Production of Black Bass in Southern Illinois Coal Mine Lakes
Larry and Pam Wilkey of Carterville, IL received a 2001 SARE grant to experiment with an alternate form of raising fish. The purpose of their project was to determine if black bass (large mouth bass and small mouth bass) can successfully be raised in a caged environment in a lake. The Wilkeys have access to 20 acres of coal mine lakes in Southern Illinois. They wanted to use the lakes, which were formed as a result of surface coal mining in their area, for a profitable alternative agriculture enterprise.
The Wilkeys raised the bass in netpens that float on the surface of the lake. They fed the fish commercial food once or twice daily until they reached 1.5 pounds, and then sold them for human consumption. During the project, the Wilkeys assessed the aquaculture environment and netpen production methods. They evaluated the water quality, two different commercial diets, disease control methods, and the cost of production.
This was the Wilkey’s first attempt at fish production, and they were pleased with the results. They did not encounter any disease problems and were satisfied with test results for dissolved oxygen, ammonia, pH and other variables. Marketing the fish was not a challenge since the Wilkeys live close to the Illinois Fish Farmers Co-op and processing plant. The Wilkeys noted that the Co-op would buy any mature fish that they could not direct market.
The Wilkeys plan to continue their efforts to raise fish in a caged environment. They explained, “We feel that this project is an important alternative to other forms of raising fish. Our goal is to build this farm slowly and gradually with the addition of an aeration system sometime in the future.”
The Wilkeys shared the results of their project with others in the area through a radio interview and through discussions at Fish Co-op meetings.