There is so much water running under the covered bridges of Linn County, it’s no surprise when you cross paths with some real whoppers at the Roaring River Hatchery.
Rainbow trout tip the scales at 15 pounds and education is easy to find.
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Department hatchery, called Roaring River Hatchery, is one of several facilities that raises more than 1 million catchable trout for stocking at 96 lakes and ponds across Northwest Oregon. In fact, Roaring River Hatchery’s super-large rainbow trout produce so many trout eggs that something special happens to the surplus eggs: they go to school!
“While they’re on site it’s an ideal place to educate them,” said ODFW employee, Tim Schamber. ”Not only about what goes on at the hatchery, but about other parts of our resources. so we try to put as much energy as possible toward that type of education.”
It is education that continues in Oregon classrooms! Each spring, thousands of the surplus trout eggs leave the hatchery and end up in the hands of dedicated volunteers like Leroy Schultz and his friends, who are members of the not for profit, sport fishing and conservation group called the Association of Northwest Steelheaders.
Schultz will visit many Washington County schools, like Banks Elementary School, and deliver individual packets of 500 trout eggs to each school.
“Our particular group of Northwest Steelheaders, the Tualatin Valley Chapter, works with 37 schools to assist with the delivery of the eggs and the maintenance of the equipment and the direction of the program,” noted Shultz. He added with a chuckle, “Sometimes, I feel like I’m a doctor delivering all these little babies.”
The nonprofit group donates time and money to buy expensive aquariums so students can raise “Eggs to Fry” over the next couple of months. The experience is a launching point for important “teachable times,” Schultz added: “They’re going to be the keepers of our rivers and lakes and we want them to know that they are going to carry that responsibility and carry on for us in the future.”
The fish are the foundation for writing assignments, science, vocabulary, math lessons and even art projects that involve Banks High School students. The project is led by high-school wood shop teacher Tim Eggleston, who guides his students as they create a school of rainbow trout cut-outs from a sheet of plywood.
“Some of my high school students remember the Eggs to Fry program from their second-grade year, so they have memories from experience and they have a reason to help out the younger kids with their art project. These plywood trout will eventually become colorful rainbow trout,” he said.
“The program takes it from that two-dimensional concept of looking in a book,” noted Mrs. McOmie, “to that three-dimensional piece where the fish are right in front of our eyes – in the aquarium and in our art. The experience absolutely comes alive and I like that it’s across the curriculum; whether it’s the science program in itself or an awareness of what fish need or writing in journals, documenting week to week life cycle changes and to this art project.”
Several weeks later, it is moving day as each student fills a bag with water and their fish. The kids, their parents and the fish travel together aboard a school bus to Scoggins Creek, a small stream that flows into Henry Hagg Lake in Washington County.
“Water’s important to all of us and to the fish -- especially cold, clean water. This reinforces that message,” said Schultz. “By taking care of the fish and releasing them into this stream, it’s a lesson and important experience for them."
2017 marks the 23rd anniversary of the Eggs to Fry program, so thousands of Oregon youngsters have had a chance to learn about aquatic ecology and develop ownership in Oregon’s great outdoors.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Department offers programs that many schools can tap into for valuable educational opportunities like Eggs to Fry – be sure to connect with the Association of NW Steelheaders for more information on how your classroom or school can get involved in the program.
Schultz added that even though the young faces change each year, one thing has been a constant from year to year: “The excitement we see in the kid’s faces – it’s always there! they are so excited to see those fish go in the water and wave goodbye; knowing that they have been successful at a project and that it will be for them in the future,” he said.