Forest Hills students release fish fry to Hagg Lake
Elsa Riddle released Jesus and Chewbacca into the cold rushing water of Scoggins Creek Tuesday morning.
They were two of 10 baby trout she'd named and claimed as her own out of the 500 swimming in her classroom's tank at Forest Hills Lutheran Christian School in Cornelius.
The seventh grader released her little one-inch fry at Henry Hagg Lake Tuesday, March 7, with the rest of her Forest Hills Lutheran Christian School classmates. They watched with mixed feelings as their fish friends swam away into their natural habitat.
Riddle goes fishing with her family though, so she's hoping she might see them again someday.
The school's middle school students ordered 500 rainbow trout eggs from the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife and took care of them for two weeks in a classroom tank. They got to watch the eggs hatch and the baby fish take their first swims before releasing them into the wild with the help of Elroy Schultz of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders.
"It's a great program for kids and they really do remember it for life," said Schultz, who was getting coffee at Starbucks recently when he ran into a student who'd participated in a similar program years ago.
"She said, 'Oh my gosh I still remember doing that.'"
With small patches of snow still on the ground, students took their plastic bags of tiny fish and knelt down on the creek bank to release them gently into the rushing water.
With 30 other schools participating in similar programs, 15,000 rainbow trout fry will be released this spring. Schultz estimates about 10 percent will reach maturity.
The organization helps facilitate the school releases each spring. Every fall, they help schools raise salmon to release into the Tualatin River.
Rainbow trout fry, on the other hand, must be released into a lake or other closed body of water that won't flow into other water bodies, so they won't mix with wild fish and dilute the gene pool, Schultz said.
Middle school science teacher Ben Bauer said the students are very engaged in the project, which helps them learn about native species, life cycles and even parenting. "Any time you can get kids out of the classroom and working with their hands it's a good thing."
"It's an interactive way to learn stuff," said seventh grader Peyton Motter. "You actually learn it this way."
"It's way different from reading about it in a book," said seventh grader Katie Abrahamson.
Eighth grader Lizzie Lohrer has participated in the event for a few years in a row, so the "glamour of the event has worn off a bit," she said, also noting the rain and cold. "But it's a memorable experience."
Eighth grader Kaylyn Brennan and Abrahamson were surprised to hear the tiny fish will likely grow about six inches a year.
"That seems like a lot," Abrahamson said. "It's sad to see them go but it's nice to know they're going to their natural habitat."