Monday, March 26, 2012

A Day of Trout Fishing with Steve Pickett

U.S. farmed rainbow trout is one of the five sustainable seafood options Serve & Protect has featured this year.  Trout are in the same family as salmon, and are similar in taste and health benefits.  The farming techniques for trout are also less damaging to the environment than those of raising Atlantic salmon.  To highlight the sustainability and, let’s be honest, the downright deliciousness of rainbow trout,  the Tennessee Aquarium and the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute hosted a group of seafood lovers at Pickett’s Trout Ranch.  Located in Whitwell, Tennessee, Mr. Steve Pickett is the source for rainbow trout for many restaurants here in Chattanooga.  Almost all of our Serve & Protect partner restaurants serve his trout.  It was a fun-filled day that included a tour of the farm, and best of all, a few hours of fishing for some delicious rainbow trout.

The morning started with a brief introduction from Dr. Anna George, Director of TNACI, about the importance of sustainable, local aquaculture.

Mr. Steve Pickett took over from there and talked about his operation.  He spoke about the challenges of raising a large number of fish and keeping them healthy.  He raises approximately 30,000-40,000 fish per year, selling them to restaurants and markets in the area.

When his eggs come in from Washington, he places them in the hatchery located in his basement. The young fish stay there until they become fingerlings (about the size of your finger), and then he moves them into the larger runs.

The trout live in these runs until they reach market size.   The different pools are size-graded, meaning that fish of similar size are kept in each one.  The smallest fish are in the pool nearest Mr. Pickett’s house, and they get larger from there.  Once the fish reach a couple of pounds, they are ready to be sold.  Mr. Pickett sells the both whole trout and fillets.  Sometimes he fillets 500 fish in just one day!

 After seeing where the fish are raised, Steve took us to the cave that is the source for the water in his pens.

Usually the water is crystal clear, but there was a storm the night before so it was a little more murky than usual.  Even so, it was a beautiful blue-green color.

While some of the water is diverted for the fish, most of it runs into this pond.  The trout runs are a flow through system, so the water enters the pond once it has left the pens.  No antibiotics or chemicals are used at Pickett’s Trout Ranch, so there is no concern for water pollution from these substances.

Some pretty large rainbow trout live in this pond, and this is where families were able to catch some dinner.

This family came all the way from Birmingham to join us.  They were headed for a tour of the Aquarium after they finished fishing.

 This family caught some of the biggest fish of the day.  Apparently the trout in this pond really like nightcrawlers!

 Even Ashford, the Sustainability Coordinator, got in on the action and took home four trout for dinner. 

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