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A Phantom in Your Own Backyard

Discover the elusive and struggling species, the American Eel.

Even for the most avid of anglers, the eel remains a mystery. Eco-writer and fish researcher Mark Spitzer joins us to discuss the plight of this creature. His book Beautifully Grotesque Fish of the American West recounts his adventures locating and investigating some of the most fascinating fish in Arkansas and the West.

With assistance from biologist Casey Cox and Spitzer’s fishing buddy Scotty “Goggle Eye” Lewis, Spitzer shares the fascinating folklore, history and science of Anguilla rostrata. He also makes a pet of one, which does not work out well.

Author Mark Spitzer holds the nine inch eel, Malvern, on the stream bank
Scotty Lewis
Author Mark Spitzer holds the nine inch eel, Malvern, on the stream bank

Spitzer (1965-2023), who was on various episodes of Animal Planet’s River Monsters series, published over thirty books, two of them having to do with gar species specifically and two concerning the concept of “monster fish.”

As fishing celebrity Zeb Hogan, host of National Geographic’s Monster Fish series has remarked, Spitzer teaches us “about a fish that’s in trouble and explains to us why we should care.”

Original music and soundscapes for this episode were created and performed by Amyjo Savannah, Silas Hite, Project Parallel, and The Satin Cowboy & The Seven Deadly Sins.

A special thank you to Casey Cox for the interview, and thank you to Scotty Lewis for lending his voice.

Thank you to Stickyz Rock ‘N’ Roll Chicken Shack for keeping music alive and well in Arkansas.

Generous funding for Arts & Letters Radio was provided by the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Executive Producer and Host: J. Bradley Minnick
Producer: Mary Ellen Kubit
Sound Mastering: Simon Sound Services

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