Getting kids in to fishing and hunting at a young age will help them become adults, who will value fishing and hunting enough to make sure future generations will have fields and woods to hunt in and clean water with a thriving fish population to fish in.
May 28, 2014
If giggles and smiles were any indication, some 65 sixth graders from Saugatuck Middle School had a great time catching salmon and trout last Tuesday, a kind of perk for helping raise king salmon in their science classroom.
“Just think, that fish might have been one we raised in our school and released two years ago,” said Katie Hankins, sixth-grade science teacher at the school, as a six-pound king salmon flopped on the deck of the big Sea Ray boat. Smiling student Ebony Lafountain had just reeled it in, her third fish of the morning.
The middle school is one of close to 200 schools throughout Michigan that participate in the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Salmon in the Classroom program. Each October, Shana Ramsey, interpreter at the Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery in Kalamazoo, coordinates teachers picking up eggs and transporting them back to their schools. There, they’re put into aquariums of at least 55 gallons and raised through winter into young salmon, called “smolts,” suitable for release into Great Lakes tributaries. The Saugatuck batch numbered around 200 fish and was slated for release into the Kalamazoo River the following week.
Ramsey said the program started in 1997 with just four schools; it has grown as interest spread. This year, each school received about 200 eggs—about 40,000 altogether. Ramsey said that last year’s numbers weren’t available, but in 2012, the schools released 10,728 young kings.
Last Tuesday, the Saugatuck kids boarded 19 boats piloted by volunteers coordinated by Captain Dave Engel of Best Chance Charters, and Sarah Coffman, secretary of the Holland/Saugatuck Area Charter Association. In about three hours of fishing, the kids harvested more than 80 fish, largely a mixture of kings and lake trout.