT TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE RIVER AND WE WAITED IN THE SHADE FOR THESE THINGS TO START BEEPING. WE HEAR SOMETHING BEEP, CAPTAIN KIRK FIRES UP THE BOAT AND WE CRUISE ACROSS THE RIVER AND PICK UP THE FISHING POLE. AND THEN WE BASICALLY FOLLOW THE FISH DOWNSTREAM, FLOATING.

  YOU ARE TRYING TO MAKE HIM AWARE HE HAS THE BAIT AND NOT TRYING TO SET A HOOK YET?

  YES. THAT  IS THE NO. 1 MISTAKE IN GAR FISH PEOPLE TRY TO SET IT QUICK. BUT WHAT THE FISH DOES IS GO DOWNSTREAM, IT WANTS TO DO THAT BECAUSE IT'S EASIER TO DIGEST AND GO DOWNSTREAM AND MAKES, 15, 20 MINUTES FOR THE FISH TO MOVE THE BAIT AROUND IN ITS MOUTH AND YOU DON'T WANT TO SET THE HOOK UNTIL IT SWALLOWS THE BAIT.

  SO TO HOOK INTO TISSUE.

  RIGHT, AND YOU FOLLOW THE FISH AND THERE IS A FLOAT THAT MARK S WHERE THE FISH IS GOING AND THE FLOAT STOPS AND YOU STOP BEHIND IT AND WHEN IT TAKES OFF AGAIN, YOU KNOW IT'S TIME TO SET THE HOOK. YOU  CRANK BACK NOT ONCE, BUT FOUR OR FIVE TILES.

  THAT IS HOW CAPTAIN  KIRK DO IT.

  HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO LAND A 6-FOOTER?

  ABOUT HALF AN HOUR.

  IT'S HARD WORK?

  OHYEAH.

  ARE YOU STRAIGHT UP-AND-DOWN?

  USUALLY THE FISH IS GOING DOWN RIVER AND IT'S USUALLY AHEAD OF YOU, AND SO YOU HAVE TO CRANK BACK WITH YOUR BACK AND THEN WHEN YOU GO FORWARD, YOU REEL IN. WHEN I HAD MY BIG FISH WE WERE ANYWAY GIANT EDDY THAT WAS STRAIGHT DOWN UNDERNEATH US.

  SO A LOT OF WORK THERE.

  YES, I HAD TO HAUL IT UP.

  THAT IS GREAT EXPERIENCE AND THIS GUY IS THE BEST ON EARTH AND THE TRINITY RIVER IS THE MOST PROLIFIC FOR ALLIGATOR GAR. HOW ABOUT ARKANSAS RIVERS?

  WE HAVE SO MANY RIVERS IN THIS  STATE THAT USED TO BE WORLD-CLASS ALLIGATOR GAR STREAMS, BUT NOW THE BIGGEST POPULATIONS ARE IN THE WASHTAU RIVER UNDER THE FELSENTHAL DAM, BUT NEXT DOOR TO CONWAY, OVER BY THE ARKANSAS RIVER, BY THE TOAD SUCK DAM, POOL 7, THAT GOES FROM THE TOAD SUCK DAM TO MAYFLOWER, THAT AREA WE KNOW HAS THE LARGEST POPULATION IN THE STATE.  THERE IS ONE TRIBUTARY THERE THAT HAS 75 TO 100 ALLIGATOR GAR, NOTHING UNDER 5.5-FEET. BUT THERE ARE POPULATIONS OUT IN THE RIVER ALSO THAT LIVE THERE FULL-TIME AND THERE ARE HUNDREDS MORE IN THAT. AND THERE ARE HUNDREDS MORE UPSTREAM IN POOL 8 BETWEEN TOAD SUCK DAM AND MORRILTON.  SO THAT AREA BIOLOGISTS AND U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE AND GAME AND FISH HERE ARE STILL TRYING TO GET A HANDLE ON COUNTING.

  THE POPULATION AND STUFF LIKE THAT?

  RIGHT.

  AND NOW AS FAR AS REGULATION, I ASSUME THEY ARE ALL ENLIGHTEND MOST OF THE WILDLIFE AND FISH MANAGEMENT AGENCIES AND NOBODY ENCOURAGES OVERTAKING THEM.

