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Feeling Cagey About Fish Culture: How to Raise Fish in Cages

| 1/22/2014 10:42:00 AM

Cages Trout Robinson

In 1994, as a new, young salesman for Aquacenter, a fish farm supply company in Mississippi, I was fresh out of Louisiana State University with little practical training in aquaculture, but eager to contribute where I could. I received a couple of days of training, a truck, an old customer list on dot-matrix paper, a credit card, a case of catalogs, and a territory of small-scale, scattered fish farms.  That is when the real education started for me, as I traveled over southern Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

Since some of the items we offered, like aerators, were heavy and expensive to ship, I would incorporate delivery into some of my sales visits. One of my first deliveries was an aerator to a catfish farm in Lucedale, Miss., that raised the fish in cages.  The farm was about three-rabbit-trails-into-the middle-of-nowhere, but I found it with the help of handwritten directions from the secretary. There were no affordable GPS, and cell phones then. I pulled down the dirt drive past two, one-acre ponds, each with a small dock and 4 to 6 floating cages surrounding each dock.

Mr. Simmons came out to meet me on the porch of his log cabin home and we inspected his new aerator.  I asked him about his operation, partially because I couldn’t imagine how the fish went to market.  Turns out he not only raised fish in cages, but he successfully sold the concept to the local community.  People in Mississippi eat catfish, and before the concept of buying local, and knowing the farmer was trending, it worked for Mr. Simmons. He invited the public, through bulletin board posts and small signs, to the farm for harvest days. He informed me, “That Saturday, when we have a sale, they are all lined up down the road with ice chests.” He fed the fish a commercial pelleted ration and worked to keep good water quality in the ponds by flushing with well water. He claimed that the approach, in addition to the catfish never coming in contact with the bottom mud, gave a better tasting catfish, avoiding some of the muddy flavor that can occasionally occur with catfish.  Mr. Simmons’ problem was not how to get the fish to market, but how to increase production to meet local demand.

He had experienced a crash in oxygen levels, resulting in the loss of some of his stock, and wanted to ensure that he didn’t lose any more fish that way. I assured him that aeration was a good investment and I gave him one piece of useful advice: Break up the well water as it enters the pond either by splashing or spraying through a nozzle. Well water is predictably clean but is low in oxygen and high in carbon dioxide.  While the well water was diluting the waste products in the pond, it was aggravating his low-oxygen conditions.

Advantages of Fish Cage Culture

Commercial pond culture of fish requires special construction and harvesting equipment. Cage culture allows fish production in your pond without pond renovation, the investment in large harvesting equipment, or draining for harvest. Some other advantages of cage culture provides are:

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