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Wisconsin Aquaculture Association Members Meet at Gollon Bait & Fish Farm

Teyanna Loether, 68th Alice in Dairyland

The first thing that catches your eye when you enter Gollon Bait & Fish Farm is the new, hand-painted sign. While it has the name of their family business featured, there is much more to the story. There are also two game fish reaching for bait, while on the other end of the pole is the silhouette of a father and his daughter fishing in a boat.

The family owned and operated Gollon Bait & Fish Farm wanted to capture the essence of their farm and Wisconsin aquaculture in their sign. The game fish featured are two of the species raised at their farm, and the Gollon’s happen to operate the largest baitfish farm in the state.

“The father and his daughter fishing represent the future of aquaculture,” Tim said.

The Gollons’ are certainly looking to the future of their farm and Wisconsin aquaculture, as they recently finished constructing eight new walleye ponds. Their family fish farm began as a single pond behind David Gollon Sr.’s house. His sons Dave, Tim, and Mike have carried on the legacy.

Dave is the business manager, while Tim oversees production and Mike is in charge of sales. The third generation is now involved in the family business as well. Nowadays, the Gollon’s manage approximately 50 ponds at their site in Dodgeville and rent numerous ponds throughout the state to raise baitfish in.

The Wisconsin Walleye Initiative has been integral to the implementation of new ponds on farms throughout the state such as the Gollon’s. This initiative was developed by the Department of Natural Resources and government officials to increase the numbers of walleye by expanding production of large fingerling. Over three years, the funding commitment of this initiative will provide $12 million for infrastructure improvements and modernize fish farms.

These fingerling from state, private, and tribal hatcheries will be used to stock waters accessible to the public. In 2014, more than 500,000 walleye were stocked into public waters. A stocking strategy has been developed based upon fingerling survival, history of natural reproduction, public access, and tourism impact.

To celebrate the progress of the Walleye Initiative and the efforts of fish farmers throughout the state, the Wisconsin Aquaculture Association held their annual member picnic at Gollon’s farm on Friday, September 11th.

Complete with a classic Wisconsin Friday fish fry, members were able to share new insights and hear from local representatives on the progress of Wisconsin aquaculture. Following the member picnic, a grand tour of the Gollon’s farm was offered.

The Gollon’s farm showcases the diversity of fish raised, which is one of the strengths of Wisconsin aquaculture compared to our neighboring states. Not only is the Gollon’s farm Wisconsin’s largest baitfish operation, they also raise muskies, walleye, perch, northern pike, bass and bluegills, just to name a few.

Each species of fish in Wisconsin prefers slightly different pond conditions in order to thrive. Fish farmers keep a close eye on temperature and oxygen levels, especially during the summertime. As the air warms, oxygen levels decrease and it becomes important to supplement oxygen or aerate the ponds.

Fish farmers are constantly testing their waters for proper nutrient balance and sustainably managing water use. The Gollon’s obtain their water from wells, and they’ve installed a system that controls water use by dropping the horsepower of the well pump once optimal levels have been achieved. This decreases excess water use and conserves energy as well.

While on the tour that showcased the farm’s success in providing top-quality game and baitfish, Tim Gollon reminisced about catching his very first fish, a small bluegill, in a neighbor’s pond when he was five years old.

 “Little did I know I’d spend my life producing millions and millions of fish,” Tim said.

 

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