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Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife
Fish and Wildlife Service
U.S. Department of the Interior
Washington, D.C., U.S.A.



Fish culture developed after 1850 in the North American region. Public agencies operate complex hatchery systems to produce the fish needed to sustain and improve sport and commercial fishing. Fish farming has become an important industry since World War II, and it will continue to expand. Production efforts are concentrated on channel catfish, Ictalurus punctatus (Rafinesque), salmonids, other sport-fish species, and bait fishes due to consumer, food and recreational habits. Most fish farms are operated by individuals for supplementary incomes. Technical and financial assistance is obtainable from various governmental agencies.



En Amérique du Nord, le développement de la pisciculture date de 1850. Des complexes d'alevinage relevant d'organismes publics produisent les poissons nécessaires pour alimenter et améliorer tant la pêche sportive que la pêche commerciale. La pisciculture fermière, qui a pris de l'importance depuis la Seconde Guerre mondiale, est en expansion continue. La production porte essentiellement sur le poisson-chat Ictalurus punctatus (Rafinesque), les Salmonidés, d'autres poissons de sport, et les poissons-appâts, pour répondre aux goûts des consommateurs, ainsi qu'aux habitudes alimentaires et sportives. La plupart des exploitations appartiennent à des particuliers, pour qui elles constituent une source de revenu complémentaire. Les éleveurs peuvent obtenir une aide technique et financière en s'adressant à divers organismes d'Etat.



La cría de peces empezó a practicarse en América del Norte a partir del año 1850. Entidades públicas explotan complejos criaderos para sostener y mejorar la pesca deportiva y comercial. La piscicultura en las granjas se ha transformado en una importante industria después de la segunda guerra mundial, y continuará expandiéndose. Las actividades de producción se concentran en el bagre del canal (Ictalurus punctatus, Rafinesque), en los salmónidos y otras especies aptas para la pesca deportiva, y en los peces para cebo, debido a los gustos del consumidor, los hábitos alimentarios y los fines recreativos. Casi las granjas piscícolas son explotadas por particulares para obtener ingresos suplementarios. Varios organismos estatales ofrecen ayuda técnica y económica.


Canada and the United States, including Hawaii, comprise the North American region. The rest of the North American continent, Mexico through Panama and the West Indies, is included in the Latin American region of FAO.


Fish culture is not indigenous to North America. According to Dr. R.B. Woodbury of the Smithsonian Institution (personal communication) there is no evidence that fish culture was practised in the pre-Columbus era. Immigrants to the New World transplanted wild fish from water to water as they moved inland, but fish culture per se was not developed until the nineteenth century. Experimental production by artificial fecundation is documented for the brook trout, Salvelinus fontinalis (Mitchill), and fallfish, Semotilus corporalis (Mitchill), in 1804, and American shad, Alosa sapidissima (Wilson), in 1848 (Milner, 1874; Clift, 1872). However, Dr. Theodatus Garlick is recognized as the “father” of fish culture in the United States for his successful work with brook trout in 1853 (Milner, 1874; Garlick, 1883). Milner also reports that 20 species, sub-species or races of fish of the families Salmonidae, Clupeidae, Cyprinidae, Catostomidae, Serranidae, and Percidae were being artificially propagated by 1873.

In 1872, Mr. J.A. Poppe successfully transported carp (Cyprinus carpio Linnaeus) to California from Germany and established what was probably the first intensive pond-rearing unit (U.S. Comm.Fish., 1880: 661-6 pp.). The U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries also imported carp and related species from Germany in 1876 and later years (U.S. Comm.Fish., 1879 and 1880). The carp was widely dispersed throughout North America before interest in the fish diminished due to lack of its acceptance as a food fish.

Propagation techniques were then developed for escocids, ictalurids and centrarchids, while further advances were made in salmonid culture. Fish cultural efforts, as in the past, were concentrated on improving the yields of sport and commercial gear, rather than utilizing the full potential of impounded waters for fish production. However, since World War II, commercial food and bait fish farming has become an important industry in the United States.


