Survey of caviar taste test.
Survey of caviar taste test.

The SARE project Enhancing Farmers' Income through Polyculture of Paddlefish with Catfish in the Southern Region was conducted from 1999-2002. Paddlefish were stocked in commercial catfish ponds (five acres or larger) at 50 and 75 fish/acre located in Kentucky, Alabama and Oklahoma. These states represent low catfish production in the United States and often lower profit margins with monoculture of catfish. Survivals ranged from 70 to 85 percent in both densities for all three locations. Mortalities were attributed to stocking stress in transport and/or bird predation, not to low dissolved oxygen or poor water quality. The growth model for this regional project gave significantly greater average weight gains of fish in KY (6.pounds) and AL (5.5 pounds) than fish in OK (4.9 pounds). The addition of paddlefish to a catfish pond demonstrated an increase in production of over 300 pounds/acre, which could contribute to farm income. Estimated profits could range from $100 to $200/acre when farmers purchase fingerlings at $3 each and sell fish at $1/pound at the pond bank. Overall, the polyculture system gave similar results in paddlefish growth and survival despite wide geographical distances among the states tested, demonstrating the versatility of this fish to adapt to varying climatic and water quality conditions.

Fresh fillets were test marketed and chef surveyed at high-end restaurants in Louisville and Lexington, KY. Market survey responses were scored on a scale of 5, with 1 equaling strongly disliked or undesirable and 5 equaling strongly liked or desirable. The taste, texture, color and overall product averaged 3.8, 4.1, 4.3 and 4.1, respectively. The chefs indicated that the product was very versatile because they were able to cook it many different ways such as baked, broiled, smoked, fried, etc., mainly due to its firm texture. Further, the chefs said that the product was unique, providing their customers with a new experience that was highly desirable and well received by high-end clientele. Chefs preferred fillets fresh, not frozen. Chefs were willing to purchase the fresh fillets at prices between $7.99 and $8.99 a pound.

Paddlefish Industry Contacts

Aquaculture of Kentucky, Inc.
Owner: Dr. Bob Goetz
1424 Hammond Road
Farmington, KY

Big Fish Farms
Owner: Renee Koerner
Manager: Keith Koerner
303 Prospect St
Bellevue, KY 41073

Osage Catfisheries, Inc.
Owner: Mr. Jim Kahrs
1170 Nichols Road
Osage Beach, MO 65065