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Trout program adds third species
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Krista Hodges, education outreach coordinator at Dan River Basin Association, recently shows brook trout eggs to students from Liz Lester’s class at Patrick Henry Elementary School. (Contributed photo)

Monday, November 5, 2012

For the first time in seven years, the Trout in the Classroom (TIC) program in Southern Virginia will be raising all three of Virginia’s trout species: browns, rainbows and brooks.

This approach to conservation education engages students, teachers and the public, educating all on the importance of protecting valuable water resources, according to a release from the Dan River Basin Association, which directs the program.

A sixth-grade science class at Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School was the first to receive brook trout eggs. The class’ teacher, Hillary Robinson, a former staff member of DRBA, was thrilled to have her class get brook trout eggs, the release said.

“I absolutely love DRBA’s mission and what the organization has to offer for our community, and I am equally as excited as my students are to be able to participate in TIC this year with brook trout,” she said. “I think it is going to be a great learning experience for my students as well as for me.”

Each year, more than 2,000 students and teachers participate in the program and raise trout from eggs to fingerlings, release them into local streams and learn about conservation and resource protection in the process, according to the release.

Once teachers and students get their trout tanks prepared, they await the arrival of trout eggs, usually in late fall or early winter. This year, however, some teachers were able to get their tanks up and running early enough to receive brook trout eggs.

“The students and teachers really light up as soon as they find out their eggs have arrived,” said DRBA Education Outreach Coordinator Krista Hodges. “And this year, it’s even more exciting with the arrival of the brookies.”

For the past six seasons of TIC, only brown trout were raised in the local Southern Virginia TIC program while brook trout were raised in other parts of the state. The brown trout eggs are picked up in December from the Wytheville State Hatchery and delivered to area schools.

Last season, DRBA staff also picked up rainbow trout eggs.

This year, the Dan River Basin Association requested that VDGIF allow the TIC program to raise brook trout in addition to browns and rainbows. Hodges obtained permission from Scott Smith of VDGIF to raise brook trout for release in the Smith River.

“Brook trout are Virginia’s only native species of trout, and we are very excited to have the opportunity to raise them in the TIC program,” said Brian Williams, DRBA program manager. “The Smith River has a large population of wild browns (meaning they reproduce in the river), but they are native to Europe and the rainbows stocked in the river are native to the western part of our country, so ‘brookies’ are our one true native species and are really special to us.”

The brook trout eggs were obtained from Paint Bank State Hatchery and delivered to seven schools as well as the education department at the Virginia Museum of Natural History.

“This is very special for us to be raising all three of the common trout found in Virginia’s rivers and streams this year, and it’s important that the museum begin working with brook trout as well,” Hodges said. “Future plans for the new Wild Waters of Virginia exhibit at the museum include a trout tank with the native brook trout. We are the only program to raise all three of these trout during the same season, and since the eggs arrive at an earlier time than the browns and rainbows, this will also allow us to hold school trout releases at various times throughout the spring.”

Brook trout generally are found in the smaller streams across the state, but they can live in the larger streams as well.

The brook trout eggs are carried inside of a wet cheesecloth bundle containing around 200 eggs at the “eye-up” stage and are almost ready to hatch, the release said. In about three weeks, the brook trout will begin to feed, and by December, the remaining schools will be ready to receive brown and rainbow trout eggs.

“You can see the incredibly positive effect TIC has had on our area as more students, teachers and parents are aware of the importance of conserving and protecting our greatest natural resource,” said Dr. David Jones, founder of the TIC program in Virginia. “We not only get our drinking water from the Smith River, but we also know that a great fishery attracts tourism. Paddling, fishing, nature trails and the other amenities help make our area more attractive for tourism and for companies and people looking for a great place to live.”

The students learn how to take care of the trout and provide them with a healthy environment to grow over the next six months, preparing them for release into our local streams, the release said.

“The program focuses on clean water and healthy rivers and teaches the students the importance of trout as an indicator species in our streams,” said DRBA Executive Director Tiffany Haworth. “The students also learn the value of a clean river and a balanced ecosystem. The program is not only exciting for the students, but it also instills a conservation ethic where they learn good stewardship and what it takes to keep their own local waterways and environment clean forever.”

The trout release schedule will be posted on the DRBA website (danriver.org) and the Trout in the Classroom Southern Virginia Facebook page in March of 2013, according to the release. The public is invited to attend releases at the announced locations.

 

 
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