3.1 Canada1

Commercial fish farming is still quite limited in Canada. The Province of Ontario, probably the best suited area for such enterprises, sold only 57 licenses during 1965 for the operation of private hatcheries. However, many of these units obtained two licenses, one for marketing food fishes and another for marketing live game fishes, so the actual hatchery count was approximately 35.

The rainbow trout (Salmo gairdneri Richardson) accounts for most of the commercial food fish production in Canada where the climate is not suitable for intensive rearing of most warm-water species to edible sizes in ponds. The federal and some provincial governments operate fish hatcheries, primarily to restore or maintain sport and commercial fishing.

Sport fishing is quite important to Canada's economy. Stroud and Massmann (1963) report that 799,456 resident and 593,182 non-resident fishing licenses yielded $4,591,129 in revenue during 1962. The Canadian Department of Fisheries planted 20 million brook trout, Salvelinus fontinalis (Mitchill), and 12 million Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar Linnaeus) during 1965. Coastal provinces have developed extensive Atlantic salmon or Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) stocking programs.

Ontario, having 17 units and a new sub-station, maintains the largest inland fish hatchery system in Canada. Their 1965 distribution was about 50 million fish of the following species:

Cisco or lake herringCoregonus artedii Le Sueur
Lake whitefishCoregonus clupeaformis (Mitchill)
Landlocked sockeye salmon or kokaneeOncorhynchus nerka (Walbaum)
Rainbow troutSalmo gairdneri Richardson
Brook (and aurora) troutSalvelinus fontinalis (Mitchill)
Lake troutSalvelinus namaycush (Walbaum)
Splake (hybrid)brook trout male X lake trout female
MuskellungeEsox masquinongy Mitchill
Smallmouth bassMicropterus dolomieui Lacépède
Largemouth bassMicropterus salmoides (Lacépède)
WalleyeStizostedion vitreum vitreum (Mitchill)

Much of this production was used in the Great Lakes restoration program following the successful reduction of the sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus Linnaeus) population through joint efforts of Ontario, the Canadian Department of Fisheries, the Lake States, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

1 Data from personal communications with Mr. E.W. Burridge, Canadian Department of Fisheries and Mr. Chris Armstrong, Ontario Department of Lands and Forests.

3.2 United States1

It is estimated that almost 70,000 acres (28,300 ha) of water are devoted to commercial warm-water food fish culture and another 30,000 acres (12,145 ha) to commercial bait fish production in the United States. Most of this water was activated for fish production after 1945. Recent developments indicate that extensive culture methods for multiple species combinations and fish-rice crop rotation practices are rapidly being replaced by the intensive rearing of a single species, the channel catfish, Ictalurus punctatus (Rafinesque). Approximately 35 million pounds (15,909,000 kg) of impoundment-reared channel catfish were marketed during 1965. Bait fish production for the use of anglers is probably even more important economically since it represents an annual market value approaching $30 million. Considerable expansion of catfish and bait fish production facilities is anticipated due to the success of these ventures and the abundance of suitable development areas. The U.S. Trout Farmers' Association (personal communication) estimates that the annual commercial production of trout is 5.5 million pounds (2.5 million kg) in the United States; of which, 2.5 million pounds (1,136,360 kg) are sold alive, and the balance are dressed. Sites with the necessary volume of cool water for trout culture are quite limited so expansion of the industry will be slower than that for pond fishes.

Fishery Leaflet 46 (Anon., 1966a) lists 1,118 dealers in trout and pond fishes in the United States. This does not include food or bait fish producers unless they also raise and sell live game-fish for stocking. Most of these commercial fish hatcheries are relatively small units operated by individuals for supplemental income.

The Soil Conservation Act of 1935 and later legislation initiated the construction of ponds and other upstream flood and soil erosion control units on farms and ranches by offering technical and financial assistance for their development. By 1965, a total of almost 1.5 million water impoundments had been built under the auspices of these programs; more than half of which are also being used for sport, food or bait fish production (Anon., 1966b). King (1960) calculated that private farm ponds stocked by the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife provided over 20 million sport fisherman days in 1959. Increasing interest in sport fishing coupled with the population explosion has created a need for many more recreational areas, thereby accelerating fee-fishing or the development of commercialized water sport enterprises.

