Students from Bible Hill Central Elementary School and Redcliff Middle School released the trout through the Cobequid Salmon Association’s Fish Friends program. Association Vice-President Paul MacIsaac says the non-profit organization continues to find value in the program, which has been offered to local schools for years.
“We’re following the lead of the Atlantic Salmon Federation which launched the program almost 30 years ago,” said MacIsaac. “It’s continually exposing children to something many of them have never had the chance to experience. They’re responsible for looking after these fish that will eventually live in our brooks and streams.”
The trout arrived at each school in egg form in March. Once they hatch, it’s up to students and staff members to make sure the fish have everything they need to survive. This year, they were ready to be released on June 7.
Emma Shale and Sarah Welton are Grade 6 students at Redcliff Middle School. They both had a chance to release several baby trout into the brook. Shale says the entire school had an opportunity to watch the fish hatch and develop to a point where they could be released.
“When they came to us, we put them in the foyer. Representatives with the Cobequid Salmon Association made a presentation,” she said. “They told us about the fish and how we could expect them to grow while they were at the school. It was nice because all of the students in the school could watch the fish grow.”
Both Shale and Welton were familiar with Fish Friend’s program. They’ve had the chance to see what it’s all about in recent years, although their involvement wasn’t at this level.
“I was in Grade 5 last year but I remember keeping an eye on the fish and thinking it was pretty neat,” said Welton. “But this year was even better because we had the chance to release the fish ourselves. They didn’t swim too far but I’m hoping they’ll be alright.”
While the fish were at the school, Shale says it was important to keep the tank clean and the fish fed. She added they also talked about the fish in class.
“Before and after the eggs came to us, we talked about the different kinds of trout,” she said. “We talked about how often they need to eat, how big they could grow and what their lifecycle is like. Last year, we actually had a science unit that was dedicated to fish.”
From the Cobequid Salmon Association’s point of view, the hope is this experience not only translates into an appreciation for fishing but gives students a better understanding that what they do in each day can have an impact on local streams and rivers.
“By introducing kids to this at an early age, we believe it can play a role in how they view our rivers and streams,” said MacIsaac. “They don’t necessarily have to enjoy fishing to appreciate what we have around us. If they know to keep the streams clean and remind others to do the same thing then we believe they’ve learned a valuable lesson that can have an impact for years to come.”
MacIsaac adds the recreational side of rivers and streams is just as important.
“We definitely talk about the fact it’s great to go fishing or just enjoy the beauty that often comes with our rivers, brooks and streams. Whether it’s hiking or hunting, anything that gets people out and enjoying some of nature’s beauty is a positive thing. We really want to promote that to our youth.”
Although he wanted to remain optimistic, MacIssac said it was virtually impossible to determine how many of the trout released would actually survive. He says they can be targeted by predators but adds Farnham Brook is one of the better places they can be released.
“This brook is in pretty good health,” he said. “A lot of that is because of the habitat revitalization our organization was responsible for in the 1990s and early 2000s. It features deep pools which keep the water cool as well as areas that keep the water full of oxygen. The health of this waterway has improved a lot which makes this a great place to release the fish.”
The experience was one the both Shale and Welton said they won’t soon forget.
“It was great to watch them swim away,” said Welton. “Some didn’t go too far and even hid under some rocks but it was great to let them go. It feels like we’re doing our part to help out.”
Shale says she’s hopeful all of the fish she released will reach adulthood.
“It was fun watching them grow. When we first got them, they couldn’t even swim. So to see them reach a point where we can let them go is exciting,” she said. “They weren’t really that big and it’s unfortunate some of them won’t survive but we’ve learned that’s normal. Some of them died before we could even release them so you can understand just how difficult it is for them to survive in a brook like this.”
Close to 300 baby trout have been released into Bible Hill’s Farnham Brook.