Fishy business: Students get real life conservation experience

By Thomas Nelson,

Some school days are better spent than others.

Charles City eighth-graders got a chance Wednesday morning to release trout they had raised from eggs into Spring Creek at Orchard.

Leading the students was Charles City Middle School teacher Ryan Rahmiller, who guided three clubs to the creek for the end-of-the-year trip. The release was rescheduled from an earlier date in May that had been canceled because of bad weather.

The students released rainbow trout they had raised in an aquarium in the classroom for more than three months. The eggs came from a fishery in Montana.

“We’ve done this trout in the classroom program for six years,” Rahmiller said. He asked the students earlier in the school year whether or not they wanted to participate this year.

The Charles City Middle School has time for clubs every day and a lot of the students that participated are part of a conservation club, Rahmiller said.

“We’ve had some great conversations and looked at some neat articles,” he said. “Some of these guys are also part of the fly-fishing club.”

Rahmiller is a passionate fly fisherman and teaches the students different knots and methods.

“It’s a fun group to lead on a Friday morning,” he said.

Releasing the fingerling trout is the culmination of events the students have done all year, Rahmiller said.

After releasing the fish the students do a battery of stream tests, measuring current velocity, temperature, biotic index, and turbidity. They also record the width of the creek and identify aquatic life.

The students have done the same tests on the Cedar River in Charles City prior to this event.

Through the clubs the students became more knowledgable about testing the water and were prepared to perform the tests in a new environment, Rahmiller said.

“Trout live in a very fragile environment,” he said. “Some of these water tests will give them a little more of an appreciation for what we’ve had to maintain in the classroom versus here.”

Some of the students are genuinely interested in the outdoors and conservation, Rahmiller said.

“I wasn’t really (interested) before, but I have a pond in my backyard and it’s good to know about fish and everything,” said middle school student Kiki Connell.

“I’ve learned a lot,” said Ryan Hallett. “I’m not much of an outdoor person, and I’m out here and I’m still learning a lot.”

Spring Creek is a good spot for the trout release because it has water temperatures conducive to them, said Mitchell County Conservation Director Adam Shirley.

“Those trout need clear streams and they need cold temperatures to survive,”Shirley said. “It has a good rocky bottom for spawning” she said of Spring Creek.

The creek is a popular fishing spot, and several anglers came through while the students were working in the stream. The students also had a chance to fish after completing their work in the morning.

The program “shows people some of the unique resources we have here in Iowa,” Shirley said. “Especially this far west you don’t see a lot of trout streams, so it really opens the kids’ eyes.”

The students also had a chance to hear about careers in conservation from both Shirley and Chris Larson, with the Iowa Department of Resources out of Decorah’s fishery.

Larson had brought along fully grown rainbow trout and brook trout that he released into the stream.

“This is an outstanding group of people,” Rahmiller said. “They’re just great kids.”