The production of tropical aquarium fishes in ponds is important in southern Florida. Other areas support some outdoor tropical fish culture during the summer months, but most of the fancier species are propagated indoors. Aquarium fishes have generated a multimillion dollar industry at the retail level in recent years.

The Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife, practically all of the fish and game agencies of the 50 states, and some county and municipal governments operate fish hatcheries. Production from these sources is stocked primarily in public waters to improve or maintain sport and commercial fishing. The Bureau and many state agencies also furnish fish free of charge for stocking non-commercial waters owned or controlled by individuals. Much of the stocking emphasis is on sport fishing because fishing is the most popular outdoor participating sport in the United States. In 1965, more than 28 million persons or 20 percent of the population of age 12 and over fished in fresh and salt water (U.S.Bur. Sport Fish.Wildl., 1966).

Hagen and O'Connor (1959) list the species of fish produced by public agencies during the reporting year 1957 or 1958. This total production from 482 state and 95 federal hatcheries was 999,633,120 fish weighing 15,195,876 pounds (6,907,216 kg). Appendices I and II are abstractions of data from their work for pond fishes only. Current production data from the states are not available. The Bureau's hatchery system has increased its production by 140 percent between 1957 and 1966 to a total of 4,747,984 lbs (2,153,686 kg). It is assumed that the state agencies have made similar increases.

Culture methods, feeds and feeding for most species of fish produced in North America are adequately covered in papers presented at this Symposium. The following notes in sections 4 and 5 enlarge on these papers or include information on species not previously reported.

1 Data on commercial pond fish farming from personal communications with Messrs. Kermit Sneed and Mayo Martin, Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife, Fish Farming Experimental Station, Stuttgart, Arkansas.


4.1 Channel catfish, Ictalurus punctatus (Rafinesque)

Frequently it is not objectionable and sometimes it is necessary to spread channel catfish spawning activities over a period of two months or more. Hatcheries having limited hatching and rearing facilities accomplish this by using the “open-pond” spawning method with a brood fish ratio of one male to two females stocked at the rate of 180 fish per acre (445/ha). Spawning receptacles placed in ponds at the rate of 30 per acre (74/ha) are adequate if the containers are checked daily and spawn removed when found during the peak of the spawning season; usually a period of three weeks. This “open-pond” spawning method does not require 100 percent correct sexing of the brood fish as does pen and aquaria spawning, and it reduces care and feeding costs of the adults.

4.2 Bait fishes (Cyprinidae and Catostomidae)

Bait fishes are raised in farm ponds, natural lakes and other still waters devoid of predaceous fish. Data from Dobie, et al. (1956) and personal communication of Mayo Martin are included in the following remarks about the more important bait fish species reared in North America.

Goldfish (Carassius auratus (Linnaeus)) culture employs the same spawning and rearing methods used for carp (Cyprinus carpio Linnaeus). Annual yields as high as 4,000 lbs per acre (4,489 kg/ha) have been reported. Goldfish are also propagated for the home aquarium market and as forage in the rearing of predaceous game fish.

The golden shiner, Notemigonus crysoleucas (Mitchill), spawns on submerged debris and vegetation. Fry can be left with adults or moved to separate rearing ponds and reared like carp. Production rates of 1,200 pounds and 300,000 saleable bait fish per acre (1,346 kg and 336,699 fish/ha) are on record.

Fathead minnow (Pimpephales promelas Rafinesque) culture differs from that of the golden shiner only slightly. Four-inch (10.2 cm) clay tiles are provided for spawning receptacles. Production rates are also lower than that for golden shiners.

The white sucker, Catostomus commersoni (Lacépède), is the favourite bait fish in northern pike (Esox lucius Linnaeus) fishing areas. The eggs are stripped and hatched in jars. Fry are stocked in lightly fertilized ponds and reared to saleable size without supplementary feeding.

