There’s Something Fishy in South Jersey

It’s not strange to meet a farmer in the Garden State, but Jennifer and Mathew McCann are producing a very different crop at their Carney’s Point farm.

In 28 mud-bottomed ponds on 42 acres, the McCanns care for thousands of ornamental koi fish. They are the owners of Quality Koi Company.

south jersey koi ponds“I think people are surprised when they find out there’s a koi farm here, especially one as big as ours,” Jennifer McCann, 40, says. “You don’t find what we do very often, and you definitely don’t find it in South Jersey.”

Koi are a member of the carp family, prized for their size – some grow to three feet long – and their coloring. McCann says the majority of their koi are destined for backyard ponds and aquatic landscaping features, but the occasional fish has what it takes to do something different.

“As a breeder, our job is to produce the best fish we can, and that’s all about genetics,” McCann says. “We pair up specific fish to get desirable genes passed down. The perfect koi has a body shape that will allow them to grow to a meter or more in size. We look for very lustrous skin – we want white that looks like silk, black that looks like spilled ink.”

Hobbyists show these prized koi in competitive exhibitions, and while the market for “perfect fish” is small, McCann says in some countries a fish that fits the criteria could sell for as much as $100,000.

“In the United States the koi market just doesn’t support that kind of price,” she says. “The most we’re going to sell a fish for is $10,000 or maybe $15,000.”

south jersey koi farmMost of the people buying fish from Quality Koi Co. aren’t spending that kind of money to fill their backyard pond.

“I think it’s a common misconception that koi are always going to be extremely expensive,” McCann says. “Most of the fish we’re selling are to normal people, for between $25 and $50. It’s only once in a while you get someone looking for something truly extraordinary. We really have something for everybody.”

Though carp (including koi) are a hardy, cold water fish, South Jersey winter temperatures drop a little too low for the residents of the McCanns’ mud ponds.

“Each season, the koi are bred in the mud ponds, and then they come into our nine greenhouses for the winter,” McCann says. “We have greenhouses like any other farm – ours just have fish in them.”

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