Forbes Trail TU Volunteers Assist PFBC with Trout in the Classroom Program
Five members of Forbes Trail Chapter of Trout Unlimited spent Monday, January 9, 2023 packing rainbow trout eggs to be shipped to schools across Pennsylvania. The PA Council of Trout Unlimited and the PA Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC) partner in an interdisciplinary program to teach students in grades 3-12 the challenges of raising trout from eggs to fingerlings ready to be released into a stream. Of course surviving in an aquarium being fed every day pales in comparison to surviving in the wild dealing with flood waters, pollution and predators. But that too is part of the curriculum taught in the classroom. The program titled Trout in the Classroom (TIC) began in PA in 2008. The packaging took place at the PFBC Centre Region Office Warehouse in Bellefonte.
Each year volunteers from Forbes Trail and other TU chapters assist with packaging both eggs and fish food. This year, 384 boxes were shipped overnight to schools across the Commonwealth. The interest in TU members helping is so keen that the limited offered seats are claimed within minutes. Its rewarding knowing we are part of a program to teach students about coldwater conservation and the survival challenges that trout face from the time the eggs become fertilized.
Teachers must complete a training course conducted by the PFBC then secure all the necessary, expensive equipment to raise the trout in their classroom. Grants are made available to purchase equipment. It requires dedication from both the school staff and students to successfully raise the trout and release them into a trout approved stream. Forbes Trail members sometimes assist the teachers with the equipment set-up and eventual release of the trout.
The process of packaging the eggs is a well-designed and efficient process but is highly dependent upon TU volunteers. PFBC staff train the volunteers in each of the stations from measuring and packaging eggs to labeling the boxes for shipment. It’s a fast assembly line operation and each volunteer must keep up a steady pace. PFBC provides a pizza lunch after the work is complete. The event helps build camaraderie among chapter members as well as with other chapters and PFBC staff. Come April, hopefully most of those eggs that were shipped will be trout swimming in a stream. And, the students will have a better appreciation for the life cycle of a trout.
FTTU volunteers traveled to Benner Springs hatchery near Bellefonte PA to help with the 2nd phase of Trout in the Classroom fish packing. The 1st phase was the packing and shipping of trout eggs to TIC aquariums across Pennylvania which occurred in late October. This 2nd phase involved packing and shipping rainbow trout to those TIC aquariums that start with fish in the fingerling stage.
FTTU volunteers Ron Rodgers, Monty Murty and Denny Hess helped PAF&BC staff and TU’s Rachel Kester, the new Coldwater Heritage Partnership Director, with the work of packaging the fish. The fingerling trout were packed in double plastic bags along with a shot of oxygen and ice and shipped overnight to the schools.
On Monday, October 7, FTTU member volunteers traveled to Benner Springs Hatchery to help pack and ship trout eggs to Trout in the Classroom schools all over Pennsylvania. There were 27 helpers from 5 different chapters assisting 26 PAF&BC employees. As you can see from the photo, FTTU was well represented! Trout eggs were placed in plastic bags along with some water and a shot of oxygen. The eggs packs were placed in styrofoam containers along with some trout food and ice then packaged in boxes and shipped overnight to TIC schools.
The eggs are “eyed” meaning a fish egg containing an embryo that has developed enough so that the black spot of the eyes are visible through the egg membrane. It indicates that the egg is less sensitive to movement and can be handled safely, e.g. for transportation.
Due to concerns over gill lice and competition with native fish, the PAF&BC has switched to rainbow trout for the TIC program and moved egg shipment up a month to October.
Thanks to the fantastic response from members to our 45th Anniversary fundraiser mailing, we were able to raise over $3,000! The money is being put to work in updating our Youth Group and Trout in the Classroom equipment. The chapter recently purchased a water filtration system and consumable supplies for a new TIC Aquarium being set up at the Ligonier Middle School.
We also purchased fly tying materials and 7 new Regal vises for the Youth Group. Thanks to Regal Engineering for a generous discount on the vises and Clearsource for an equally generous discount on the filtration system.
The TIC aquarium is in progress and the Youth Group will start up at the Ligonier Middle School in January. We plan to address other needs with the picnic earnings such as loaner waders for the kids in the near future.
Trout In The Classroom egg packing took place on Tuesday, November 6th at the PFBC’s Centre Regional Office in Bellefonte, PA. Participants from FTTU were Monty Murty, Denny Hess, Milt Claney and Larry Myers. They were among about 40 volunteers, from various TU chapters. Participants packed eggs in Styrofoam boxes along with ice and food suitable for three different age groups of fish from hatchlings to fingerling trout ready to be released. Over 390 containers were shipped via Fed Ex to schools across the state with expended delivery within two days. They had a two line assembly process that worked very smoothly. The entire process took less than four hours and finished up with a pizza lunch provided by PFBC.
PFBC technicians sorted and weighed batches of eggs amounting to approximately 300 eggs per package. As in the wild, there is a high rate of attrition, students will be lucky to have a dozen fingerlings to release in the spring. It’s a tough life for a brook trout! It was quite a learning experience for those new to the process. PFBC was very well organized and the guys had a chance to meet and chat with fellow TU members from other chapters.