4.3 Hybrids

According to McClane (1965), a Scotsman by the name of Willoughby theorized in 1686 that hybridizing was possible among salmonids. Since then, hybrids have been produced in every important fish family, but few have been worthwhile. In fact, in North America, the splake, male brook trout Salvelinus fontinalis (Mitchill) x female lake trout Salvelinus namaycush (Walbaum), is the only useful hybrid yet developed. A fertile strain of splake, propagated by Canadian workers, is being used to restore the fisheries of Lake Huron (Great Lakes) where they are proving to be more adaptable and productive than their female parent which once dominated the lake.

4.4 Trout and salmon (Salmonidae)

Trout and salmon culture is adequately described by Leitritz (1959), Davis (1953), Phillips, et al. (1963), and others. Ideally, a 100,000 pound (45,454 kg) per year salmonid production unit should have a constant flow of at least 10 cubic feet (0.28 cu m) per second of 45° to 60° F (7.2° to 15.6° C) water. Although these hatcheries are more compact than facilities for warm-water fish production, the precise and voluminous water requirements greatly limit their development. However, experimentation with tidal ponds and floating rearing pens in bays indicates that these areas might also be adaptable for salmonid culture. Trout are reared on an extensive basis in lentic waters, particularly farm ponds, where summer surface temperatures are below 75° F (23.9° C).


Efficient pellected diets and feeding guides for channel catfish have been reported by Swingle (1959), Hastings (1964), Tiemeier, et al. (1964), Klussmann (1965) and others. The cost ranges from $ 0.06 to $ 0.10 per pound ($ 0.132 to $ 0.22/kg). Appendix III (from U.S.Bur.Sport Fish.Wildl., 1967) suggests daily feeding levels in percent body weight based on water temperatures and size of fish. Feed conversion rates of 1.2 are common for channel catfish. Intensive rearing methods at Bureau hatcheries have produced yields up to the rate of 3,750 pounds per acre (4,209 kg/ha) in five months.


Truck-mounted distribution tanks are generally used for fish transportation. Hauling capacity is governed by volume of water in the tank, design of tank, and auxillary equipment used. Insulated units, having recirculating waters systems (Macklin, 1959) and an oxygen supply (Maloy, 1963), can be used to haul loads in ratios (unit weights of fish to equal unit weights of water) of 1:1.5 for trout and 1:2.4 for channel catfish. McFarland (1960), McFarland and Norris (1958), Nemota (1957) and others report varying degrees of success in increasing hauling ratios by use of sedative drugs and buffer agents. Phillips and Brockway (1954) and Gebhards (1965), however, found that starvation of the fish before shipment and the maintaining of low water temperatures were more effective than the addition of drugs and buffers.

Maxwell and Thoesen (1965) give the details of hauling and planting large quantities of rainbow trout, Salmo gairdneri Richardson and largemouth bass, Micropterus salmoides (Lacépède), fingerlings by airplanes equipped with water tanks. Sealed plastic containers, 2 mil (0.0048 cm) and thicker, packed in insulated outer cartons, partially filled with water and inflated with oxygen, are also used successfully for surface and air transportation of fish.


The U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Commerce offer some form of financial assistance to qualified fish farmers; usually low interest rate loans for development. Technical assistance is readily available from most levels of government. Fishery research is being conducted by state, provincial and several federal agencies, colleges, universities, and private organizations. No figures have been gathered on the number of people engaged in extension work and research. Three fish cultural in-service schools are maintained by the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife which are open on a space available basis to state and foreign governmental personnel. The bureau and universities, colleges, states, and private organizations have founded 20 cooperative fishery units to develop programs of research and eduction relating to fish. Fishery training is also offered at many other colleges and universities.

Licensing and regulations for fish farming are under the jurisdiction of the individual states and provinces. Inter-state and international shipments of processed food fish are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Canadian Department of Fisheries.


