ND Caviar?

Vollmer

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Amidst an oil boom, North Dakota produces premium caviar
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By Ernest Scheyder

WILLISTON, N.D. (Reuters) - North Dakota is known globally not just for prolific oil production, but also, it turns out, for caviar.

A distinctly American version of the salty delicacy prized for centuries by Russian czars gets its start each May in the cool waters where the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers converge, the same spot where explorers Lewis and Clark camped two centuries ago.

As paddlefish, one of North America's largest freshwater fish, make their way north to spawn, their eggs, or roe, are processed at the water's edge to make more than 2,000 pounds of caviar prized by clients from Tokyo to Toronto to New York.

"Everyone will tell you that Russian sturgeon caviar is the best, and since the quality of our caviar is so close, we feel like we're second," said June Sheaks, executive director of North Star Caviar, the nonprofit company behind the caviar operation.

Crews from North Star Caviar weigh and measure …
Paddlefish, sometimes called a relic species because they lived before even dinosaurs, are so named for long snouts that make up about a third of their body length.

The state allows only 1,000 to be caught each year, as the population has dropped roughly in half since the 1970s to about 50,000 today due to overfishing and other factors.

Before North Star was formed about 25 years ago, roe from female paddlefish was discarded by North Dakota fishermen. Roe has to be collected before the fish die, so transporting fish hundreds of miles to a caviar processing site was not feasible.

"Our primary goal is to keep this type of sportsmanship alive," Sheaks said.

It's a symbiotic relationship: North Star cleans the fish for free, with the fisherman's agreement that the roe gets left behind to make caviar.

"We have a good of time as anyone can, gutting hundreds of paddlefish," said Bruce Hecklinski, an effusive man donning an industrial apron and waterproof boots at the North Star processing site as hundreds of nearby fishermen try their luck on a warm afternoon.

After the paddlefish are weighed and measured (a typical 70 pound female can be at least 20 percent roe) they are sent up a small conveyor into a structure where three sterilized rooms handle three stages in the caviar process: gutting; cleaning and salting; and canning.

Against the backdrop of the state's growing oil industry, which produces about 1.2 million barrels of oil a day, North Star does test its caviar for the presence of hydrocarbons, but has not found any yet, Sheaks said. (The fish swim hundreds of miles each year far from the wells.)

Most of the caviar is sold to wholesale distributors who bid in an auction-style process.

"The purpose is, of course, to get the best price," said Sheaks. "As soon as May 1 hit, my phone was ringing off the hook asking how the season is going so far."

Only about 50 pounds is sold retail, typically in local markets, where a 4 ounce jar costs $100. (Russian caviar can cost twice as much retail.)

North Star makes a profit of about $150,000 each year. The funds support the nearby historic sites of Fort Union Trading Post and Fort Buford, where American Indian Chief Sitting Bull surrendered in 1881. Money also goes to community events in Williston, considered capital of the state's oil boom.

For now, North Star sees North American fish farming as its biggest competition, not necessarily Russian caviar, which for a time was banned for U.S. import due to overfishing concerns.

(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Terry Wade and Andrew Hay)
 


Lycanthrope

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Ive always been a bit suspicious about the relationship between NDGF and North Star... Seems just a little 'fishy' that a company gets pretty much exclusive rights to harvest and sell a public resource, with no competition or bidding process involved.
 

MuskyManiac

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I've never been paddlefishing before, but I don't think it's required they clean your fish, it is? If that's the case they're not really making profit from a "public resource", but trading the roe for cleaning service with the fishermen directly. I would imagine you can keep the fish and take the roe for yourself if you wanted.

If it's required they clean your fish and take your roe, than I would totally agree with you.
 

guywhofishes

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I was going to order some, try it, and if I like it go up and harvest one and try to make my own. Possible?

But on web site just now...

Jars Not Available - Tubs Available
We do not have any jars of caviar remaining. We do have partially filled tubs which can be sent instead. You will get at least the amount purchased - perhaps a little more.


Seems sketchy.

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anybody tried it?
 

Lycanthrope

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I've never been paddlefishing before, but I don't think it's required they clean your fish, it is? If that's the case they're not really making profit from a "public resource", but trading the roe for cleaning service with the fishermen directly. I would imagine you can keep the fish and take the roe for yourself if you wanted.

