HAGERMAN, Id. (KMVT/KSVT) When most people think about the Snake River, images of sprawling canyons and excellent recreation come to mind, but for some, it means world–class caviar.
"This area has more high quality water than any spot in the world,” says Fish Breeders of Idaho owner and president Leo Ray.
Ray began farming catfish, tilapia, and trout in Hagerman more than 40 years ago.
"In about a 30 mile stretch of the Snake River, the big springs here produce more high quality water than any 30 mile stretch anywhere in the world."
Sturgeon – one of the world's oldest living species – is native to the Snake River and fossil records indicate sturgeon date back around 150 million years, but you only have to go back a little more than a decade to see when Leo began farming and harvesting sturgeon.
His sturgeon caviar has built a reputation larger than the prehistoric fish for the highest quality in the world.
Natural springs and geothermal wells, along with careful farming, combine to form the perfect environment for Leo's fish.
"Our sturgeon has developed a reputation for being the best sturgeon in the country. Our caviar is going into the top restaurants mainly in New York and then on the west coast too. We have requests now from the top restaurants in Dubai."
And while prices worldwide have been slashed recently, Leo has been able to raise his.
"Caviar prices have just about cut in half over the last three years. We've raised our prices. To my knowledge, we're selling the highest price caviar in the U.S. right now,” said Ray.
Thanks to a new piece of machinery, ‘Idaho Caviar’ and Ray’s other species of fish will soon become much cheaper to produce.
Fish Breeders of Idaho recently purchased an extruder, a machine that produces food pellets for fish.
When it’s up and running, Ray’s fish production operation will be fully sustainable.