Nice newspaper article. Photos of Lincoln trout. Pownal video. Fly tying at LES. The WHERE of Release Day. Stream tables!
Great article on Fairfax TIC students!
Melinda Carpenter, of Bellows Free Academy, sent me this regarding an article that appeared in the St. Albans Messenger about the TIC program at BFA-Fairfax and, especially, the excellent civic work their students did in response to Governor Scott's decision to close the Salisbury hatchery.
Today The Messenger came to our 6th grade classroom to talk to students about the Trout in the Classroom project and to learn more about how important it is to us.
Students did a wonderful job explaining all the things they do on a daily basis to maintain the fish and how they have advocated to keep the program going.
Thanks very much,
Here's a screenshot of the article, which is also a link to the newspaper's Web site.
Devin Schrock, of Lincoln Community School, perhaps Vermont's highest elevation school, sent me these photos of their good-looking fish. Enjoy!
Mike Carrano, at Pownal Elementary School, is one of our more experienced and successful TIC teachers. He also takes a unique approach by doubling up on filters and, this year, using three aerators. If you look at the video he sent me (below), you can't help but be impressed by the number of fish in his tank.
I asked Mike how many eggs he started with. He said 258, and that he now has between 220 and 230.
Last year, Mike's fish got very large, some exceeding three inches in length. I told Mike that, if his fish get as big as they did last year, his tank will be supporting quite a biomass total (the average weight of each fish multiplied by the number of fish). I'm sure that he couldn't get away with that if he didn't use two filters and three bubblers.
He also provided these details:
We are doing well here. We received our eggs on 1/16. On 1/31 all our eggs hatched out at a water temperature of 42. March 6 was our swim up, and the water temperature was 50. On March 18 we released our trout into the tank. Some of the bigger trout in our tank are around 1.5” long.
Congratulations, Mike and students!
Ludlow fly tyers
In previous blogs I've written about the wonderful contributions that Trout Unlimited volunteer Kathy Ehlers makes to several of our southwestern Vermont TIC schools, especially the program at Ludlow Elementary School.
Most recently, Kathy visited LES to demonstrate and teach students about fly tying. LES teacher Lisa Marks sent me these photos.
By the way, we have some equally cool things happening in Bennington (and, for all I know, in other areas of the state as well), where TU volunteers Christian Betit and Barry Mayer have been teaching students fly casting and fly tying in an after-school program. Unfortunately, I can't get either Barry or Christian to send me any pictures! (Hint, hint.)
The perfect release site
Experienced TIC teachers probably know where they want to release their fish: the place where they released them last year. But many new TIC teachers are probably looking for the right location, and even some experienced teachers may realize that there could be an even better site out there. For those still trying to decide where to release their fish, what should be considered?
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 not so big that anyone, not even your most over-eager young student, can get into trouble. The other advantage of a small upland brook is that your fry are far less likely to get gobbled up within the first hours by hungry trout.
Here is my wish list of the ideal characteristics of a great release stream:
Below I've inserted a few pictures of streams that I consider good release sites.
What you don't want is a broad, deep stream or river, where kids could get into trouble.
Have a back-up plan too
Another thought: you can't count on the weather, and sometimes on your scheduled Release Day, your first-choice release site might be in flood stage.
Here's a photo I took this afternoon of the Castleton River not far from my house. As you can see, it's way out of its banks and overflowing into a nearby field. Our area got a lot of rain Sunday night and Monday, and almost four days later, this local stream is still at flood stage. If you had planned to hold your Release Day activities in this location, you'd be in trouble.
If instead you had originally chosen a small brook at higher elevation, you probably wouldn't be facing these problems. Why's that? Water flows downhill, right?
Water moves through a drainage consistent with the FIFO principle: first in, first out. When a heavy rain hits a mountain stream, waters rise fairly quickly, but water levels in those streams also drop equally quickly, often within a few hours of the end of the rain. (Actually, rain doesn't initially affect a mountain stream that much because such streams are typically surrounded by porous ground that, unless it's frozen or already saturated, can absorb a good deal of the early rain.)
While valley rivers can take a little longer to fill up (because it takes a while for the water in the tributary streams to drain down into them), when they do fill up, they take much longer to return to normal levels, usually several days. They are after all draining the accumulated precipitation of a whole watershed.
At the same time this afternoon that the Castleton River was way out of its banks (photo above), its nearby tributary, Gully Brook, looked like this:
That site on Gully Brook, which would have been perfect for Release Day activities even today, was less than three miles from the flooded Castleton River location I photographed. By the way, the flooded Castleton River was 480 feet above sea level; the Gully Brook site was 700 feet higher, at 1180 feet in elevation.
So, if for whatever reasons, you prefer to use a lowland stream or river as your first-choice Release Day location, something we don't particularly recommend, try to also find a small-stream alternative higher up in the mountains.
Schedule a back-up date
It's always a good idea to schedule two Release Day dates, the second being your back-up date in case terrible weather or bad stream conditions prevail on your primary date. If you want the help of a sizable number of volunteers, you should let them know about both dates and ask them to "pencil them in" on their calendars.
In talking about water flowing downhill, we're getting into issues of hydrology and that, of course, is critically important to studying brook trout habitat.
A stream table is a great way to demonstrate hydrological phenomena to your students. This would show them, for example, how small, high-gradient streams (ones that drop steeply) lose the extra water dumped by a heavy rain long before lowland streams do.
Stream tables can be purchased; they can also be made. I'm even aware that some of Vermont's natural resource conservation districts own water tables and are probably willing to lend them to schools and maybe even send along an environmental scientist to demonstrate its use.
Here are a few YouTube videos that show how stream tables can be used as a teaching tool.
Joe Mark is Lead Facilitator of Vermont's Trout in the Classroom program.
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 a parent-friend 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.