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Friday, April 30, 2010

Staples Students Learn Hatch and Release

By James Lomuscio

They are called fingerlings, trout that are just 3 to 4 inches long.WestportNow.com Image
About 35 Staples High School juniors and seniors released 140 fingerling trout in the Saugatuck River at Keene Park in Weston on Thursday. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Christine Lomuscio for WestportNow.com

Still, they caused a huge splash of excitement—and sentiment—for the 35 Staples High School students who released about 140 of them into the Saugatuck River at Keene Park in Weston on Thursday afternoon.

Many of the juniors and seniors who nurtured the trout since they hatched from eggs in November seemed sad to let them go. Farewells of, “Bye fish,” and “Have a nice life,” punctuated the ceremony of students acclimating the fish in cups of water to the river.

“I guess some kids were a bit nostalgic, but they’re teenagers,” said Mike Aitkenhead, Staples environmental science teacher who oversaw the project with Staples’ teacher Heather Morley.

“It was a good year, the first year we had success raising them from the egg stage,” he added, noting that last year a number of the fish had died.

Called “Trout in the Classroom” (TIC), the program was sponsored by the Fairfield-based Nutmeg Chapter of Trout Unlimited, a nationwide, coldwater conservation organization.

Locally, TIC was funded by the Staples Parents Teachers Association and coordinated by Nutmeg Chapter comprising Westport and 12 surrounding towns.

The state Department of Environmental protection provided the fertilized eggs, and Aitkenhead credited Gian Moressi, Trout Unlimited’s liaison, for helping to get this year’s project underway.

“Trout in the Classroom is an excellent educational program in that children get sensitized to the fragile ecological diversity of our rivers and streams,” said Ron Merly, president of TU’s Nutmeg Chapter.

Merly called trout “an indicator species like a canary in a coal mine.”

“If you don’t find trout in a cold stream, there’s something wrong with the stream,” Merly said.

According to TU, runoff of road salt, fertilizer and silt, plus the cutting of trees along banks, necessary for waterway thermal protection, pose constant threats to aquatic life.

Merly said that of the trout released Thursday, those that survive will grow to adult size within a few years.

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Posted 04/30/10 at 09:00 AM  Permalink



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