Most of the channel catfish produced in ponds are marketed in the immediate hatchery area. The present demand for this fish is considerably greater than the productive capacities of fish farming facilities and commercial fishing gear. Extensive and profitable expansion is therefore indicated for catfish farming. Bait fishes, having always been in short supply, have an equally bright future. Other species of pond fishes, however, will offer little incentive to fish farmers unless the food habits of North Americans change drastically. Salmonid production is limited only by the availability of suitable water resources. Future development of more efficient water re-use systems and new salt-water culture techniques could very well accelerate salmonid output. Scientific management of the fishery resources in natural and impounded waters has firmly established the need for hatchery fish to maintain and improve sport and commercial fishing. Hatchery production from governmental agencies will have to be increased to meet these precise and growing demands.


American Fisheries Society, 1960 A list of common and scientific names of fishes from the United States and Canada. Report of the Committee on Names and Fishes, presented at the Eighty-ninth Annual Meeting, Clearwater, Florida, September 16–18, 1959. Spec.Publ.Amer.Fish.Soc., (2):102 p.

Clift, W., 1872 Shad culture. Proc.Amer.Fish cult.Ass., 1:21–8

Davis, H.S., 1953 Culture and diseases of game fishes. Univ. of Calif. Press, 332 p.

Dobie, J. et al., 1956 Raising bait fishes. Circ.U.S.Fish Wildl.Serv., (35):124 p.

Garlick, T., 1883 The beginning of fish culture in America. Trans.Amer.Fish cult.Assoc., 12:47–8

Gebhards, S.V., 1965 Transport of juvenile trout in sealed containers. Progr.Fish Cult., 27(1):31–6

Hagen, W. and J.P. O'Connor, 1959 Public fish culture in the United States. Circ.U.S.Fish Wildl.Serv., (58):44 p.

Hastings, W.H., 1964 Fish feed processing research. Feedstuffs, 36(21 & 23)

King, W., 1960 A survey of fishing, in 1959, in 1,000 ponds stocked by the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife. Circ.U.S.Fish Wildl.Serv., (86):29 p.

Klussmann, W., 1965 Channel catfish farming. Tex. A. & M. Univ., B-1024, 12 p.

Leitritz, E., 1959 Trout and salmon culture. Fish Bull., Sacramento, (107):169 p.

Macklin, R., 1959 An improved 150-gallon fish-planting tank. Progr.Fish Cult., 21(2):81–5

Maloy, C.R., 1963 Hauling channel catfish fingerlings. Progr.Fish Cult., 25(4):211–2

Maxwell, J.M. and R.W. Thoesen, 1965 Lake Powell stocking story. Progr.Fish Cult., 27(3):115–120

McClane, A.J., 1965 McClane's standard fishing encyclopedia. London, Holt, Rinehard & Winston, 1057 p.

McFarland, W.N. and K.S. Norris, 1958 The control of pH factors by buffers in fish transport. Calif.Fish Game, 44(4):291–310

McFarland, W.N., 1960 The use of anesthetics for the handling and the transport of fishes. Calif.Fish Game, 46(4):407–43

Milner, J.W., 1874 The progress of fish culture in the United States. Rep.U.S.Comm.Fish., (1872–73):523–66

Nemota, C.M., 1957 Experiments with methods for air transport of live fish. Progr.Fish Cult., 19(4):147–57

Phillips, A.M., Jr. and D.R. Brockway, 1954 Effect of starvation, water temperature, and sodium amytol on the metabolic rate of brock trout. Progr.Fish Cult., 16(2):65–8

Phillips, A.M., Jr., A.V. Tunison and G.C. Balzer, 1963 Trout feeds and feeding. Circ.U.S. Fish Wildl.Serv., (159):38 p.

Stroud, R.H. and W.H. Massmann, 1963 Fish conservation highlights 1960–1962. Washington, Sport Fishing Institute, 84 p.

Swingle, H.S., 1959 Experiments on growing fingerling channel catfish to marketable size in ponds. Proc.SEast Ass.Game Fish Commnrs., 12:63–72

Tiemeier,O.W., C.W. Deyoe and S. Wearden, 1964 Supplemental pellet feeding of channel catfish. Rep.Progr.Kans.Agr.Exp.Sta., (97):10 p.

