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One Fish, Two Fish: Celebrating Wisconsin Fish
Teyanna, 68th Alice in Diaryland, catching a nice trout for supper!
  Teyanna, 68th Alice in Diaryland, catching a nice trout for supper!  

One Fish, Two Fish: Celebrating Wisconsin Fish

Teyanna Loether, 68th Alice in Dairyland

In Wisconsin we are fortunate to have a variety of farms that supply local, fresh food: beef farms, dairy farms, vegetable farms, and even fish farms. Aquaculture is an important part of Wisconsin agriculture’s diverse $88.3 billion economic impact. The basic definition of aquaculture, or fish farming, is the raising of aquatic plants and animals in controlled settings. Wisconsin has a long history in private aquaculture, as its existence dates back to 1856. Our state is now home to more than 2,800 fish farms, including commercial operations as well as many private non-commercial ponds. We lead the Midwest in total sales of aquaculture products.

Trout is one of the major species raised as a food source in our state because of its ability to thrive in our colder waters. However, one of the unique aspects of Wisconsin aquaculture compared to other states is the diversity of species we raise. Some fish farmers also raise game fish such as walleye, bluegill and perch. Another large component of Wisconsin aquaculture is raising bait fish. With many lakes that draw visitors from near and far, baitfish are in integral part of our state’s tourism industry.

Wisconsin fish farmers use sustainable best management practices, meaning that each day they take great care to see that their farms will provide safe food for consumers long into future generations. Water use is carefully monitored. In most aquaculture systems, water is not consumed—it is used to raise fish, and then filtered and cleaned before it returns to the environment.  In many cases, fish are certified healthy by a veterinarian as well. A veterinarian specially trained in aquaculture may frequently visit farms to inspect the gills and overall health of the fish.

As with many aspects of agriculture, aquaculture continues to evolve and innovate in Wisconsin. A relatively new and exciting component of fish farming that has cropped up is aquaponics. In an aquaponics system, fish and plants are raised together in a recirculating system. As the fish eat and grow, they produce waste in the form of nitrogen. In turn, the plants use this nitrogen as fertilizer to grow, while filtering and cleansing the water for the fish at the same time. Most aquaponics systems focus on producing leafy vegetables and greens, but native species such as perch can be raised as an added beneficial food source.

Clearly, aquaculture is an innovative and important sector of Wisconsin agriculture to recognize. On April 26, 2010, the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly passed a joint resolution declaring the 3rd Saturday in July as Aquaculture Day. The purpose of this day is to celebrate fish farming in Wisconsin, and further recognize this sector as an important part of agriculture that sustainably provides us with local, fresh food.

To celebrate Aquaculture Day, I recently visited Silver Moon Springs trout farm in Elton. Tim and Brigitte Winkel own this third generation family farm, and their sons are now involved as well. Interestingly, the farm was originally a mink ranch; they raised fish on the side as a high protein source for their mink. This fact isn’t surprising, as Wisconsin ranks number one in the nation for the production of mink pelts. Nowadays their focus is solely on aquaculture, and a large majority of their business is stocking beautiful, healthy trout for private ponds. Stocking fish are often raised for lake associations, sport clubs, other registered fish farms, or public waters to enhance fishing opportunities.

Silver Moon Springs, like many local fish farms, offers fee fishing for visitors. Fee fishing at a fish farm is fun for the whole family and educational at the same time. For a small fee per pound of fish caught, you can fish right from the ponds on the farm. I used an old-fashioned cane pole to fish for five beautiful trout, which allowed me to enjoy the delicious and nutritious local fish right from our pristine Wisconsin water. Fish are a wonderful source of protein as well as healthy omega fatty acids, which can aid in mitigating joint pain. Just two to four servings of fish a week will provide health benefits.

To learn more about Wisconsin aquaculture, visit www.wisconsinaquaculture.com, and be sure to find a fish farm near you to visit and learn more about this fascinating piece of Wisconsin agriculture.

 

 

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