Ikeage: A Ritual Performed By Japanese Koi Breeders

Mud pond harvest at Flat Rock Koi
Mud pond harvest at Flat Rock Koi

An Ikeage is a ritual performed several times a year by Japanese koi breeders. It literally means, “mud pond harvest.” It is a joyous ceremonial event that is meant to showcase the year’s production and growout of koi. Here on the farm we strive to reproduce this fun as well as making it an educational event in the spring and in the fall. We invite many to actually participate in the seining of the ponds and use this time to reconnect with old friends and make new ones.

An Ikeage has many purposes. In the spring we collect the previous year’s spawn and cull and grade the fish. We seine the broodstock ponds and assess the overall condition of the fish and determine what to breed. We also seine the growout ponds so that customers can see how their fish have grown and developed. When a customer buys a fish from Flat Rock Koi they have the option of putting it in one of our mud ponds for optimal growth and condition. They eagerly await the Ikeage to see how well the fish have done in the mud pond.

The fall Ikeage is a good time to see how the spring spawns went and cull. The five Great Pyrenees watchdogs are especially keen on this activity as the cull fish turn into dog food. Many of the ponds are completely emptied after the Ikeage for cleaning and restocking.

As with all koi functions good food and cold beverages are in order. We generally cook a pig and participants bring a dish. The ponds are blessed with a fine bottle of sake and the celebration follows. This is a good time for the participants to peruse the collection tanks and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Customers are allowed to buy fish after the pond pull but are advised to wait a week or two to pick up the fish. Fish coming out of a mud pond generally have parasites and need a certain rest period before transport. Harvesting fish is very stressful (to the fish and sometimes the people) and they need to be biopsied and evaluated for disease issues before they are released to the customer.

An Ikeage is hard work–the nets are heavy, the sides of the pond are steep and the mud can collect in the nets making them even heavier. Moving the brood stock “Mamasans” is back breaking as some of the fish are 34+˝ and weigh over 20lbs. They are moved in fish bags with water in them and they must be lifted over the protective fencing. No one seems to complain and people vie for the opportunity to “get in the mud” and get’er done.

Our fall harvest will be sometime in October. It will probably be after our buying trip to Japan and their Ikeage. We will post a date on our website when we finalize the plans. Keep posted to www.flatrockkoi.com

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