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ponds2.jpg (23736 bytes)      Growing Channel Catfish

Nearly all of the channel catfish produced in the United States are grown in earthen ponds because production costs are generally lower for catfish grown in ponds than for any other culture system.  Production of channel catfish in systems other than ponds is profitable only when some special circumstance exists, such as the opportunity to sell fish to a local market at an exceptional price or the availability of an unusual resource.

A typical production sequence for channel catfish farming begins with spawning of brood fish.  Spawning begins in the spring when water temperatures increase to above 70 degrees F. At that time, brood fish held in ponds randomly mate and the fertilized eggs are collected from spawning containers and moved to a hatchery. Eggs hatch after 5 to 8 days and fry are reared in the hatchery for an additional 4 to 10 days.

Fry are then transferred to a nursery pond, fed daily through the summer, and harvested in autumn or winter as fingerlings of about 4 to 6 inches. Fingerlings are then stocked into foodfish growout ponds, fed daily, and harvested when they reach a size desired for processing (1 to 2 pounds). In the catfish-producing areas of the southeastern United States, where water temperatures are below 70 degrees F for about 5 months out of the year, roughly 18 to 24 months is required to produce a food-size channel catfish from an egg.

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The simple production sequence described above is complicated by a number of management decisions that must be made to optimize the production strategy for each farm. A few farmers specialize in producing fingerlings which are then sold to farmers specializing in production of food-size fish. Many farmers combine all aspects of production. Those farms will have broodfish ponds, a hatchery, fry nursery ponds, and foodfish growout ponds. Specific management practices also vary among farms. This is particularly evident in the variety of management schemes used in foodfish growout ponds.

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