  RIGHT.

  AND ARE THEY DIALING BACK THE LIMITS?

  YES. WE JUST HAD HERE IN 2010 A NEW PACKAGE ALLIGATOR GAR REGULATIONS. NOW THE LIMIT IS DOWN TO 1 PER DAY, PROVIDED THAT YOU HAVE THE FREE ALLIGATOR GAR PERMIT YOU CAN GET OFF THE GAME AND FISH COMMISSION WEBSITE

  HOW MANY PERMITS CAN YOU GET? ONE OR MULTIPLE?

  YOU CAN GET ONE PER YEAR.

  OKAY.

  THAT ALLOWS YOU TO CATCH ONE ALLIGATOR GAR PER DAY, EXCEPT DURING SPAWNING SEASON WHICH IS MAY-JUNE. DURING THOSE TWO MONTHS, ANY ALLIGATOR GAR OVER 36" IS OFF-LIMITS.

  YOUR FASCINATION WITH GAR IS SO VIVID IN THE BOOK. YOU LIVE AND BREATHE GAR AND YOU HAVE A LOT OF OTHER INTERESTS AS WELL AND WE HAVE TO TALK ABOUT THEM ALSO. YOU ARE THE MANAGING EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF A LITERARY COMPENDIUM CALLED TOAD SUCK REVIEW, WHICH IS THE SON OF A VERY FAMOUS ONE, AND I KNOW OUR VIEWER ARE LISTENER TO NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO. YOU WOULD HEAR FROM THE OLD EDITOR AND YOU HAVE TAKEN THAT OVER AND IT WAS AN ANNUALLY PUBLISHED THING THAT I WOULD IMAGINE TAKES A LOT OF YOUR TIME.

  WE PUBLISH OUT OF THE U OF LA. I HAVE A PICTURE OF A GIANT ALLIGATOR GAR ON THE COVER.

  ISN'T THAT GREAT?

  YES, I LOVE THAT PICTURE. SO THIS IS OUR FIRST ISSUE. WE'RE WORKING ON OUR SECOND ISSUE. IT TAKES A LOT OF WORK. I HAVE TO SOLICIT SOME WORK AND WE HAVE OTHER EDITORS ON IT ALSO AND WE'RE TRYING TO MAKE A LITERARY NAME FOR THIS AREA OF CENTRAL ARKANSAS.

  YOU WORK ON THAT WHERE YOU TEACH, A WRITING DEPARTMENT THAT YOU ARE INVOLVED IN THE CREATION AND MAINTENANCE OF AND SO FORTH AND YET YOU HAVE WRITTEN A LOT OF BOOKS AND NOT JUST ON GAR. A LOT OF IS IT STEMING FROM EXPERIENCE IN FRANCE AND WORKING IN THE FAMOUS SHAKESPEARE BOOKSTORE.

  YES, SHAKESPEARE BOOK STORE AND COMPANY IN PARIS. I LIVE THERE HAD BETWEEN 1993 AND 1996. I WENT OVER THERE TO TRANSLATE SOME FRENCH POETRY THAT I HAD TO DO. AND I HAD TO DO FOR MYSELF. I WANTED TO DO IT. AND I ENDED UP AT THAT BOOKSTORE AND JUST LIVING THERE FOR THREE YEARS RENT-FREE. MY JOB WAS JUST TO TRANSLATE FRENCH AUTHORS. SO WHEN I GOT DONE TRANSLATING THAT POET, I WENT ON TO ANOTHER AND DID IT FOR THREE YEARS.

  OH, MAN, WOULD YOU DO IT AGAIN? WOULD YOU GO BACK?

  YOU LIVED WITH BEDBUGS AND THIEVES AND FLEAS AND THERE WAS SORT OF AN ERRATICNATURE OVER THERE. I AM NOT AN ADOLESCENT ANYMORE. I WAS IN MY 20S AT THAT TIME, BUT FELT AN ADOLESCENT.

  MORE OF A ROMANTIC NOTION.

