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Aquaculture Potential for Redtail Chubs

Combined Outdoor and Indoor Aquaculture System for a Northern Baitfish: The Hornyhead (Redtail) Chub

The hornyhead chub (Nocomis biguttatus) is one of the most valuable baitfish species in Minnesota. Also known as the redtail chub, this small fish can sell for wholesale prices frequently reaching $9.40 to $12.50 per pound. Retail price is typically $25 per pound. These high prices put harvesting pressure on wild populations, especially because it is illegal to import baitfish into Minnesota. Spread of VHS virus and aquatic invasive species also threaten wild harvest of this species. Developing an economically viable aquaculture system for hornyhead chubs could relieve pressure on wild populations while keeping the market adequately supplied with this desirable bait.

In our research report we examined three general components in culturing this species:

  1. An outdoor spawning system (flowing water)
  2. An outdoor place for the early growth of fry and fingerlings
  3. An indoor recycle aquaculture system (RAS) for grow-out

Juvenile hornyhead chubs were brought into an RAS facility in October from an artificial stream and a pond where they were produced. Nearly all of the fish grew to marketable size by mid-May when the Minnesota walleye fishing season opens and demand for baitfish is high. They grew to an average of 3.1 inches (80 mm); 96% were retained on a #21 grader and 62% were retained on a #23 grader. Also during this trial, over 50% of juveniles brought indoors were marketable (retained on a #21 grader) by the end of December. This suggests that some hornyhead chubs could be graded and sold for the winter ice fishery.

A spreadsheet model was developed to explore the economic viability of the combined outdoor and indoor RAS culture system. The economic assessment suggests that hornyhead chub aquaculture can be profitable. The model allows many of the variables to be changed to determine the impact on profitability. The spreadsheet model suggests that the most sensitive (and most important) factors determining profit and return on investment are annual production per gallon of RAS water, RAS size, wholesale price of hornyhead chubs, and system construction costs.

Hornyhead chub aquaculture seems like a promising way to supply valuable baitfish to anglers and generate income for fish farmers and bait shop owners in Minnesota and other northern states. Hornyhead chubs can be reared in aquaculture facilities and sold through bait shops to anglers, who are often willing to pay $5 to $6 per dozen.

Related Content:

Aquaculture:

Contact:

Don Schreiner
Fisheries Specialist


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