Open Connections

  • gt 4 tr group tutorial 4 unite to release their brook trout as one group during the field trip to ridley creek
Trout in the Classroom
11.1.16

 

When you walk through the program spaces at OC you will probably notice that many spaces hold animals; in 2015-16 we raised chicks, tadpoles, turtles, and fish. These “pets” present us with the opportunity to look at each animal’s habitat needs in detail, since we are trying to recreate that habitat indoors. Oddly enough, this year one of the smallest program spaces, the Farmhouse Youth Library, was home to over a hundred animals. That is where we raised Pennsylvania’s state fish, the brook trout, from eggs to fry as part of Trout in the Classroom. The Trout in the Classroom program is made possible through the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, which provides technical support, brook trout eggs, food, and a list of approved trout release sites. 

 

Brook trout have very specific habitat needs. They thrive in clear, cool, well-oxygenated streams and lakes and it was our challenge to provide these conditions for our trout. Young people were tasked with making sure each of these components was being met on a daily basis: 

  • Cool water: Is the chiller running? What is the water temperature? 
  • Clear water: Is the filter running? Are there any dead fish? Then calibrate and record the pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels. 
  • Well-oxygenated water: Is the bubbler running? 

All this diligent monitoring, along with partial water changes when the chemistries were not within acceptable parameters, paid off with a better-than-expected healthy tank of fingerling-sized brook trout. The brook trout eggs came to us in early November. By the beginning of March, our 55-gallon tank was starting to look very crowded, so we started planning for the trout’s release date. We chose the end of April, in part because we coordinated with some visiting artists that made our trout release even more of a special event. 

 

Our release site was at Ridley Creek and all of the Thursday program youth ages 2-15 carpooled over for the following activities: 

  • Tara Muenz, Assistant Director of Education at Stroud Water Research Center, worked with young people to collect macroinvertebrates from the creek. Macroinvertebrates are aquatic insect larvae and future food for our trout. The presence of species such as stoneflies is an indicator of a clean stream with little pollution. 
  • Steve Turrisi from the Sporting Gentleman introduced young people to the sport of fly-fishing. Young people got to see a vast array of lures, which are designed to imitate insects, and to try their hands at casting a fly-fishing line. 
  • I led a discussion explaining how trout grow from trees! Tree leaves provide food and habitat for many aquatic animals such as insects and crustaceans, which in turn provide food for fish. We looked at over a dozen ways that trees play a role in a healthy stream’s ecology. 
  • Finally, the time came for each young person to release a trout into the creek. Everyone got to hold a fish in a clear cup and wish it goodbye and good luck in its new home. (These fish need a lot of luck, as ninety percent of brook trout do not live till one year of age.) 

There are so many people to thank for making this event a success, the young people who helped to raise the trout, the PA Fish and Boat Commission who provided the trout eggs and food, the visiting artists who shared their expertise at the release, and the parents who carpooled to the park, to name a few. Apparently it takes an OC village to raise a “school*” of trout.  

 

[* A group of trout is actually called a hover, but I liked the school pun.]