  I WASN'T CLEAN SHEETS AND TV AT NIGHT. [ LAUGHTER ]

  AND TIME FOR GAR FISHING AND SO FORTH. WE'RE GOING TO WRAP UP THIS AND READ US AN EXCERPT FROM THE PARTS, THE GONZOESQUE FISHING TRIPS. IT'S A REALLY GREAT LITTLE FISHING EPISODE.

  ISLAND. ALL RIGHT. THIS IS WHEN I CAUGHT MY FIRST HUGE GAR WITH CAPTAIN KIRK ON THE TRINITY RIVER, SUDDENLY THE LINE WENT TAUT AND I LOWERED THE ROD AND HAULED BACK, JERKING IT AS HARD AS I COULD AND SOMEWHERE LEAGUES BENEATH US I FELT MY DISTANT HOOK SINK INTO A MASSIVE MEAT. SET IT AGAIN, CAPTAIN  KIRK SHOUTED AND I SET IT FOUR MORE TIMES AND EACH TIME I DID, IT MADE A RUN, SPINNING THE DRAG. SHE IS A BIG ONE, CAPTAIN KIRK SAID. FOR EVERY 20 YARD ISSUES WOULD REEL IN, IT TOOK ANOTHER 30 OUT, BUT WHAT WAS I GOING TO DO? LAY DOWN MY POLE AND GIVE UP. NO WAY. TWO OLD BOYS [TPO-EURBD/] CATFISH ON THE FAR BANK. AFTER 25 MINUTES I FINALLY GOT IT UNDER THE BOAT AND IT PASSED RIGHT UNDER US AND KEPT PASSING UNDER US. EVEN CAPTAIN KIRK WHISTLED IN AWE, THAT THING WAS AT LEAST 6-FEET LONG AND THICK AROUND AS A KAYAK WITH SCALES THE SIZE OF DOMINOS. THEN I SAW AN EYEBALL TURN.  IT SAW US, WENT WIDE AND THAT GAR SHOT OFF LIKE I ASHOPLIFTER, TAKING OFF ANOTHER 30 YARDS. I HAULED BACK AND HAULED BACK WHILE HIPPY AND KIRK YELLED STUFF OF THE MY BACK WAS START WITHING TO ACHE AND ARMED TIMED, BUT THIS WAS THE MYTHICAL BIG ONE, SO THERE WAS NO WAY TO GET IT IN THE BOAT. IT WAS DESTINATIONED TO BREAK THE LINE AND LEAVE ME LIKE THE REST, SOMEONE CLOSE, BUT NO CIGAR. THEN I GOT IT ALONGSIDE AGAIN. YOU STUPID, CAPTAIN KIRK SAID TO THE GAR, YOU ARE HOOKED BY A HAIR. IT WAS ONE JUST UNDER 2 POINTS AND THE OTHER HALF OF THAT. THEN THE GAR SHOT OFF AGAIN. BUT I YANKED IT IN AND IT SAWS US BETWEEN AGAIN AND THAT IS HOW IT WENT FOR TWO MORE MINUTES UNTIL IT WAS TIRED ENOUGH FOR CAPTAIN KIRK TO SLIP IT AROUND HIS HEAD. THE GAR JUST ROLLED TOWARDS THE ROPE OUT OF HIS HAND AND SHOT OFF AGAIN FOR ANOTHER RUN, BUT I BROUGHT IT BACK AND THE ROPE WAS HOOKED BY THE HOOK, WHICH THE CAPTAIN  BEGIN  TO ENTANGLE. HE GOT THE ROPE UNDER THE PECTORAL FINS AND PULLED IT TIGHT AND USING ONE FOOT TO HOLD IT TO THE FLAT OF THE BOAT YANKS THAT GAR HEAD OUT OF THE DRINK AND TWISTING, IT HE THREW HIS WEIGHT INTO THE SHOULDERS, PULLING THAT INTO THE BOWL. MEANWHILE THE CATFISHERMEN WATCHED ON AGAPE. [ LAUGHTER ] THE

  I READ A LOT OF GOOD FISHING RITING AND THAT IS GOOD FISHING WRITING. MARK SISTER, THANK YOU FOR BEING WITH US AND YOUR NEW BOOK "SEASON OF THE GAR," ON THE SAME PAGE.

  THANK YOU.

AETN.org > Programs > AETN Presents > On the Same Page > On the Same Page with Mark Spitzer