PPMS students to release fifth generation of classroom-raised salmon
PAW PAW- On Thursday, April 27 at 9:30 a.m., 185 Paw Paw sixth graders will release salmon raised in their classroom into the Paw Paw River. Mrs. Jane Larson’s science classes at Paw Paw Middle School have been carefully raising Chinook Salmon beginning last November with 150 eggs from the stock at the Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery and Visitors Center.
The students cared for the salmon eggs, in a 75-gallon tank, keeping the water at 47 degrees Fahrenheit until they reached the swim up fry stage, when the class began feeding them. The water temperature at this stage was increased to about 52 degrees.
At the release site, the approximately three-inch fingerlings, carried in large buckets from the classroom, will be scooped into individual containers for each student to release into the Paw Paw River, at the canoe launch below the power plant on the north end of Maple Lake. The students will be escorted single-file by class down the steps to the water’s edge to take their turns.
Following the release, students will rotate through educational stations across Power Plant Road at a Paw Paw Village park area. The Steelheaders of South Haven will host a casting station, and the Village of Paw Paw Wellhead Protection team will man several stations to teach the students about the function of the dam, and environmental lessons about the area’s watershed and groundwater. In addition, the students will learn about fishing in the Great Lakes, rebuilding the lake and island shoreline erosion, and how to apply for and secure a fishing license.
This is the fifth year Larson’s sixth graders have raised and released salmon into the Paw Paw River. In the fall, the students learned, from Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery, about the process of harvesting eggs, raising and caring for the eggs and then young salmon, and ‘stoking’ releasing them in Michigan waters. All 150 eggs came from Chinook Salmon collected at one of three three weirs around the state: Little Manistee River Weir in Manistee, Boardman River Weir in Traverse City, and the Swan River Weir near Rogers City.
In the classroom, the students observed the eggs as they hatched and became sac fry. When the sac fry began swimming up in the tank and had absorbed their yolk sac, students began feeding them small pellets of fine-grained food. The class has gone through six different sizes of food pellets and now feed the salmon pellets 2.5 millimeters in size. The food pellets consist of ground up fish and chicken feathers for protein.
According to Fish Hatchery information, the salmon population in Lake Michigan and the entire Great Lakes, is undergoing some major changes, most notably, the reduced population level of Chinook salmon in Lake Michigan. There are many reasons for the reduction in population. However, the decline can be attributed to two main factors:
• The Michigan DNR has reduced stocking rates.
• Natural reproduction and recruitment of salmon has declined substantially since 2013 because there is less prey in the lake. Alewives are the primary prey for salmon and they have been declining since the mid-1990s. These fish are declining because they are being out-competed for the same nutrients in the lake.
“Salmon in the classroom is such a unique opportunity for students to learn about Great Lakes ecosystems and fisheries management through program curriculum, field trips to the fish hatchery and the many groups that support the program by sharing their time and knowledge with our students at the release event,” said Larson. “Students are excited about the fish in our classroom and are very motivated and willing to help care for them, especially the tank water changes.”