04 June, 2007

Found Happiness at Fish Farm

June 3, 2007
Walt Wilson is on his third career and enjoying every wet and dirty moment of it. A former General Motors Corp. worker and crop farmer, the 67-year-old decided to try a different kind of farming after he found growing crops didn't suit him.

"I've always worked two or three jobs all my life. ... My idea is I'm going to work until I drop," Wilson said. Having always enjoyed the sport of fishing, Wilson dug a one-third-acre pond on his 60-acre farm to start his new business -- Wilson's Enterprises Aquaculture Division.

"I love to fish," he said while keeping an eye on some Japanese koi recently netted from his pond. "If I can't go fish, I may as well play with them." Now, more than a decade since he dug that pond and found the right fish to fill it with -- bluegill, crappie, bass, catfish, koi and perch -- Wilson spends his days outside tending them, only stopping when he needs to sit down for a quick rest.

"The thing about a fish farm is you're going to get wet and dirty," he said. Currently, he has koi and catfish for sale alongside turtles and bullfrog tadpoles. Wilson said he's ready to expand his operations in Montrose. He hopes to dig another pond and bring in some of the fish he raised at another farm. Wilson said he brings in fish upon request by dragging a large net through the pond and transports them live for school biology classes or to people just passing by who want to stock their ponds. "Or I send the grandkids with a little butterfly net and say 'Catch that one,' " he said, smiling.
Susan Smith and Darren Wheeler of Montrose stopped by looking for a Mother's Day gift after having spotted the fish farm while passing by. "I want a big beautiful one," Smith said as she looked at a few 2-year-old koi recently brought in from the pond. Although she is more interested in Wilson's larger koi that are used for breeding, she settled on three of the 10-inch fish, as well as a few babies. Over the buzz of aeration pumps connected to large containers the fish are moved into from the pond, Smith asked Wilson when she would be able to purchase one of his large koi that are between 4 and 5 years old.

"I'm just waiting for my Cleopatra -- I've already named her," Smith said of the large koi she had previously spotted in the pond. Although Wilson couldn't set a date for her to pick up Cleopatra, Smith already has decided one of the fish she took home will be named Paris and another will be named after a rock star. Smith said it is the relaxing quality of the animals and the sport of fishing that got her started with the koi.

With a natural environment that does not contain chemicals, Wilson also continues to enjoy his hobby of fishing by making a few casts with a barb-less hook into his pond when his chores are done. However, he still enjoys the competitive nature of the sport. "It's enjoyable -- trying to outdo your buddy, who has the biggest and the most in the boat," Wilson said. Although he isn't sure how many fish are sold each year, Wilson said he would continue trying to grow his business. "You either can do it or you can't do it -- I'm going to struggle until I can't," he said.

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