Heat hits local fisheries hard

Posted on: 3:42 pm, July 18, 2012, by , updated on: 03:50pm, July 18, 2012

The Mississippi River is where most of the freshwater fish sold through Schafer Fisheries in Fulton, IL are caught.

At 6-foot, it’s a foot below normal.

But, it’s not so much the height of the river causing problems- it’s the heat that’s caused business to take a hit.

“It’s definitely slower now,” said Mike Schafer, President of Schafer Fisheries.

The main reason, he says, “The warmer the water temperature, the more quickly the bacteria can grow.”

Once they get to the processing facility, the fish are unloaded off the boat and into bins.

From there, they will go into an ice bath, where they’ll sit for about an hour.

Then, they’ll move on to processing, which takes time and, like in any business, time is money.

Warmer water also changes the fish’s feeding habits, making them more difficult to catch.

Schafer processes catfish, Asian carp and other freshwater fish and sells not just throughout the U.S., but internationally.

Because of the heat, which has caused drought conditions throughout much of the country, the family business, which started in the 1950′s, has seen business slow from 500,000 to about 300,000 pounds of fish handled every week.

“It’s a hardship on everybody when you have hot weather and drought conditions like this. It also affects our fishermen because they’re not making the money that they need to sustain their way of life.”

They’ve even had to adjust their work schedules.

“Get out there early, get off the river early,” said Jesse Schafer, who works for his dad’s business.

Even with the problems posed by the hot weather, the folks at Schafer’s know they’re dealing with Mother Nature.

“We take the good with the bad.”

In addition to fisheries, farmers have been hit hard by this drought.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture cut its estimate of this year’s corn production by 12-percent.

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