If it's required they clean your fish and take your roe, than I would totally agree with you.

You are not forced to let them clean your fish or keep your caviar, but when you consider the value of caviar, Id say cleaning your fish for it is piss poor compensation. A nice female fish can have over $4000 retail value of caviar in her. Sportsmen are not allowed to sell caviar or profit from it in any way, you can keep it and prepare it yourself and give it away however.

Caviar is just salted fish eggs, not much to preparing it, the hardest pat is separating the eggs from the fleshy material they are enclosed in, Ive done it and its messy and time consuming the way I did it. You cannot freeze caviar or cook it. You can pasturize it and it will keep longer, but above a certain temperature and it will get nasty. Best would be to irradiate it, but thats not easily accomplished for most of us.

They could at least give people a few jars of finished product for allowing them to keep the eggs from their fish. Just an idea...
 
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BP338

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Not a fan of caviar, or raw fish.

I do agree tho that they should give some sort of kick back for giving them thousands of $$$ for the simple service of cleaning your fish. Is it that hard to clean them your self? never caught one...

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Do you just gut it like a trout and toss it on some coals? or do you have to cut it up to smoke or fry it?
 

Fracman

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There is a lot of dark meat you have to get rid of for a 60lb fish you might get 20lbs of white meat
 

sweeney

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Back in the early 90's when we started paddlefishing we cleaned our own all the time, but getting the caviar was kind of a PITA and we never got it to taste decent, so we started taking them to Northstar. Personally i think it was just an excuse to go to the buford bar but whatever. With an electric knife it wasn't to bad to clean a 20-40 lber for the fillets but gutting one of the 80+ lb fish was just a big mess, and since we didn't know how to process the caviar the correct way it made more sense to take it to northstar. Personally i don't see how they only manage a 150k profit out of the deal when at least 100 fish produce 2-4k $ in eggs each. But since we as fishermen can't legally sell them and a guy doesn't catch just females i am ok with trading off the cleaning duties for the roe, but i to would like an 1oz jar or something if i bring in a prime female.

We tend to smoke ours all lately but i do remember gutting down paddlefish gumbo and stew on more than one occasion. We also deep fried it and had paddlefish fries usually about the same time we would cook a bunch of rocky mt. oysters
 
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BP338

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Back in the early 90's when we started paddlefishing we cleaned our own all the time, but getting the caviar was kind of a PITA and we never got it to taste decent, so we started taking them to Northstar. Personally i think it was just an excuse to go to the buford bar but whatever. With an electric knife it wasn't to bad to clean a 20-40 lber for the fillets but gutting one of the 80+ lb fish was just a big mess, and since we didn't know how to process the caviar the correct way it made more sense to take it to northstar. Personally i don't see how they only manage a 150k profit out of the deal when at least 100 fish produce 2-4k $ in eggs each. But since we as fishermen can't legally sell them and a guy doesn't catch just females i am ok with trading off the cleaning duties for the roe, but i to would like an 1oz jar or something if i bring in a prime female.

We tend to smoke ours all lately but i do remember gutting down paddlefish gumbo and stew on more than one occasion. We also deep fried it and had paddlefish fries usually about the same time we would cook a bunch of rocky mt. oysters

YUM!
 


FishReaper

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I cut my last one into 1 inch cubes, soaked it all in whole milk over night. then battered it up and into hot oil. Tasted great.
 

svnmag

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I was going to order some, try it, and if I like it go up and harvest one and try to make my own. Possible?

Last month's Outdoor Life had a big feature on paddlefish caviar. Even a roll your own recipe just like they do in Russia. It's called "Little Salt" in English.
 

cavedude

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Not a fan of caviar, or raw fish.

I do agree tho that they should give some sort of kick back for giving them thousands of $$$ for the simple service of cleaning your fish. Is it that hard to clean them your self? never caught one...

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Do you just gut it like a trout and toss it on some coals? or do you have to cut it up to smoke or fry it?

https://www.northstarcaviar.com/aboutnsc.asp

I believe they are giving enough kickback being a non-profit organization but I wouldn't mind a jar of caviar. I love it on sushi
 

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