10 Country: John's Fishy Life - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

10 Country: John's Fishy Life

September 3, 2004

Albany-- A lot of people like to eat fish on Friday nights, and the fish at Riverquarium look forward to their fish, too. Their food comes from a kitchen that a restaurant would like to have.

It's a bright, shiny, fast food kitchen, where they prepare the same food over and over to feed a captive audience that would make Dr. Atkins proud. "In a sense, yeah, they are not getting much carbs, but high in protein," says John Magyar, who makes sure all the animals at Riverquarium get enough quality food to eat.

They eat "80 to 100 pounds of food," says John, costing about $575 a week.

Plus, he must cut the food into different size pieces. Little fish need little pieces. The bigger fish eat whole fish. They don't eat cheap food, either. Riverquarium animals eat well.

"Human quality food we are feeding out," says John as he thaws frozen squid before cutting it into pieces. What could look like fish salad to us, "Looks like heaven to them," says John who knows what each animal prefers. Like at many homes, he has some finicky eaters. "Some fish eat only certain fish," says John, but he's found squid becomes a happy meal since all the fish and alligators like to eat it.

Besides preparing their food, he serves it, as well. "It's going to get crazy," says John as he throws fish into the water. Sure enough, the fish splash around like excited children in a swimming pool on a hot day.

John makes sure every fish has a chance to get something to eat. "Got to speed up so those down on the bottom can eat," says John before he empties the bowl. Fish, both large and small, plus the alligators count on John to look after their every need. "There we go," says John after feeding the very small pieces to fish in an indoor aquarium that has an alligator that will eat any leftovers. He makes sure to look at each animal closely, keeping tabs on the fish's weights, making sure they don't gain or loose too much in captivity.

John has another challenge besides making sure 1500 hungry mouths get fed every day. He catches alligators, and four of them need moving to a new area to make room for larger ones. It seems one of the alligators senses something is up by gently swimming backwards, long before John gets in the water. The alligators, about four feet long, have sharp claws could injure John if he isn't careful.

He gently enters the water with a metal capture pole that has a noose made of steel cable at one end. His co-workers get ready to grab the pole when John hands it to them. They will take the alligators, one by one, to their new home next door. Soon, he catches the first one and hands the pole to a waiting co-worker who pulls the alligator onto land. Someone drops a wet towel over the alligator's eyes to keep it from acting so violently.

They grab the alligator's neck, slowly release the noose, and put it in a blue plastic container for release a few feet away. The end of the container gets dipped into the water, its top released and the alligator gently swims out to inspect its new home.

John and the crew will repeat the sequence of events three more times, and in about 30 minutes they have moved all four of them without a problem. John swims back to the water's edge and gets out, mask and snorkel in hand.

From alligator hunter to food processor, John Magyan's versatility never leaves him high and dry.


posted at 2:00PM by dave.miller@walb.com