U.S. Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife, 1966 1965 national survey of fishing and hunting. Resour.Publ.U.S.Bur.Sport Fish.Wildl., (27):76 p.

U.S. Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife, 1967 Rearing marketable channel catfish in ponds. Resour.Publ.U.S.Bur.Sport Fish.Wildl., (31):4 p.

U.S. Comm. of Fish and Fisheries, 1879 Rep.U.S.Comm.Fish., (1877):981 p.

U.S. Comm. of Fish and Fisheries, 1880 Rep.U.S.Comm.Fish., (1878):988 p.

Anon., 1966a Dealers in trout and pond fishes. Fish.Leafl.,Wash., (46):70 p.

Anon., 1966b Soil conservation. Soil Conserv.,Wash., 31(7):162



Distribution of pond fishes from state and federal hatcheries in the United States during calendar or fiscal year 1957 or 1958 by species 1

New Jersey24,3981,018
New York98,993,09228,357
North Carolina1,458,8022,144
South Carolina3,327,3884,941
South Dakota14,245,90027,244
West Virginia175,1756,363
Wyoming    2,442,597         35
State sub-total
628,899,0241,064,973 lbs

1 From Hagen and O'Connor (1959)


Distribution of pond fishes from state and federal hatcheries in the United States during calendar or fiscal year 1957 or 1958 by species 1

Common Name2Scientific name2


 LargemouthMicropterus salmoides (Lacépède)33,948,519125,107 
 SmallmouthMicropterus dolomieui Lacépède1,086,45761,131 
 RockAmbloplites rupestris (Rafinesques)202,7383,597 
 WarmouthChaenobryttus gulosus (Cuvier)368,879696 
 WhiteRoccus chrysops (Rafinesque)200400 
 UnclassifiedCentrarchidae or Roccus spp.1,251,8532,369 
BuffaloIctiobus spp.5,0726 
CarpCyprinus carpio Linnaeus1,7005,525 
 ChannelIctalurus punctatus (Rafinesque)4,973,73251,357 
 BullheadIctalurus spp.1,601,632210,445 
CrappiePomoxis spp.1,919,120116,592 
MuskellungeEsox masquinongy (Mitchill)4,282,4171,499 
Perch, YellowPerca flavescens (Mitchill)102,84511,095 
PickerelEsox spp.2,771859 
Pike, NorthernEsox lucius Linnaeus35,819,45573,754 
 ThreadfinDorosoma petenense (Gunther)30,76038 
 BluegillLepomis macrochirus Rafinesque69,705,288183,410 
 RedearLepomis microlophus (Gunther)6,595,32510,928 
 GreenLepomis cyanellus Rafinesque533,920668 
TilapiaTilapia spp.2,9003 
WalleyeStizostedion vitreum vitreum (Mitchill)455,062,990     91,234 
 Total628,899,0241,064,973 lbs
   484,079 kg

1 From Hagen and O'Connor (1959)
2 Spec.Publ.Amer.Fish.Soc., (2) (1960)


Suggested channel catfish feeding guide 1

Average daily water temp. °F   65°   67°   69°   71°   73°   75°   77°   79°   81°
Estimated length increase per month - inches0.240.480.720.961.201.441.681.922.16
Total length in inches and cm average number per pound and kgPercent of body weight to feed daily 2
 3 in(100/lb)
  4 in( 50/lb)  8.1
  5 in( 31/lb)  6.5
  6 in( 17/lb)  5.4
  7 in( 11/lb)  4.6
  8 in( 9/lb)  4.1
  9 in(5.6/lb)  3.6
10 in( 3/lb)  3.2
11 in(2.5/lb)  2.9
12 in( 2/lb)  2.7
13 in(1.5/lb)  2.5
14 in(1.2/lb)  2.3

1 From Resour.Publ.U.S.Bur.Sport Fish.Wildl., (31) (1967)
2 More efficient food conversion rates can be obtained by dividing the daily ration into two or more feedings.

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