Charter School for Technology students raise, release trout
LAFAYETTE, N.J. (AP) — The girls slid down to the creek’s edge, the water flowing quickly by as they dipped in the thermometer -- 59 degrees, only 3 degrees off the aquarium at school.
Water pH? Spot on with the carefully controlled aquarium where the eighth-graders had been raising rainbow trout starting with eggs last fall.
With that data in hand, other students from Sussex County Charter School for Technology parceled out the 103 fish dipped out of the school’s aquarium earlier on Tuesday afternoon, to others among the approximately 25 students on hand for the mass release.
At the edge of the Paulinskill, those other students gently poured out Big Bubba, Tiny Tim, Luka and 100 other hatchlings into the water to take their chances in the wild.
In the wild, only about 10 percent of trout eggs hatch and grow to become adults.
“We had 30 percent,” proudly said Victoria Gardner, 14, of Wantage, of the process of caring for and raising trout as part of the curriculum of Trout in the Classroom, a program co-sponsored by the state Department of Environmental Protection through the Pequest Fish Hatchery and the New Jersey chapters of Trout Unlimited.
Begun in 1991, the program was in just one school for several years, but in the past two decades has expanded to all parts of the state.
This year, the Pequest facility produced more than 584,000 rainbow trout from more than 7,800 broodstock, and school programs get 200-300 eggs in October.
This is the second year that Charter School science teacher Jennifer Duncan has run the program.
“Last year, out of 200 eggs, we got 20 fish,” she said. “I think the kids worked a lot harder this year.”
That’s not to say there weren’t issues along the way. To create a more stream-like environment for the baby trout, several crayfish were introduced to the aquarium.
While the crayfish did get some of the hatchlings, it was a fellow crustacean -- the students called it Larry -- that did in the other crayfish.
It was all part of the learning process, Duncan said.
Gardner and Lara Soriano, 14, of Hamburg, said they learned to tell which eggs were still “alive” and which were dead.
“You could see it wiggling a little,” Soriano said.
Through the process of raising trout from eggs, students learned about the importance of clean, cold water, not only for the trout they are raising, but also for the other organisms, including people.
They had to monitor the temperature, but over the holiday vacation, there was a system failure, and the temperature in the water rose.
Every day, some water was drained from the tank and more added, said Justin Kostick, 14, of Vernon. The water came from a hose that was connected to a groundwater system for non-potable uses.
Not every one of the trout picked up a name, the students said.
Luka had big eyes, Big Bubba was the biggest of bunch and Tiny Tim was the smallest.
Asked where they might end up when dumped into the quick-moving water, Nik Sullivan, 13, of Franklin, wasn’t sure, but offered: “Probably a long ways. They’re not used to moving water.”
Was there any sadness in releasing the fish?
“Not that hard to say goodbye,” Gardner said. “We knew this was going to happen.”
Information from: The New Jersey Herald (Newton, N.J.), http://www.njherald.com