A Brief History of Aquaculture in Missouri
In Missouri, aquaculture originated with the State Fish Commission and the Federal government. The State built their first fish hatchery at Brown Spring near St. Joseph and the Federal government developed the Neosho hatchery in 1888. However, attempts at commercial aquaculture soon followed.
During the early 1920s, several farsighted entrepreneurs made attempts to culture trout in Missouri’s many springs. The spring areas in Missouri were unique because most had already been developed to supply power for grist mills and these areas were the gathering places in the Ozarks. The evolution from utilitarian use to raising trout for recreational purposes was natural. One of the first commercial ventures was a small trout hatchery. It was started by a Tulsa dentist named Dr. Furrow at Bennett Spring. In 1924, he sold the facility to the State of Missouri. Dr. Furrow and a partner from Tulsa, F. Lawrence Bailliere, located another site for raising fish at the village of Wet Glaize in Camden County. This hatchery was the birth of Ozark Fisheries, Inc., one of the oldest and largest continually operating facilities in Missouri. Trout were raised at Ozark Fisheries for two years; however, the venture was not profitable. During the 1920s a fad of keeping goldfish in a bowl was fueled by the establishment of pet departments in many of the major chain stores such as S.S. Kresge and Woolworths. The owners of Ozark Fisheries realized an opportunity and made arrangements to start raising goldfish. They have been in the goldfish business ever since. Currently, Larry Cleveland, a third-generation member of the Bailliere family, is the president of Ozark Fisheries.
During the same era, two German immigrants, H.K. Welpman and A.F. Fagen, started Missouri Goldfish Company in 1929 near Stover. In the early 1950s, Missouri Goldfish was the first in the United States, or anywhere else for that matter, to domesticate and breed the golden shiner. Missouri Goldfish is still in operation under the guidance of a third-generation family member, Randy Welpman. Ozark Fisheries and Missouri Goldfish are the earliest to sustain extensive pond culture in Missouri and probably in the United States. There were few if any other private fish culture facilities except for the trout hatcheries located at many of Missouri’s springs.
During the early 1950s, Jim Kahrs, a Missouri native and a recent graduate in Fisheries from Oregon State University, realized that opportunities existed for raising and selling fingerling fish for restocking in farm ponds and other uses. Osage Catfisheries was begun in Osage Beach and has grown into one of the most successful fingerling and fry operations in the United States.
Bayless Taylor and Bill Flowers were pioneers in fish farming in southeast Missouri. Both established farms near Dexter which have grown and are now operated by their children.
In 1951, Mary Alice and Dwight Emerson purchased a spring near Ava and began to realize the problems in developing a viable business. However, their efforts were rewarded and Crystal Lake Fisheries is now one of the largest trout farms in Missouri.
In 1954, Lile and Edith Amyx purchased the town of Rockbridge which included the old mill, general store, bank, spring, and fishing stream. Rainbow Trout Ranch and Rockbridge Gun Club is the result of their hard work and is well known throughout the Midwest as a prime vacation spot in the Ozarks.
Crystal Spring, near Cassville, was originally owned and developed by Dr. M.L. Blankenship in the 1930’s. It was later owned and further developed by the Pottebom family in the late 1950’s. Today, Robert and Rosemary Krause and family continue to produce trout for stocking. They also maintain an area of the facility for those interested in fishing.
Troutdale Ranch, near Gravois Mills was purchased by Allen Gates and his family in the mid 1960’s. Allen was familiar with the trout operations in Idaho, and realized the potential of trout for Midwest markets. He also invented the boned method of processing trout. Dennis and Merritt Van Landuyt purchased Troutdale Ranch from the Gates family in 2002 and have renovated and renamed it Troutdale Farm.
Gene Peroit from near Golden, Missouri and Wayne Lucke of Lucky Lakes near Palmyra were early fish farmers who developed many techniques to make fish farming less difficult. Gene Peroit always had a new trap or different method for harvesting fish from a pond. This innovation and diversity continues in today’s producers.