a culinary world where chefs quest for new commodities and
methods of cookery it is understandable that the idea of cooking
with trout does not purvey the concept of modern cuisine.
Nor does it really spark the culinary imagination. This is
certainly the way I felt - until I encountered the fish form
In the heart of the Wisconsin countryside - Palmyra to be
exact you can discover Rushing Waters Fishery. Rushing Waters
is a trout farm with a difference. It is an operation that
is focused on quality not quantity. A rare philosophy in the
fish business - an industry that operates with tight profit
margins, high freight costs and a diminishing commodity.
Rushing Waters was founded way back in the 1930’s.With a deep
underground artesian spring providing a constant source of
pristine fresh water for several trout ponds. It was not until
the 1970’s however that volume production began. Now the farm’s
eighty acres plays host to the fifty trout ponds allowing
the production of three to four thousand pounds of trout each
other trout farms their business was based around producing
as much fish as possible. But in 1997 Rushing Waters changed
direction in the way it operated. “A good volume of fish was
being raised and sold, but we needed something that was going
to set us apart from the other farms” farm manager Peter Fritsch
explains. “Whilst at the University of Wisconsin I had become
interested in the concept of utilizing organic practices in
conjunction with raising trout. When I joined the team here
I introduced the idea and we have never looked back”.
This concept was not only based on product but also profit.
The idea of providing a fish supply that was of superior quality
and raised with organic concepts gave the sales team a unique
commodity to market. Helping to bring a menu item from yesteryear
back in vogue - under the worthily hyped halo of sustainability.
of the farm’s trout begins with shipments of trout eggs from
their supplier in Seattle. From that point on their development
is in the hands of the farm’s team. Once the eggs hatch they
held in indoor tanks for the first six months. When the fish
are large enough to hold their own in the outside world they
are sterilized. This practice is in place to stop any potential
escapees from spawning with wild trout - which would interfere
with the natural genetics of the species. Then they are transferred
to an outside pond.
The trout ponds have a rustic look to them. Each pond is covered
with gaping mesh to fight off any unwanted diners to the farm.
Blue Herons and Belted King Fishers are regular visitors.
The mesh has been effective in stopping
the would-be poachers - however there have been recent occasions
where birds have got tangled up. So now several other experimental
pond coverings have been introduced with the hope that they
will be equally effective but less hazardous.
Cash hungry students - and not chemicals clear pond weed.
In waters that are toxin free tasty wild watercress and aquatic
bugs can flourish. The main source of the fishes’ diet comes
in the form of a processed fish feed - here is where the farm
raised /sustainable fish debate begins. In many instances
it can take up to three pounds of fish protein to raise one
pound of fish. This equation leaves industry professionals
with the notion that the only way to incorporate a sustainable
seafood program in to their menu is to use wild fish such
as line caught cod or striped bass. Rushing Waters overcomes
this challenge using a feed that is only 40% animal protein
- the source of that protein comes from a Canadian herring
farm. The herrings are raised for their roe and not their
flesh and once they have fulfilled that initial function they
go on to perform another.
“When I receive the trout it is
always in pristine condition. It has a delicate flavor and
a light flaky texture” - chef Sarah Stegner
The farm’s investment in their stock does not stop at just keeping
their water pure;
The fish are raised with out using antibiotics.
No food colorings are added to their feed leaving the
fish with flesh ivory white in color and not the ‘fantastic
orange’ color we have come to expect.
The water temperature of the ponds remains a constant
48°. What this means for the farm is that they will need eighteen
to twenty months to produce a one pound trout. If the water
temperature was bumped up to 60° the same weight fish could
evolve within eight months. But for the consumer a slower
growth rate means a natural, firm fleshed fish with less “grain”
running through it - in short a better product.
For a restaurant these unique features provide a tangible
reason for service staff to explain and highlight the use
of the fish. Eliminating that infamously nauseating service
pitch of “this is one of my favorite dishes on the menu”.
Sarah Stegner chef of The Dining Room at The Ritz-Carlton
Hotel Chicago has been incorporating Rushing Water’s trout
on her menu for over a year. “When I receive the trout it
is always in pristine condition. It has a delicate flavor
and a light flaky texture”. Says Stegner “ I think it is great
to be able to support a local fisher that is conscious of
protecting the environment and have a super high quality product.
final beauty of the farm’s fish is their attention to freshness.
If you call in an order today the fish will be taken from
the pond, graded, cut and shipped tomorrow. Your fish will
arrive boneless with a “harvested” date on each bag. Any purveyor
reselling Rushing Waters’ product has to commit to pass it
on the same way. In some cases this has meant the farm has
not be able to work with certain fish houses “if they (the
fish house) do not want to resell the trout with the harvest
date intact - we will not sell to them. There is no point
in putting in all this work to provide the best product and
allowing the energy to go to waste at the hands of someone
else” Peter explains. “ Profit comes with a great product
- it just takes a little more time”…..
E-Mail [email protected]
Rushing Waters Palmyra, Wisconsin 262-495-2089 Toll Free 800-378-7088
By Jeremy Emmerson