What part of your job did you least expect to be doing?
JR: The federal and state laws and all the rules, regulations, fees and paperwork/computer work that is required for a commercial fishery that processes and sells fish. Other things I never thought I’d have to do are state of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources commercial fish reports, boat licensing, commercial licenses, temperature logs, filleting logs, fish sold logs, wholesale reports, HAACP plans for everything we do. I never expected so much paperwork!
What is one interesting thing you’ve learned about the fish itself?
JR: Fish are totally unpredictable. So many people ask what a “normal” day’s catch is. There is no normal. Every day is different. Some days you’ll get a lot, some days you won’t. It’s never the same. Ever. That goes for whitefish, trout and herring. It would be very interesting to know the fish migration pattern. But I’m glad we don’t. I guess the mystery of where the fish are makes the job more interesting.
What is one thing you would like consumers to know about how your fish are harvested or raised?
JR: They are NOT caught on hook and line! We use gill nets or live-trap nets to fish. The gear is designed to either let the smaller fish through the webbing or we hand-grade the fish and throw the small ones back. We also lift our nets every day, so the fish are alive and can be thrown back to swim away. We also process fish fillets every day, especially in the warmer months of spring and summer. So when customers ask us how fresh the fish is, I like to say, “You won’t get fresher fish unless you’ve caught it yourself.”
When someone asks you if your fish (fisheries) is sustainable, how do you reply?
JR: Yes. Wisconsin state laws shut down the fishery during certain times of the year so the fish can spawn. We are totally onboard with that. You don’t want to put yourself out of a job, after all. We have a limit on how much lake trout we can catch and also size limits. Lake trout is the only “sport fish” we can keep.
What is your connection to Sea Grant?
JR: I have received the Minnesota and Wisconsin Sea Grant newsletters for years now because of my interest in the Great Lakes fisheries. When the “Eat Wisconsin Fish” promotions came out in 2014, I sent away to receive the promotional materials. We were all delighted and surprised to see the Halvorson boats in the promotional flyer. We had no idea!
Interview has been condensed and edited.