Do you have a dugout, pond, slough or lake on your property? Would you like to have some fishing fun and perhaps save a little money on your grocery bill? For a mere 35 cents per fish, you can purchase baby rainbow trout and “plant” them in a suitable location for your own fishing and eating pleasure.
For over 38 years, the Manitoba Rainbow Trout Farmers’ Association (MRTFA) has made this possible. The little trout, known as “fingerlings,” are hatched and reared in Buffalo Gap, South Dakota. Then, in May, usually around Mother’s Day, 50,000 to 60,000 four-inch and 5,000 six-inch fingerlings are trucked to the MRTFA Distribution Centre, which is located just north of the intersection of highways No. 10 and No. 16 near Minnedosa.
Then, over a two-day period, people who have placed their orders earlier in the year can pick up their fish and take them home. The fish like to feed on freshwater shrimp and various larvae and grow to about one pound or so over the summer months. Some people like to have the trout to practise their sport fishing, but the majority is harvested in the fall, caught in gill nets, cleaned and frozen. Georgina Cutter and George Curry of Mountain Road like to wait until the ice thickness is safe and then catch their trout by ice fishing. They say it’s like having their own private fishing spot and that the fish taste better when winter caught. Curry says, “Trout farming is more for the hobbyist than for commercial purposes.”
In Saskatchewan, however, pits that are deep enough for the fish to overwinter have been transformed into “pay ponds,” a practice where people pay for the opportunity to catch a trout. Some people prefer farmed trout, because they feel that pollution may taint fish caught elsewhere.
John Wityshyn of Minnedosa was the president of the MRTFA for many years, but has recently relinquished the leadership to Cindy Murray of Basswood. Membership is only $2 a year, paid when you pick up your fish. The not-for-profit association and the work of volunteers, mean that the fish are always modestly priced. This year, despite a four per cent increase in the cost of the fish, last year’s prices will hold.
Murray says, “The fish are placed in clear plastic bags in lots of 100, then the bag is filled with pure oxygen. This will keep the fish healthy for quite a few hours while they are transported. The larger, six-inch fish are sold 25 to a bag, for 90 cents each.”
Orders for only one or two fish are possible also. Curry said that some people like to have them as pets in an aquarium.
Small-scale fish farming isn’t without a few problems. An algae bloom in a pond can kill the trout. They are also subject to predation by cormorants and even loons. Sometimes, even though the fish thrive, the slough or lake can produce a “muddy-tasting” fish. So, occasionally, it’s “back to the drawing board.” However, both Curry and Murray feel that the fun outweighs any frustration.
If you would like to give trout farming a try, call Kathy Currah at 204-874-2287 to place an order.
Note: Orders are filled on a first come, first served basis.
– Candy Irwin writes from
Lake Audy, Manitoba