Young students raise salmon, release them into East Grand Lake

7 years ago

ORIENT, Maine — Middle and elementary school students from southern Aroostook County converged on East Grand Lake May 19 to release baby salmon that had hatched in their classrooms.

The Chiputneticook Lakes International Conservancy hosted the 17th annual salmon stocking into East Grand Lake. The project started in March when the salmon eggs were delivered to local schools. This year, students from Houlton, Hodgdon and Danforth schools, along with the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians’ preschool participated in the project.

“We have done this project for several years,” explained Jill Porter, a sixth-grade life science teacher at Houlton Middle School. “The students watch a video on how the eggs are milked out of the salmon and how the males fertilize them. We study ecology in class and have reviewed the life cycles, but for the students to be able to see the progress is amazing.”

The eggs are raised in cold-water fish tanks provided by the conservancy. When the salmon reach the fry stage, the release date is planned. The release takes place at the mouth of East Grand Lake at the U.S. and Canadian Customs crossing.

For about two months, students cared for the eggs in their classrooms as they raised between 500 and 800 salmon before releasing them into East Grand Lake. There are four lakes in Maine with landlocked salmon, and East Grand Lake is one that anglers have success fishing thanks to the hatchery and the school project that began in 1994.

Through its development, the fish begins to develop two black dots or eyes and then the yolk sack hatches out and it absorbs food, turning into a thread-like body. The salmon mature into miniature fish about an inch-and-a-half to two inches long before being released.

In addition to the salmon, there also were tadpoles that hatched.

“We have to tally up the number of tadpoles and salmon and chart it,” explained Mariah Peterson, a sixth-grader at Houlton Middle School. “We had a tank in the classroom. It was cool to see them hatch.”

Students enjoyed a cookout lunch provided by the Chiputneticook Lakes International Conservancy. This educational, as well as fun event, was provided free of charge by the conservancy, which among many other projects, works closely with state fisheries departments to keep a healthy fish population in East Grand Lake.