Rocky Hill Middle students restock Little Seneca Creek with rainbow trout
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A group of Rocky Hill Middle School sixth-graders released the tiny rainbow trout they had raised in their classroom into Little Seneca Creek on Friday.
Each student took a cup filled with water and a baby trout, carried it to the banks of the creek in Boyds and poured the fish into their new home.
A few were sad to say goodbye to the fish they had raised from eggs, but most were proud as they watched the inch-long fish catch the current and swim away.
"It was awesome you're seeing them in the tank and then you get to see them swim away," said Margie Smith, 11, of Clarksburg.
Sandy Burk, a volunteer with the Potomac-Patuxent Chapter of Trout Unlimited, the group that started the Trout in the Classroom program locally six years ago, explained the rainbow trout are colored to protect them from predators.
The brown and green on top make them invisible to predators from above and their silver undersides make them invisible to predators from below, she said. Their striped sides also help them blend in with grass, Burk said.
"The fish will swim out and seek shelter," she said, pointing to roots and rocks in the water. "They're great swimmers."
Since the nonprofit environmental group started the trout program, it has become the primary source for stocking Little Seneca with trout, Burk said. The state last restocked the stream in 2008 and only does so intermittently, she said.
"[The fish are] going to have a challenge when they get into the streams," Burk said. They'll have to learn to hunt and catch bugs."
The Clarksburg sixth-graders have been caring for the trout since they arrived in January as fertilized eggs. The 45 students who gave up their lunch hours to feed the fish, measure their growth and test and clean the water were invited on the field trip, teacher Nelia Duarte said.
"Almost every day the water changed and they would get bigger," said Kayla Winffel, 11, of Boyds.
Trout Unlimited supplied the trout, but each school has to get its own equipment, said Jim Greene, Trout Unlimited, program coordinator in Maryland. That ensures the school is invested in the program, he said.
"It's a great way to teach kids something about trout conservation and give them the beginning of a conservation ethic," he said. "The future of trout fishing in the county is in the hands of these youngsters. It's something we owe them."
The program is in 24 schools in the state and seven in Montgomery County.
"This year we're setting records," Green said.
Rocky Hill students released 186 trout, Burk said. The average is 150 per school.
"I learned how we need the trout to survive," said Owen Starheim, 12, of Damascus. "If you don't have trout, the water can't be clean. If you don't have clean water, you'll die."
The class split into three groups. While one group released the fish, another waded into the water to collect insects and bugs to test the health of the stream, and a third stayed on shore learning fly tying.
A week earlier a student from Robert Frost Middle School in Rockville found proof that the stream is healthy and the fish are thriving, Burk said. Shyon Parsadoush, a seventh-grader, caught a 12-inch trout after his class had finished releasing their fish.
That fish was probably 2 years old, she said.
"It's so exciting to have students fishing and catching fish as part of the program," Burk said. "It really gets them excited about stream ecology and being in nature, as well as inspiring them to care about and be stewards of our local aquatic environment."
Montgomery County Schools participating in the Trout in the Classroom program are:
John Poole Middle School in Poolesville
Robert Frost Middle School in Rockville
Rocky Hill Middle School in Clarksburg
Takoma Park Middle School
Forest Knolls Elementary School in Silver Spring
Ritchie Park Elementary School in Rockville
Westbrook Elementary School in Bethesda