At 7:00 a.m. in Castleton on April 5th, it was 9 degrees Fahrenheit! OMG! And I'm writing about Release Day? You gotta be kidding!
Here's what the Castleton River near my home looked like Monday afternoon.
The air temperature was 23, the water 32. Brrr! Those white dots are snowflakes. (We'll get back to matters of temperature towards the end of this blog.) But for now . . .
The what of Release Day
Release days can be big or small, simple or complicated. Most release days span about two-and-a-half to three hours, but some take less than half an hour. Last year Castleton Village School's Guy Merolle connected his RD to an annual all-school event that involves students and teachers traveling to a local state park to learn about and pull invasive plants. On the way to the park, the school bus stopped at the release stream; everyone de-boarded; Guy spoke about the history of the CVS project and what they had learned; designated students released the seven remaining trout; people took pictures; everybody cheered; and students got back on the bus and headed for their service-learning project.
Here's a picture of Guy and his students.
This Web site has several YouTube videos of RDs at different schools, some in Vermont, some elsewhere. (The last one is a bit quirky, but it may give you ideas,) If you search on YouTube, you'll find even more. Our Maryland TIC manual has a separate section on RDs with lots of great information/suggestions. In the latest manual edition, it's Chapter 9.
Here's a link to the RD videos on this site.
Simple, brief releases are self-evident, and I'm sure you don't need my suggestions for those. Just be sure you've followed the guidelines in my last blog for the where of RDs, especially those related to safety.
If you have the time and want to plan a longer and more multi-faceted RD and if you can get the volunteer help, here are a few ideas.
In addition, if you're very fortunate in terms of the resources/opportunities of the release site and if you've found the right volunteers, here are some further possibilities.
Kathy Ehlers, TU volunteer at Ludlow Elementary School, works at Hawk Mountain Resort, which LES will use as a release site. Thus, their students will be able to:
Finally, you'll want to release your fish. Releasing your fish as the last activity of the day allows tension and excitement to build.
If you have only a very few fish, you could have one student, on behalf of the whole class, release them all. That student could be chosen by lottery, elected by the class, or the student who, on a basis of a point system you designed, won the honor.
Many classes have enough trout to allow each student to release at least one fish. Sometimes, the RD plan is group-based, and, in that case, each group may be allocated a percentage of the total number and allowed to decide how their group wants to do the release.
However you choose to approach it, it's desirable to get everyone together at the end and ask for reflections/reports, and perhaps to celebrate with a cake or cupcakes.
The who of Release Day
Depending on how ambitious your plan is and depending on whether you need volunteers with special knowledge or skills, you're going to want somewhere between a few and many volunteers to help you. (That's one of the reasons I'm writing about this almost two months ahead of time.)
Here are some categories for potential volunteers/helpers:
Back to temperature!
Fish are adaptable to a degree, but unlike humans who apparently can survive the mid-winter Polar Plunge Challenge as well as a dash from a snowbank into a roasting sauna, if at all possible, trout shouldn't be subjected to thermal shock.
You'll recall that in late-December and early-January I frequently updated you on the temperature of the water at the Roxbury Fish Culture Station so that you could adjust your tank's temperature to be as similar as possible to the hatchery's. Now, as your Release Day approaches, you need to take responsibility for determining the temperature of either your release stream or at least a proxy for it, that is, another area stream the temperature of which is likely to be close to that of your designated release site.
You can either do this yourself or recruit a volunteer, parent, or partner to do it for you. I'd suggest that you check the temperature a week before your release and then again two or three days before.
I keep a thermometer on a 20-foot string in my car so that, if I cross a bridge over a trout stream and have an extra three minutes, I throw my thermometer into it, keep it in the water for a minute, and check the temperature.
Release Days are exciting events for students, teachers, parents, and community partners, but members of the press love them too! I've found that reporters and, if they have them, their colleague photographers are often eager to leave their offices in spring to join a group of enthusiastic kids as they slosh around in a stream, finding magical things.
The more positive publicity we can get for TIC, the more other schools and their parents will want to adopt the program. It may also open the door to new funding sources. If the press covers your release event, please be sure to thank those who provided financial and human support, including, if you'd be so kind, my organization, Trout Unlimited.
As my former secretary used to say (and probably still does), "Have a nice day!"
Joe Mark, Lead Facilitator, Vermont Trout in the Classroom
In June 2012, I retired after 40 years in higher education, having spent the last 32 years of my career as dean at Castleton. One of the first things I volunteered to do in retirement was to work with Jim Mirenda to help the Dorset School, where his kids and my Vermont grandkids attend, start a TIC program. Gradually that commitment grew into my current role, which is both demanding and highly rewarding.