Trout in the Classroom & Tree Planting
at Catoctin Mountain Park
By John Smucker, Catoctin Forest Alliance
A rainbow trout developing from egg to fingerling
On Saturday, April 6th, five local middle school science classes will visit Catoctin Mountain park for a tree planting next to Little Hunting Creek, a cold water trout stream. The students participating in the event are part of Trout in the Classroom, a program that provides kids with the experience of raising rainbow trout from eggs to fingerlings (minnow size) before they are released into designated streams.
It's a bit of a challenge to raise trout from eggs because they are very sensitive to environmental conditions. The kids carefully monitor water temperature, pH, and nitrogen because if anything is out of balance the fish can easily die.
The equipment that is used to raise the fish is unique becayse of the chillers and specialized aerators. Trout need cold water to survive (52-55 degrees F). At these temperatures, the water holds onto more oxygen. Since trout require more oxygen than other fresh water fish, they can only be found in really healthy streams that are cold and well oxygenated like Little Hunting Creek.
The tree planting on April 6th is being organized by Kevin Anderson from Trout Unlimited and John Smucker from the Catoctin Forest Alliance. 270 trees will be planted in the spring, and then another 400 will be planted in the fall.
While the students are the site, they will get a chance to search through a leaf pack. Leaf packs are long tubular mesh bags that get stuffed with leaves and are submerged in the stream. Macroinvertebrates migrate to these clusters to feed. Before the planting, the packs will be pulled from the water and searched through to identify what stream bugs live in the stream. In cold, well-oxygenated water there are lots of macroincvertebrates for trout to feed on.
Having Trout in the Classroom kids out to this event is unique because the students have a strong knowledge base to work with. It is a great opportunity to show them a cold water stream. It's also great because they will be able to take part in the fun activity of planting trees that are needed to keep the stream cold.