PLANT CITY, Fla. - Bay area fish farmers are racing to beat the overnight freeze to save millions of tropical fish.
If the temperature drops below zero for too long at the Connor Fish Farm in Plant City, the fish in each of Connor's 250 ponds may freeze to death.
"I knew that sooner or later we had to have our turn, and here it is," said Ron Connor, who has owned the farm for 37 years.
Workers spent all day Monday preparing for the worst case scenario -- by catching buckets full of the best species and moving them into the warm fish hatchery.
If the freeze wipes out all the fish outside, Connor can breed the fish they saved.
"There's going to be some damage. We don't know how bad the damage is going to be, but there will be some damage," he said.
Many of the fish inside the hatchery should already be at Wal-Mart, Petco, Petsmart and other pet shops around the country.
Unfortunately, the recent bad weather grounded even cargo planes, and therefore, days of tropical fish shipments.
"It could be a blessing in disguise because if the freeze is really severe and we lose a lot of product, we'll use those fish for breeders," Connor said.
It's risky business, but it's in his blood.
His worst year was the Christmas freeze of 1989 when the only fish that survived were the lucky ones plucked from the water the day before.
That same strategy may once again save his farm this year.
"The last couple of years we've been pretty lucky, but there's a pretty good chance this is not going to be a lucky year," he said.