Champagne wishes and caviar dreams in 'Fishin' with Liz'

    7:49 PM, Feb 25, 2013   |    comments
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    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- In this special "Fishin' with Liz," THV's Liz Massey visited the Arkansas Delta where she found cotton, catfish and caviar dreams.

    Just off Highway 49 in Phillips County, inside George's Fish Market, lays something unique and unexpected that's produced in small town Marvell.

    "Yeah, they thought I was crazy and still most of them still do think that," but 63-year-old Jessie George's crazy idea has been a real catch.

    "Polyodon Spatula and that spatula is for the spatula bill, but it's just a funny looking fish," said George.

    And, what's inside the paddlefish is big business in Arkansas and for George. His champagne wishes and caviar dreams have come true.

    "Ma'am, I'm gonna be honest, I'm not too much on it," he admitted. "I like the money. Last year we had a warm winter, spawned early about 5,000. We're on track this year to do 7,000 to 9,000 maybe 10,000."

    That's 10,000 pounds of Caviar.

    "That there is the roe sack out of the paddlefish," explained George.

    Hundreds of thousands of eggs are cleaned, cut and screened. George has been making caviar since 1998.

    "My caviar is clean, no fat or debris. It's got a good clean smell to it, and that's what you're selling, selling quality not quantity," he said.

    George added that many people are surprised about the state's multi-million dollar caviar industry. Regulated by Arkansas Game and Fish and the Food and Drug Administration, he's one of only a handful of licensed processors in the state.

    "I've sold to Las Vegas, Hollywood, all over the U.S., ship to Belgium, Denmark, Japan, Germany," said George.

    Once the caviar sets he adds sea salt. Then it's packed, frozen and ready to ship. And, while the process seems simple, George spent three years perfecting it, and you can definitely get an arm workout doing it. George's caviar goes for about $300 a kilo from November to April.

    "You make a few hundred thousand, of course. Like I said, a lot of expenses go into that, you got to understand," he said.

    As for the secret to his success? George said what makes his caviar so good is himself.

    From Marvell, Arkansas to sophisticated palates around the world.

    Caviar comes from the sturgeon family, and while a single sturgeon produces about a half pound, paddlefish produce 3 to 5 pounds, but George has seen double digits from one big fish, and he does sell the meat as well.

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