Range & Habitat: Although wild rainbow trout are found naturally from northern Mexico to Alaska west of the Rockies, all the fish found on today’s commerical market has been farmed raised. Because they are hearty and adaptable, they are a great choice for aquaculture. They grow quickly, reaching market size in about a year, and allowing for a year-round steady supply of fish at a stable price.
Rainbow trout are mostly raised in outdoor ponds or flow through raceways that can be easily monitored. The production process is fairly simple – fry (young trout) are raised indoors until they reach about 8 – 10 cm and then are moved to outdoor grow-out facilities – generally ponds or concrete raceways. Water flow, feed, chemicals and other inputs and outputs can be easily controlled and monitored, and harvest of market ready fish is easy.
Trout farmers focus on disease prevention – no overstocking of ponds and keeping trout free of stress.
Clean, healthy water is key – so trout farms can help preserve the quality of the watersheds they are located in. Although rainbow trout are super adaptable, without a steady source of clean water the trout will not survive. The more trout farms North Carolina has, the larger the incentive to preserve large sections of groundwater.
Trout farms have to complete a rigorous permitting process and are monitored regularly.
Regulation of farms is thorough, and the since the ponds and raceways are landlocked, fish can’t escape into the wild. Even if they could, the fish are sterile, so they wouldn’t have much impact on local populations.
Trout are feed high energy diets and are efficient protein converters, with some farms achieving food conversion ratios of close to 1. FCR = (pounds feed fed) / (pounds body weight gain)
Buying Tips: Market size for farmed trout is under a pound. It is very mild and delicate in flavor, far less pronounced than salmon, with an excellent moist tender flake. Flesh color may vary depending on what pigments are in the feed at the various farms. It can range from pale white to red orange. Color has no bearing on taste or texture, just aesthetics.
Recommended Preparation: Whole fish an be stuffed and grilled, roasted, or broiled. Fillets are somewhat delicate but cook quickly and easily – saute, pan fry, roast, grill or broil. Raibow trout is a great way to highlight seasonal produce – stuffed with tender young herbs in the spring, paired with heartier vegetables in the fall. Try pecan-crusting a fillet or cooking en papillote! Makes a great sandwhich or salad topper and can be a menu selection year round.