Fish Farms: Aquaculture industry thriving in North Carolina's backyard

WRAL's latest documentary, Fish Farms, explores one of North Carolina's best kept secrets. Aquaculture, or the farming of fish and seafood, is a thriving industry that brings over $60 million in revenue to the state each year​.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Caviar and crawfish from the Carolinas--who knew?

WRAL's latest documentary, Fish Farms, explores one of North Carolina’s best kept secrets. Aquaculture, or the farming of fish and seafood, is a thriving industry that brings over $60 million in revenue to the state each year​. The documentary, hosted by WRAL News Anchor Debra Morgan, premieres Wednesday, July 14 at 7:30 p.m.

The documentary will be rebroadcast on WRAZ FOX50, Saturday, July 17 at 4:30 p.m.

"It's a stealth industry that most people don't even know is there," Rob Mayo, president of Carolina Classics Catfish said, even though the first commercial fish farm in the state opened in 1948.

These days, from the mountains to the coast, North Carolina farmers are raising rainbow trout, oysters, catfish, bass, crawfish and even sturgeon, for caviar that's shipped all over the world. With exclusive access and behind the scenes footage, Fish Farms takes viewers inside our state's aquaculture, exploring its origins, the growth of the industry, why traditional farmers made the switch and how the process actually works. It's a fascinating look into a huge industry most people don't know is happening in their back yards.

Fish Farms is presented by the North Carolina Farm Bureau.


Rainbow Trout

Rainbow Trout is native to the United States. According to Sunburst Trout Farms, the fish responds well to aquaculture - which is controlled feeds and selective breeding - and reaches about two pounds before maturity.

The fish at Sunburst Trout Farms grow in water of the Shining Rock wilderness in the Pisgah National Forest.

Sunburst Trout Farms states that fresh-water production of the trout helps give it a milder, more delicate flavor.

Pan-seared trout


  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup corn meal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 trout fillets
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Lemon slice


  1. Combine flour, corn meal, salt, pepper, garlic powder and cayenne pepper in a bowl and mix.
  2. Take each fillet and dust both sides in flour mixture.
  3. Heat olive oil in frying pan.
  4. When heat is sizzling, turn down to medium-high heat.
  5. Cook each fillet for 5 to 7 minutes, with the skin-side up.
  6. Then, flip and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.
  7. Add more olive oil if necessary.
  8. Squeeze lemon over the fillets.
  9. Serve with the side of your choice! Sunburst Trout Farms recommends a fresh-picked apples, arugula and goat cheese salad.

Other recipes to try:

Caviar (From Sturgeon)

Osetra caviar only comes from Russian sturgeon, which is produced at Marshallberg Farm in eastern and western North Carolina. The farm is the only producer of Russian sturgeon and Osetra caviar in the Untied States, according to its website.
There are several ways to serve caviar, according to Marshallberg Farm, and serving amounts and choice of caviar grade will vary depending on how many people and the type of event.

For larger events, Marshallberg Farm recommends a lower-grade caviar, since it'll give more product for the money. It can be served with traditional garnishes like blini, chopped onions, egg whites, lemon and fresh herbs.

For smaller gathers, go with a higher-grade caviar. Marshallberg Farm recommends serving higher-grade caviar on its own or with a simple blini or toast point.

Osetra on Cold Salty Potato (Recipe from Marshallberg Farm)


  • 3 medium-small potatoes
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 30 grams Marshallberg Farm Everyday Osetra


  1. Add 1/2 cup salt to 1 gallon of water and bring to boil.
  2. Add medium-small potatoes to boil.
  3. Remove potatoes after 20 minutes and cool to room temperatures.
  4. Place potatoes in refrigerator until cold and firm.
  5. Neatly halve and cut bottom flat for clean seating.
  6. Add tablespoon of sour cream on top of each potato.
  7. Top with Osetra caviar.

Other recipes to try:


Three Little Spats Oyster Co. grows Permuda Island Selects oysters and Stump Sound Gold oysters in Wilmington.

According to Three Little Spats, the Permuda Island Selects oysters have a brothy brine, with a creamy and buttery finish. The farm says while the oyster is delicious raw, it is also big enough to be charbroiled or steamed.

Stump Sound Gold oysters are described as salty and buttery. The farm reccommends steaming or roasting them.

Fried Oyster Salad (Recipe from Flavor NC)


  • Old Mill seafood breader
  • Fresh oysters
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salad greens
  • Remoulade or tartar sauce


  1. Toss oysters lightly in seafood breader.
  2. Heat 1/2 to 1 inch of oil in a heavy skillet.
  3. When hot, fry oysters until browned.
  4. Turn oysters and continue frying until golden brown on all sides.
  5. Drain oysters on paper towels.
  6. Place salad greens on plate and top with fried oysters.
  7. Serve with remoulade or tartar sauce.

More recipes to try:


Eastern NC Crawfish Farm is a deep pond crawfish farm, meaning that ponds are filled with water 4 to 8 feet deep, like a traditional fishing pond.

The farm also does not drain the ponds, which is traditional for crawfish farmers, which helps Eastern NC Crawfish Farm to keep harvesting until September. The typical end for crawfish season is in July.

Traditional crawfish boil (Recipe from Flavor NC)


  • 1 pound onions
  • 2 lemon halves
  • 2 tablespoons red peppers
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 package powdered seafood boil
  • 1 bottle liquid seafood boil
  • 1 package whole seafood boil
  • 1/4 cup salt


  • Bring water, onions, lemons, red pepper, garlic and boil seasonings to a rolling boil.
    • Note: It is traditional to boil whole artichoke and smoked sausage in the same pot.
  • Boil the crawfish for 10 minutes.
  • Turn off heat and allow crawfish to soak for another 10 to 15 minutes before removing from water.
  • Remove crawfish from water with a wire basket or sieve.
  • Pile on a paper-covered table, then peel, pinch and enjoy!
  • Other recipes to try:



    Sydney Franklin, Web Editor
    Kevin Kuzminski, Web Editor

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