Lake herring spawns golden eggs

Minnesota State Roundup

Published January 1, 2004  | January 2004 issue

It was another big year for caviar production in Minnesota. In recent years, Lake Superior caviar has become increasingly popular with connoisseurs.

One fish market started a new processing operation this fall in Grand Marais, with a seasonal processing capacity of 70,000 pounds.

The eggs, harvested from lake herring, are coral-orange in color and have a crunchy texture. The flavor is comparable to finer caviars, but at around $2.99 an ounce the price is much lower than domestic ostrea sturgeon roe at $35 an ounce and even cheaper than Louisiana-produced bowfin roe, which runs about $8 an ounce.

Not much of the caviar is eaten in Minnesota. Some is sold to upscale restaurants in cities like New York, but most of it is exported to Scandinavian countries where it is very popular and where local stocks of roe-producing freshwater fish have been declining.

There is some fear among fishery officials that stocks of Lake Superior herring will also dwindle as their roe becomes more lucrative, but this has not yet become a problem. This year's harvest was a bit smaller though, due to poor weather conditions.

Joe Mahon