Roaring Run and North Creek are about ready to get an influx of fingerling trout thanks to literally dozens of students in Botetourt County and the Roanoke Valley.

The students, as part of the Roanoke Chapter of Trout Unlimited’s “Trout in the Classroom” program, are helping release the fingerlings beginning this week and through the end of April in those two Botetourt streams and in Barbour’s Creek in Craig County and Little Stoney Creek.

Jeff Hollandsworth’s fifth graders at Troutville Elementary School change the water in the aquarium where they hatched brook trout eggs and have been raising fry since last fall. They’ll be releasing the fry in Roaring Run on Thursday.
Jeff Hollandsworth’s fifth graders at Troutville Elementary School change the water in the aquarium where they hatched brook trout eggs and have been raising fry since last fall. They’ll be releasing the fry in Roaring Run on Thursday.

For the past six months, students at five Botetourt schools and 17 others in Roanoke and Salem have been raising brook trout in their classrooms.

That’s an essential teaching element of the “Trout in the Classroom” program (TIC), according to Trout Unlimited (TU) members.

In early 2009, members of the Roanoke Valley Chapter conducted a capital fund drive that raised over $25,000 in contributions from area businesses and individuals. These contributions provided the capital equipment to support the 23 TIC sites.

TIC is a program designed to educate students to the importance of their natural water resources and ultimately, teach them to become stewards of our very fragile cold water resources.

In October, the 23 school sites each received approximately 250 brook trout eggs for their TIC aquariums. The eggs came from the Paint Bank State Hatchery in Craig County as part of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) support for the TIC program.

According to TU members, the DGIF regards it as an essential method to instill in students an appreciation of nature and the state’s cold water resources.

Brian Beers, the manager of Paint Bank Hatchery noted, “The DGIF is proud to be an integral part and cooperator in the Trout in the Classroom Program. Not only do the fish started in the classrooms contribute to the aquatic resources of the Commonwealth, but also the grass-roots environmental awareness in youth generated by this program is a unique and unique approach taken in our public education system.”

The “eyed” brook trout eggs were placed in the classroom aquariums where the water temperature has to be maintained below 70 degrees.

The eyed eggs began to hatch in November and the small alevin (eggs with developing body segments) started to develop—but not without natural complications, according to TU members.

Fungus attacks and various other natural diseases attacked the young fry and many of the alevin died. Each class of students was given the responsibility to monitor the water quality (acidity level, temperature and ammonia levels) so that the young fry had the ideal environment to grow to the fingerling size.

Six months later, all 23 classes are preparing to release over 2,500 brook trout fingerlings into the wild.

When students head out to the streams to release the fingerlings, the TU chapter will also provide an entire day of activities that will include presentations from the US Forest Service, fly fishing and water quality testing.

This is the second year of the TIC program—the first for Botetourt schools—which grew from just three schools in 2008-09.

This year the program added another important objective, TU members said: The testoration of the Eastern brook trout into local waters.

In recent years, many of the local cold water streams have been unable to support cold water fish such as the eastern brook trout because of increased pollution, increased water temperatures and recent droughts.

Students from Glenvar High School, in particular, will be releasing the brook trout that they have raised into Cove Branch, a stream that has maintained its quality coldwater. It is hoped that this release will restore the natural brook trout fishery that is native to Virginia, TU officials said.

The release of eastern brook trout fingerlings started Monday, March 29 on two streams, but only Trout Unlimited members were available at those releases. Students weren’t able to attend for various scheduling reasons.

That release included fingerlings from one of Philip King’s classes at James River High School. Those trout went into North Creek in the Jefferson National Forest east of Buchanan in the Arcadia area.

About 85 students from Troutville Elementary and Read Mountain Middle School are scheduled to release their trout into Roaring Run on Thursday, April 1. Roaring Run is in the Jefferson National Forest west of Eagle Rock.

Another 40 students from Central Academy Middle School will release their trout into North Creek on Friday, April 2.

One of Heather Butler’s classes at Lord Botetourt High School is supposed to release its fingerlings into Roaring Run on April 27.

Students from North Cross, Northside High School, Roanoke Catholic Middle School, Staunton River High School, East Salem Elementary, Craig County High School, Lucy Addison, Gereau Center, Glenvar High School, Hidden Valley, Cave Spring, Andrew Lewis, Shawsville Elementary, Breckenridge Middle School, Stonewall Jackson and William Byrd also are participating in the fingerling releases that are scheduled through the end of April.