Release Day #2: what constitutes the ideal release site? Kicking the babies out of the nest--gently and with love.
This Saturday it will be April. One week later, Vermont's trout season opens. The weather doesn't make me all that eager to dust off my fishing equipment, but we know that in another month we'll start to have many pleasant spring days. So it's time to get serious about Release Day planning. The March 20 blog offered some ideas about what you might do at your Release Day and who you might get to help you with those activities. I also said a little more about the who question in the most recent (March 26) blog. (I'll again address both of these topics in future blogs.)
This blog addresses when and where.
Most schools schedule their Release Days for the last two weeks of May or the first week of June. A few go earlier, but those three weeks tend to be a time when you can count on the weather: it won't always be sunny, but it probably won't be too cold.
Depending on what you plan to do at your Release Day, you might also want to schedule a back-up rain date. It's not that you and your students can't have a very successful Release Day in the rain, but a downpour could "dampen" most people's spirits, and raging torrents because of days of heavy rain would pose serious risks.
Most schools transport students to Release Day using school busses. If that's going to be the case for you, you may need to get your reservation in ASAP and perhaps even schedule your release around the availability of transportation.
A final consideration is the availability of volunteers. Most schools plan Release Days that include a variety of in-stream or stream-side fieldwork activities. In almost every case, it's helpful if not necessary to enlist the help of parents, co-workers, Trout Unlimited members, or other community volunteers. You wouldn't want to schedule your Release Day at a time when the volunteers you need can't attend.
Remember that Tom Jones of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department needs to approve your release site. Normally that is done in the fall as part of the process of requesting eggs. If for some reason you did not request his approval or if you've decided you'd like to change your release site, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Depending on where your school is located, you may have several fabulous release site options close by or you may have no good options without traveling a distance.
What's the perfect release site? I often describe it as "skinny water": a small tributary brook that's just big enough to support trout and the bugs that will sustain them but small enough so that nobody, not even your most over-eager young student, can get into trouble.
Here is my wish list of the ideal characteristics of a great release stream:
If you're having trouble finding the perfect release site:
Inspiration from 2016 Release days
I've put back online last year's blog so that you can scroll through pictures and accounts of some of our 2016 Release Days. Here's a link to the "retired" blog. And don't forget to watch some of the Release Day videos.
Schoolhouse Learning Center dumps baskets
Danielle Levine, of School House Learning Center, sent me these photos of the day she and her students kicked their "fry babies" out of the nest. By the way, Danielle's equipment was contributed by Trip Westcott, who until his retirement in 2015 used it for almost 25 years to raise salmon at Neshobe School.
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.