The smell of catfish frying wafting over the grounds of Sunbelt Expo always draws a big crowd and this year the Aquaculture Team will have some science-based and practical tips on producing and processing commercial and recreational aquaculture crops.

A sampling of fried catfish will be available from the Southeastern Catfish Growers and in cooperation with the host universities. The deep fried, distinctively Southern delicacy always draws a crowd to the Expo Aquaculture exhibit.

Fish ponds at the Aquaculture Center will provide an opportunity for anglers young and old to see up-close-and-personal how to manage a recreation pond and how to catch fish.

In addition to the hands-on activities available at the Sunbelt Aquaculture Center, visitors will have an opportunity to attend a series of timely and informational seminars, presented by aquaculture scientists from around the Southeast.

The seminar schedule gets started on Tuesday, Oct. 16, at 10 a.m. with a presentation by University of Florida Scientist Chuck Cichra. He is an expert in the area of recreational pond management and his presentation is entitled, “Managing Ponds for Great Fishing.”

One of the highlights of the annual aquaculture seminars is a presentation by former head of Fisheries and Allied Aquaculture, John Jensen. At 11 a.m., Jensen will demonstrate and explain how to filet fish. Jensen, who coordinates the Sunbelt Aquaculture Program, has literally caught, processed and cooked fish all over the world, and his presentation always draws a full house at the Expo.

At noon on the first day of Sunbelt Expo, University of Georgia Aquaculturist Gary Burtle will discuss some ways to make a profit from farm ponds. One of the fastest growing business segments of agriculture is eco-agriculture and many farm tours include fishing on farm ponds, making Burtle’s presentation among the best attended at Sunbelt Expo.

The afternoon seminar session will begin at 1 p.m. with a presentation on pond weed management by Auburn University Researcher Claude Reeves. The Auburn scientists practiced what he preaches for more than 25 years of helping manage Auburn University’s aquaculture ponds near the Auburn University campus.

David Cline, Auburn University aquaculturist, will close the first day’s seminar program at 2 p.m.,with a presentation entitled, “Aquaculture: What Is It? Is It Important?  Why Should I Care?” 

Industry has fallen on hard times

The catfish industry in the Southeast, once the bulwark of the aquaculture industry in the Southeast, has fallen on hard times recently and the ripple effect has had a devastating effect on rural economies that once thrived on catfish production. Cline’s presentation will provide some insights on the past and future of the aquaculture industry in the Southeast.

On Wednesday, Oct. 17, Auburn University Aquaculturist Rusty Wright will start the seminar program at 10 a.m., with a presentation entitled, “Managing Ponds for Great Fishing.” Wright does just that for Auburn University’s pond system.

Among the many tours of ponds that Wright conducts is the annual Ag Classic golf and fishing tournament. In its early years the annual event was dominated by golf, but over the years Wright has built up a large following for the fishing tournament.

At 11 a.m., University of Georgia’s Burtle will present a program that will be of great interest to any current or future pond owner: “Managing Pond Water Quality—Toxic Algae.”Off-flavor and diseases related to algae buildup are a long-standing problem with commercial fish production and can be a problem in small farm ponds.

At noon on day two of Sunbelt Expo, Jesse Chappell, Auburn University aquaculturist, will discuss some options for growing catfish in confinement. Auburn University helped pioneer basket and cage culture for raising fish and continue to provide innovative ways to grow catfish to make them more competitive pricewise with Asian imports.

At 1 p.m. on the second day of the Expo, Claude Reeves will repeat his presentation on managing pond weeds, followed by Chuck Cichra talking about managing ponds for great fishing, and then by David Clines presentation on aquaculture and its importance.

On the final day of Sunbelt Expo, the aquaculture seminar program will begin at 10 a.m. with a presentation by Pat Duncan, former Auburn University faculty member and now a professor at Fort Valley State University. She will provide visitors with an introduction to aquaponics, which is the integration of fish and vegetable production.

At 11 a.m., Jesse Chappell will repeat his presentation on confinement systems for catfish production. John Jensen and Claude Reeves will close the aquaculture seminar program at noon with a joint presentation on how to filet fish.

“Our program at Sunbelt Expo keeps growing every year and we continue to try to find new and interesting things for visitors to see and hear. There’s always someone with a lot of knowledge about aquaculture on hand to visit with people and to try and explain some of the many aspects of recreational and commercial fish production,” Jensen concludes.

Jensen says the addition of The Power House has played a key role in upgrading the fish ponds at the Sunbelt Expo site. The Power House, Inc., formerly known as Lipman Electric Company, is a world leader in production of aerators and other equipment essential to commercial fish production.

John Blumenthal, president of the Baltimore, Maryland-based company says, “We are proud to be associated with Sunbelt Expo and to help the aquaculture leaders at Sunbelt Ag Expo better tell the story of fish production in the Southeast.”

The addition of Edge Aquatic Services, a central Georgia-based company also will bring some new technology to the Sunbelt Aquaculture Center. Owner Keith Edge says, “Traveling all over the state, our customers are our biggest assets and providing complete satisfaction is our top priority. Some of our services include pond stocking, electrofishing (balance checks of ponds), pond consulting, water analysis and weed consulting.”

rroberaon@farmpress.com