Meet Jim Henderhan of Evaqua farms. Jim is a trout farmer. He manages 7 sites, all within a 40-mile area of Twin Falls, Idaho. Jim is apart of the new ownership team that brings pride to being trout farmers. Jim moved from the ranches of Kremling Colorado to the waters of the Snake River Valley for trout farming. Jim and Evaqua farms bring passion, ambition, and a fresh mindset to an old tradition. They plan to grow happier and healthier fish that benefit consumers and the environment.
Twin Falls Idaho is famous for Shoshone Falls, an enormous waterfall on the Snake River taller than Niagara Falls. The Snake River carves a deep canyon through Twin Falls, making for a beautiful and contrasting landscape. A perfect place for a trout farm.
I was lucky enough to visit Evaqua Farms. Being a trout fisherman always searching for the next great trout river, it is comforting to know the old saying stays true, “trout live in beautiful places”. Evaqua Trout live in a breathtaking area.
The Blue Lakes site of Evaqua Farms is named for the blue waters of the Snake River Plain Aquifer visible from the entry to the farm. The farm has 140 cfs (cubic feet per second) of fresh spring water continuously flowing through the site…this is a lot of fresh water! If this amount of water was traveling down a 10-foot-wide river, it would be enough to sweep you off your feet.
The key element to any great farm is clean, fresh water. Evaqua Farms are ideally located in an area of large natural springs pouring out 58-degree water year-round. This water comes from the Snake River Plain Aquifer that extends from the western boundary of Yellowstone National Park westward to the mouth of Hells Canyon. The Snake River Aquifer near Twin Falls Idaho is approximately 1,500 meters deep. The total ground water storage of the upper 150 meters is estimated to be the equivalent water value of Lake Erie. This massive amount of water is what provides Evaqua farms with healthy clean tasting fish.
There are many common misconceptions in farm raised fish. It’s important to keep yourself from getting trapped into generalities of farming. Trout farming is different than any other type of farming, and Evaqua’s farm is different than anyone else’s. Each farm has its own unique fish, unique water, unique feed, and unique farming methods.
Evaqua trout are steelhead trout from the Pacific Northwest origins. They use steelhead because they have naturally robust genetics to grow big and strong for long migrations from the ocean into freshwater rivers. These farmed fish only migrate from one raceway to the next according to size, but the health and growth of steelhead is more ideal to farming than their freshwater cousin the rainbow trout.
Steelhead trout are raised from egg in the Evaqua nursery where they incubate in tubes spouting fresh unfiltered spring water. Green plant life is not uncommon in the incubation tube, this is a good indication of the life supporting nutrients coming from the fertile spring waters. As the trout develop from egg into fry they swim to the top of the tube and fall into a separate raceway where they begin their journey of becoming a big healthy fish.
There are managed ratios of water flow to fish biomass, raceway fish mass to amount of feed, and many other mathematical equations proven with farming technique to keep these fish happy and healthy. With any fish farm, the important question of fish fecal matter must be discussed. Evaqua has a unique piping system than separates solids from reusable water. Each raceway has a settling area for waste to collect. This separate waste collection area is at the end of each raceway where clean water flushes over the top of a barrier. The solids are collected in a separate plumbing line that gets flushed regularly and transported to another area where it is used for fertilizer on the grounds. The fresh reusable water flows through the farm and into a 12-acre pond where water settles before releasing into the Snake River.
Evaqua Trout are ready for market 12-14 months from egg. The most common trout raised on the farm are Pacific Northwest Steelhead with red flesh, marketed as Red Trout. The Red Trout get their red flesh from a supplement in their feed called astaxanthin, a micro-nutrient found in plankton, krill, and small fish. Astaxanthin is a naturally-occurring micronutrient that is also a primary contributor to the color of lobster, shrimp, and flamingos. It can be found in your local grocery store often taken as an anti-oxidant immune system booster.
Due to the additional health benefits of Red Trout, Evaqua is planning to transition their operations to only Red Trout as they have observed there is a benefit to the health of the fish and the consumer. Give red trout a try this spring! Available in 6-8oz or 8-10oz bone out fillets as well as whole trout.
Visit their website for more information and education about Evaqua and why you should eat more trout! https://evaquafarms.com/pages/education