Pool Fisheries, owned by Danny Pool and his brother, Ronnie, is a gold mine – literally. The sprawling 1,150 acres of ponds are chock full of goldfish, like the kind you win at a fair by sinking a Ping-Pong ball or landing a ring toss.
Pool Fisheries was started in 1959 by Pool’s grandfather and has been passed down for three generations.
Pool explains that the goldfish business really began to flourish in the ‘70s with the rising popularity of exotic fish tanks in homes.
“People would ask what they should feed these $400 fish in their tanks,” Pool says. “Goldfish were the cheapest fish in the pet store, so the customer would buy them for a penny to feed their exotic fish.”
And so the feeder fish industry was born.
Pool’s demand quickly increased from 3 million to 100 million fish ayear.
To keep up with this demand, Pool Fisheries moved away from trucking their fish 40 hours across the country to shipping them in only 16 hours via FedEx aircraft.
“Fish don’t do well after 24 hours on a truck,” Pool says “When the fish got halfway, we had a guy unload them, let them rest and then take them the rest of the way. It became very expensive.”
FedEx was hesitant to accept Pool’s business at first, lest the packages leak and ruin the mail being transported with them. To test the viability of this potential partnership, Pool had to prove his cargo could withstand typical shipping and handling conditions.
“We double-bagged the fish inside a foil liner in a double-walled box,” Pool says. “FedEx dropped them from 15 feet, threw them across the room and put them in the hot sun on the tarmac.”
Eighteen hours later, the packages were still intact and they had only lost 1 percent of the fish – a much higher success rate than trucking.
“They said, ‘Gentlemen, I think we can do business,’” Pool says.
Pool Fisheries became FedEx’s largest customer in Arkansas, shipping 50,000 to 60,000 pounds of fish each week. They now use UPS to transport their fish, citing
the importance of competitive pricing despite rising fuel costs.
Today, Pool Fisheries is diversifying its operation, branching into the exotic fish industry, as well as raising rosy red minnows.
In a few years, Danny and Ronnie’s sons will be running the family business. This new regime will continue to diversify and adapt to the changing demands.
“We have the ponds and man power needed to continue to grow and look for new markets,” Pool says.