For years, the Trout in the Classroom program has provided students around the region with valuable biology lessons, as they raise trout from eggs to a size where they can be released in local ponds in streams.
The program, created by fishery advocacy group Trout Unlimited, ran into a hiccup this year when a problem at a state fish hatchery resulted in no brook trout eggs being available for the program.
The school programs raise brook and brown trout, and brown trout eggs were available. But the half-dozen or so local schools that were counting on brook trout eggs were left hanging when there was a die-off of brook trout eggs at a state hatchery.
Warren County raises two types of brook trout, so-called “heritage strain” fish from the Adirondacks and a domesticated strain that is stocked elsewhere in the state.
The heritage strain fish are not used for Trout in the Classroom, so hatchery manager Jeff Inglee and his staff came up with a last-minute plan to harvest eggs from other female brookies at the hatchery that were no longer being used for breeding, and fertilize them with male hatchery fish as well.
The result was the 700 or so eggs that went to area schools for students to oversee their rearing to catchable-sized fish.
“Every one of our programs got their eggs,” said Jon Mackle, Trout in the Classroom coordinator for Trout Unlimited’s local Adirondack Chapter. “He (Inglee) was in a tough position but he was able to find a solution.”
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In all, 11 schools in the region have Trout in the Classroom programs going this year, including classes in Glens Falls, Queensbury, Warrensburg and Lake George. They will release trout into the wild by the end of the school year, after they learn science lessons to keep them fed and in clean, cold water that they need to survive.
Tim Benway, Warren County’s director of parks and recreation, said the Trout in the Classroom program is a valuable one and hatchery staff was happy to help keep it going.
“It’s something that is really fun for them,” Benway said. “We get letters from students every year about it, telling us how much they enjoyed it.”
A spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation said the agency had “higher-than-usual mortality” of brook trout eggs last year.
Though the mortality was significantly higher than anticipated, it was not significant enough to affect the agency’s statewide brook trout stocking program because fisheries staff are able to get more eggs than they need to prepare for possible problems, the DEC reported.
The DEC was able to supply the Warren County Fish Hatchery with extra eggs from wild fish in the fall to offset the shortage in domestic brook trout eggs for hatchery production.