In the thick of the Kettle Moraine State Forest where the “glaciers ran outta gas,” you’ll find some of the best spring water available in Wisconsin. For Rushing Waters Fisheries, the water source is key to raising their trout. The water is 50 degrees year-round and a great natural resource for a fish farm. “We’re knocking down the walls built up around aquaculture,” says Owner Peter Fritsch.

In the 1930s, Rushing Waters was a fox farm and the trout were raised to feed the fox in order to encourage beautiful furs. When the fur trading industry collapsed after WWII, the owners saw value in taking their trout to market at Navy Pier. From that point forward, Rushing Waters Fisheries became Wisconsin’s largest trout farm and a forerunner of the local food movement and supporting local agriculture/aquaculture.

One of the spring-fed trout ponds at Rushing Waters Fisheries

“It’s very rewarding work. It’s year round. Someone always has to be here. But having that complete control…you feel good about it. To see that animal be healthy and taken care of its whole life and then be enjoyed by people…to have that happen in front of your eyes…you feel good about it. But it’s hard…you work in all weather. It’s farming. There’s nothing easy about farming. There’s a lot of curveballs. At the end of the day, though, it’s rewarding. You’ve got to want these fish to be healthy. We have a great group of farmers right now. They really care.”

Owner of Rushing Waters Fisheries and The Trout House, Peter Fritsch
Owner of Rushing Waters Fisheries, Peter Fritsch, inside their seafood store.

Peter, himself, cares deeply about this type of work, too. As an outdoorsmen, he always knew he wanted to do something outdoors and engage with nature every day. “Our business depends on water and nature. My biggest inspiration is environmental…making this natural resource work,” shares Peter. That goal is present in the “agritourism” they offer: shed antler hikes, bird siting hikes, morel mushroom picking. “It’s like dinner and a movie, but it’s an event in nature and a lunch or dinner afterward,” Peter says, smiling.

The trout of Rushing Waters Fisheries ponds after some fish food.

Their most popular event is their Hook & Cook where you can come to the farm, fish for trout, and have The Trout House cook up your catch.

“Where else can you go catch your own lunch and enjoy your catch within a half hour? We have no competition when it comes to that. You have to know where your food’s coming from. That connection, many people have lost. We have windows to our processing facility. There are no shortcuts. You see the process from start to finish. It’s invaluable.”

Owner of Rushing Waters Fisheries and The Trout House, Peter Fritsch
Rushing Waters Fisheries store with windows to their processing facility.

Their main business is the wholesale. They grow, process, and smoke the fish on site. “We wholesale seafood,” says Peter. “Salmon burgers, pâté, spreads. We’ve become a value-added seafood company that raises our own trout.”

Then they turn around and share all that hard work with diners at The Trout House– “a casual, on-the-farm restaurant with an open dining concept overlooking the woods,” describes Peter. It’s simplistic, yet a little rustic, and occasionally, diners will see horses hitched to the hitching posts outside the restaurant because of their close proximity to the horse trails of the forest. “We offer some of the finer things while being on a farm, but you can also get a PBR. Honestly, we want you to come as you are.” When you visit The Trout House, make sure you order Peter’s favorite dish, the Smoked-Trout Bruschetta. “It’s amazing,” he boasts.

“We’re proud of what we do, and we’re happy to share it. We really want to share our story and get people engaged with what we do. We’re farm to fork, so less is more. We want to keep things simple…trout, squeeze of lemon, fresh herbs. We’re building something special.”

Owner of Rushing Waters Fisheries and The Trout House, Peter Fritsch
Owner of Rushing Waters Fisheries, Peter Fritsch, inside The Trout House
Rushing Waters Fisheries and The Trout House

For more information on Rushing Waters Fisheries events and tours as well as The Trout House hours and menu, visit them here.