Life Cycle of a Heartland Catfish


Brood Fish produce 3,000 to 4,000 eggs per pound of body weight per year. These fish lay the eggs in specialized boxes that are then collected by hand and taken to a hatchery to hatch into “sac fry.”


The sac fry are carefully tended until they grow to become fingerlings. During this time, they are fed a high-protein floating feed similar to goldfish food. This trains them to look for their food on the surface and not the bottom of their habitat.


The fry are moved from the hatchery to a pond where they continue to grow until they are 5 to 7 inches long. They are now known as fingerlings and are moved to grow out ponds and stocked at a rate of 5,000 to 10,000 fingerlings per surface acre of water. They continue to be fed high-protein floating feed, which helps maintain the flavor desired in U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish.


After 18 to 24 months, the fingerlings have grown to an average weight of 1.5 to 2.5 pounds and are now ready to be harvested and processed. Prior to harvest, each pond must pass a stringent flavor and quality test. Once the tests are passed, the pond is seined.


Workers use large weighted nets called seines to crowd the fish to one area of the pond so they can be loaded into aerated tanks on flatbed trucks and transported to the plant. The workers use a crane and a large dip net to move the fish from the pond to the trucks.


The fish are transported to the plant on trucks. Once at the plant, the fish are offloaded into a large basket that acts as a scale to determine how many fish are being brought from any one farm or pond. Once weighed, the fish move across a computerized grader and are directed to the proper processing line based on size and weight.


The fish are cleaned, filleted, trimmed and packed in the various forms, sizes and cuts for the customer. They are either packed into boxes on ice or sent through a blast freezer, frozen and packed into boxes, depending on the customers’ orders. They are then ready to be shipped to the customer.


The packaged fish are stored in our coolers and freezers until they are loaded on our fleet of trucks, or onto the customer’s truck, and then delivered to the appropriate distributor or customer.


After delivery, the product is ready to be prepared as the customer desires and enjoyed by the many catfish lovers around the world.