Shawn Berube, of Alberta Environment and Parks, was at Smoky Trout Farm in Red Deer County to pick up 2500 rainbow trout, destined for Hasse Lake, near Edmonton. With proper oxygenation, rainbow trout can be transported several hundred kilometres. (Contributed photo).

Shawn Berube, of Alberta Environment and Parks, was at Smoky Trout Farm in Red Deer County to pick up 2500 rainbow trout, destined for Hasse Lake, near Edmonton. With proper oxygenation, rainbow trout can be transported several hundred kilometres. (Contributed photo).

Red Deer County fish farm benefits from jump in Alberta fishing licences

Smoky Trout Farm Ltd. raises 200,000 fish each year

Whether angling for stress relief, or to fill more free time, thousands of central Albertans have been casting fishing lines into lakes and ponds during this pandemic.

The stocked rainbow trout they are reeling in from water bodies were likely raised at the Smoky Trout Farm in Red Deer County.

In 1997, former oilfield worker Dan Menard bought a former chicken ranch off Highway 11 A, but had no interest in raising chickens.

Instead, he and his son, Max Menard, looked into turning their love of angling into a business.

Hooked on the idea of starting a fish farm, Max left his computer-aided drafting job in Fort St. John, B.C., and took an aquaculture course offered by the provincial government.

Max and Dan installed large tanks in former chicken barns and co-founded their business in 1998. They ordered fertilized trout eggs from the Seattle area and began what’s since become Alberta’s largest private aquaculture operation.

The family business, which now also involves Max’s brother, Ray Menard, specializes in lake and pond water management.

But trout are the farm’s mainstay. Max said about 200,000 rainbow and brown trout are raised a year to stock private, municipal and provincial water bodies, such as Red Deer’s Heritage Ranch, Hansen’s Reservoir near Eckville, and various water retention ponds in Calgary.

“We sell anywhere from 25 trout to a farmer who wants to stock his dugout for his grandchildren,” to 2,500 trout that were recently introduced to the 100-acre Hasse Lake in an Edmonton-area provincial park, Max added.

The fish are raised in seven large tanks, and four seven-foot by 36-foot concrete “raceways.”

Max admits the complicated process requires the right aeration systems, good water quality and a consistent temperature of about 14 C.

Algae and vegetation growth need to be mitigated. And bio-security measures have to be taken to prevent disease — such as allowing in no outside water that could lead to a spread of pathogens.

Fast-growing rainbow trout and slow-growing brown trout are routinely tested for such things as parasitic whirling disease — and Max said the tests have always been negative.

Since trout are carnivorous, usually feeding on insects and other small aquatic creatures, the Menards must regularly separate the big fish from the little ones to ensure the runts don’t get eaten.

But the biggest challenges come from external factors. Max said the business is dependent on the provincial economy.

People have to have a reasonable amount of disposable income to want to spend money on stocking a fish pond, he explained.

This pandemic year, however, has been fantastic for angling, considered a safe, outdoor, socially distanced activity.

The province has seen a 30 per cent jump fishing licenses sales, leading to 250,000 licensed adult anglers in Alberta.

Recreational fishing is estimated to be contributing $600 million to the provincial economy.

But the personal benefits are most familiar to Max, who as a boy, loved to go fishing with his dad.

“I’m a very passionate advocate for there being enough opportunities for people to fish.”

Red Deer County

Just Posted

New admissions have been suspended for Engineering Technology diplomas (Instrumentation, Electrical and Mechanical) and the Transitional Vocational Program at Red Deer College. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Developmentally disabled impacted: Red Deer College suspends program

Transitional Vocational Program comes to an end

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw is asking Albertans to do their part by observing gathering limits, staying home if unwell, wearing masks and maintaining physical distance. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Three new Central zone COVID-19 deaths, Alberta adds 1,433 cases

