What is Aquaculture?

Aquaculture—The raising of aquatic plants and animals in a controlled fresh or salt water environment.

A Brief History

The first evidence of aquaculture can be found in ancient Egyptian tomb paintings which depict fish farms. By the 5th century B.C., Chinese scholars wrote of aquaculture as a long-established practice. Trout were the first fish to be spawned in captivity. This was achieved by a German scientist in the 1760's.

Idaho's settlers first tried trout farming as early as 1909 in Devil’s Corral, a canyon east of Twin Falls. However, it wasn't until the 1920's that trout were first raised for consumer usage in the United States. The industry did not really come of age until after 1960, when production surpassed 1 million pounds. In 1966, Clear Springs Trout Company was founded by Jess O. "Ted" Eastman, a 20-year veteran of the industry. Production that first year was 400,000 pounds.

Aquaculture has helped meet the increasing demand for fish and seafood, providing a year-round supply of consistently superior products. Clear Springs Foods is the industry leader in the science of aquaculture. Our research and development and our farms employ modern technology and techniques to continually monitor and improve the quality of Clear Springs' “swimming inventory,” as well as our finished products.

Present-Day Rainbow Trout Farming

Today, Rainbow Trout are grown in large-scale, continuously controlled production facilities. While three species are farmed commercially—Rainbow, Brook, and Brown—by far the most popular is the Rainbow Trout, native to the West. More than 70% of all Rainbow Trout raised in the U.S. is grown in a 30-mile stretch along the Snake River in the Magic Valley. Clear Springs, the world's largest producer, is responsible for about 60% of this total. Rainbow Trout is raised in the Magic Valley primarily because of the availability of pure spring water.

Rainbow Trout Life Cycle

Rainbow Trout begin their lives at our Soda Springs Brood Station. Wild Rainbow Trout typically spawn in the fall, but through genetic selection and manipulation of day length with lights, Clear Springs staggers the normal spawning cycle to provide a continuous supply of eggs year ‘round. After fertilization, eggs are placed in incubators for about 25 days, and then they are shipped to one of Clear Springs' production farms.

Eggs are received at three farm locations and placed in incubators for about 10 days until they hatch. The young fish, called fry, are transferred to indoor ponds to begin their growth cycle. The fry spend about a month indoors and then are transferred to outdoor ponds where they are carefully nurtured for another eight months or so until they reach an average market weight of 16 – 18 oz. Some styles and portion sizes require fish in the 35 – 42 oz. range.

The Trout are graded and sorted about four or five times during the outdoor growing phase using bar graders, which are placed in the pond's upstream end and gradually moved downstream, allowing the smaller fish to swim through. Production farms are continually monitored and inventoried to provide highly accurate production forecasts. Depending on anticipated market needs, the growth rate of the Trout can be altered by varying the amount of food they receive.

Water—The Lifeblood of the Trout Industry

Pure, clean oxygenated water is essential for raising the finest Rainbow Trout. The Magic Valley is home to thousands of natural springs generated by the Snake River Plain Aquifer—an immense underground reservoir created by runoff from nearby mountains. After filtering through lava rock, this pure spring water gushes from the Snake River canyon walls at a constant temperature of 58 degrees—the ideal temperature for raising Rainbow Trout. This water, the lifeblood of Idaho’s trout industry, is routinely monitored by Clear Springs for quality.

Resource Stewardship

Clear Springs Foods is committed to resource stewardship for the future. We support efforts to safeguard the water quality of the Snake River Plain Aquifer and the Snake River. All of our facilities meet or exceed standards set forth by the EPA.

Aquaculture BRC Food Certificated