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Rain not yet enough to help catfish farms

by the Fish Site Editor
16 July 2007, at 1:00am

US - The 2 to 5 inches of rain that has fallen in the Black Belt during the last two weeks has been welcome relief.

The grass is greener, and farmers may even get to cut some hay soon.

But it’s had little impact on catfish farmers.

“The rain is wonderful, and it’s helping," said Jamey Clary, a part-time county agent for Hale County and executive director of the Catfish Marketing Association, based in Greensboro.

“But it’s not nearly enough. A lot of ponds were so down in water and so shallow, it’s going to take way more rain than we’ve had so far."

Catfish ponds, a major West Alabama crop, are suffering from low water levels. That leaves fish vulnerable to lethal oxygen problems and frustrating “off-flavor" problems.

“I went out the other morning after a 2-inch rain and you could still stick your hand down in cracks in the ground up to your wrist," said Greensboro catfish farmer Bill Kyser as he took a break from making aerator repairs last week.

When it began

The farmers’ problems started in January when anticipated winter rains didn’t come. Their woes multiplied as the drought deepened during the spring and summer. And the recent rains haven’t remedied the problem.

“The runoff in the winter usually fills our ponds up," said George Smelley, a catfish farmer from the Prairie Eden community. “We lose about an inch a day to evaporation in the summertime. We usually get enough rain in the summer to keep up with evaporation. This year we started the summer 1.5 feet low."

Source: DatelineAlabama.com

the Fish Site Editor