Red Deer down to 802 active cases of COVID-19

NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman holds up freedom of information requests that turned up no records. The Opposition requested back-to-school re-entry plan correspondence between Education Minister Adriana LaGrange and school boards, teachers and the media. Photo via Facebook live
NDP renews calls for Alberta gov’t to scrap K-6 draft curriculum

The NDP is once again calling on the Alberta Government to get… Continue reading

Earlier this week Alberta Health Services warned that Rocky Mountain House Health Centre emergency department would be temporarily without physician coverage from May 12, at 6 p.m., to May 13, at 7 a.m. (Photo contributed by the Town of Rocky Mountain House)
Doctors needed in Rocky Mountain House

Emergency department temporarily closed due to doctor shortage

The owner of Mae’s Kitchen in Mirror, says hamlet residents were ‘disheartened’ by a recent anti-restriction protest. The restaurant is following all the health restrictions in place. (Photo courtesy Mae’s Kitchen Facebook)
‘We don’t need that’: Mirror restaurant against recent anti-restriction protest

A week after a large anti-restriction protest at The Whistle Stop Cafe… Continue reading

Bo’s Bar and Grill owner Brennen Wowk said the hospitality industry is looking for more clarity from the province around what conditions must be met to allow for restaurants reopening. (Advocate file photo)
Frustated restaurant owners want to know government’s reopening plan

Restaurant owners feel they are in lockdown limbo

Winnipeg Jets' Kyle Connor (81) scores on Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell (36) as TJ Brodie (78) defends during second-period NHL action in Winnipeg on Friday, May 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
Connor scores twice, Jets beat Leafs in regular-season finale

Connor scores twice, Jets beat Leafs in regular-season finale

Atletico Ottawa defender Vashon Neufville controls the ball during Atletico Ottawa’s first team practice of their inaugural season in the Canadian Premier League in Ottawa, Wednesday June 3, 2020. The Canadian Premier League plans to kick off its third season mid-June to early July in one location without fans. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Wattie
Canadian Premier League delays kickoff again, looks to mid-June to early July start

Canadian Premier League delays kickoff again, looks to mid-June to early July start

Calgary’s Stephen Ames shoots 66 to take Mitsubishi Electric lead

Calgary’s Stephen Ames shoots 66 to take Mitsubishi Electric lead

Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros (74) deflects a shot against the Carolina Hurricanes during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, May 8, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
NHL postseason: Who’s hot as the playoffs arrive?

NHL postseason: Who’s hot as the playoffs arrive?

Ottawa Senators' Connor Brown, right, celebrates a goal with teammates during third period NHL action against the Montreal Canadiens, in Ottawa, Wednesday, March 5, 2021. Brown will lead a young Canadian squad into the world hockey championship in Riga, Latvia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Ottawa forward Connor Brown leads Canada’s roster at world championship

Ottawa forward Connor Brown leads Canada’s roster at world championship

FILE - In this Nov. 9, 2018, file photo, Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Jayna Hefford shakes hands with people associated with the hall before a hockey game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New Jersey Devils in Toronto. The Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association is forging ahead in its bid to establish an economically sustainable professional league in North America with or — for now — without the NHL’s full financial backing. In response to Sportsnet.ca reporting the NHL was not in a position to operate a women’s league for the foreseeable future, PWHPA executive Jayna Hefford wrote in an email to The Associated Press late Thursday that her group has begun developing what she called “a parallel path for a future that doesn’t rely on NHL support.” (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
PWHPA forging ahead without NHL backing of women’s hockey

PWHPA forging ahead without NHL backing of women’s hockey

‘No secrets’ and no certainty in one-of-a-kind NHL playoffs

‘No secrets’ and no certainty in one-of-a-kind NHL playoffs

Supporters dance during a rally against measures taken by government and health authorities to curb the spread of COVID-19 at the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror, Alta., on Saturday, May 8, 2021. RCMP say they have ticketed four people after the rally that was attended by hundreds.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta leadership responsible for protests against public health orders: expert

Alberta leadership responsible for protests against public health orders: expert

Most Read