On Thursday, June 6, 2002, members and friends of the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture traveled to Effort, Pennsylvania to visit the Big Brown Trout Hatchery, a Pennsylvania aquaculture operation.
Big Brown Trout Hatchery is a fully integrated trout farm operated by Charles Conklin II. Mr. Conklin started this operation as a hobby when he was a teenager. After graduating from college, he enlarged the operation and started farming full time. Currently he raises about 260,000 pounds of brook, brown, and rainbow trout and about 20,000 pounds of largemouth bass, hybrid striped bass, and yellow perch. The brook and brown trout are raised from eggs in an on-site hatchery house. Fingerlings are later moved into the outdoor raceways. Rainbow trout eggs are purchased for hatching while the other kinds of fish being raise are purchased as fingerlings.
About 65 percent of Big Brown Trout Hatchery’s production is sold as live fish to Pennsylvania to Vermont operators in the recreational sports fishing market. A further 25 percent of the fish produced is sold to recreational fishermen directly on site either at the company’s “fish and pay” lakes or in processed form. There are three lakes on site from which individuals can pay to fish. Fish caught by visitors are cleaned and iced to be taken home. The remaining 10 per cent of the fish produced is sold to food processors.
Pennsylvania’s fish farmers generate $8.5 million in sales annually. Trout are the species most commonly produced. Pennsylvania ranks fifth nationally in trout production,with 2 million pounds of trout produced with a value of $5.44 million. The next largest sector of state aquaculture is non-trout food fish (hybrid striped bass, yellow perch, tilapia, etc.). There is also a robust baitfish, ornamental (goldfish & Koi), and gamefish sector. Most of Pennsylvania’s fish production is used for recreational or sport fishing. Sport fishing contributes over $3.1 billion to the Pennsylvania economy each year.
Aquaculture is one of Pennsylvania’s oldest agricultural sectors. Reports in the early literature indicate that fish keeping was practiced during colonial times in Philadelphia, a practice brought from Europe. Pennsylvania’s fish farm with the longest continuous operation is Paradise Brook Trout Company, Cresco, Pa. incorporated in 1902. It is still operating today.
Administration of state’s aquaculture operations was transferred to the Department of Agriculture in 1998. Since then, Pennsylvania has issued permits for an average of one new aquaculture farm per month.
Aquaculture farmers must have a source of very high quality water and must manage their water use carefully in order to meet state standards for discharge water. This is done through a combination of feed management and cultural practices.