Frequently Asked Questions About Hatching Fish In The SF Bay Area

What do I need to do to get eggs again this year?
This is easy-peasy – every year you need to apply for a new permit. The application form has changed a bit this year. Fill this out and submit either to your sponsor or to CDFW at the address listed on the back. Most sponsors want to help teachers by collecting and tracking the permits.

I can’t remember who my sponsor is or if I even have one –what do I do?
Almost all teachers in the Bay Area program have a sponsor who is active in supporting the classroom project. Check your permit from last year and you will find the name of your sponsor (the organization) and your coach (the individual). If you can’t find this, email Ethan and he will look it up for you.

I already took the training, do I need to do it again?
Teachers are always welcome to attend a training workshop as a refresher (usually at no cost), however, this is not required. As long as you have hatched fish within the past 3 years and complied with all the terms of your permit (including returning it at the end of the season) you do not need to be retrained.

When should I plan on the eggs arriving and releasing the fish?
Rainbow Trout eggs are scheduled for delivery the week of February 23rd, 2015. If you allow about one week incubation in the classroom, the eggs should hatch around March 1st. We recommend release 4-5 weeks after hatch (the week of March 30th or April 6th) and you must release no longer than 6 weeks after hatch.

Steelhead eggs pick-up dates from Warm Springs Hatchery are posted on the website. We recommend release 4-5 weeks afterwards and you must release no longer than 6 weeks after hatch.

Steelhead eggs from MBSTEP are less predictable and we do not know those dates at this time.

Why do some teachers hatch rainbow trout and other teachers hatch steelhead trout?
We are fortunate in the Bay Area to be able to provide steelhead and rainbow trout eggs to schools, depending on where the school is located. It is important to remember that all teachers in the Bay Area hatch trout – steelhead are anadromous and go the ocean while rainbow are the same fish but remain in lakes.

Teachers in Sonoma and Mendocino Counties receive a strain of locally spawned steelhead that can be released into local streams (but NOT lakes).

Teachers in Santa Cruz and Santa Clara County are given a strain of steelhead eggs from the San Lorenzo River system and these fish must ONLY be released into this watershed (thus the reason Santa Clara teachers must haul their eggs over the hill and are not able to release locally).

Teachers in most of the Bay Area receive a common strain of rainbow trout that can be released into most (but not all) lakes. These fish CANNOT be released into local streams.
All fish much be released in accordance with your 772 permit – there are no exceptions.

I heard there is a new teacher resource packet – how do I get one?
Yes – we have created a new packet full of great info and ideas for you. These will be distributed to teachers through your sponsor. Be sure to ask!

I also hear there is a new “educational activity” which is like a board game on the life cycle of rainbow trout – how do I get a copy?
Again, these will be distributed through your sponsor. Ed Huff (the same person who created the posters and multi-media shows) worked with CDFW staff to create a really fun educational activity for students. Students move their fish around the board in a race to the redd.

We were unable to get steelhead eggs last year– what should we expect this year?
The drought played havoc with classes that hatch steelhead last year. We were unable to provide steelhead eggs for teachers that normally receive them from the MBSTEP program (Santa Cruz and Santa Clara Counties) or from Warm Springs Hatchery (Sonoma and Mendocino Counties).

Most teachers in the Warm Springs program opted to hatch and release rainbow trout as an alternative and this worked out well. Teachers in the MBSTEP program were not given the option of rainbow trout, so they sat the year out.
While I hope steelhead eggs will be available this year, I will again make a contingency plan to provide rainbow trout eggs for all teachers.

I have a co-worker who wants to be in the program – what should I do?
Some of the training workshops for this year are already full but there are some spaces open in select areas. Here are some links:

Teachers in the East Bay (includes Tracy and Vallejo)
Teachers in Marin, San Francisco, or the Peninsula (includes Napa)
Teachers in Sonoma County
Teachers in Santa Cruz and Santa Clara Counties

I love the program and want to do more with my students; where can I find new ideas and resources?
There are tons of great materials, curriculum, lists of books and other resources available for you on our website and on the TIC Blog.

I go to the website and it gives me a warning; what is happening? is a mirror site that redirects you to Both links take you to the same place. Unfortunately was hacked and while the site is clean, some computers with certain browsers receive a warning and we have been unable to determine the cause of the warning. You may use either link as they both go to the same place. We are still working on solving the problem and thank you for your patience.

I never received a copy of the “WILD About Trout” multi-media shows – can I get a copy?
Absolutely! The 5 slideshows are available in English and Spanish, are correlated to standards, connected to the posters you should have received, and are available to you at no-cost. Just ask your sponsor or send me an email.

I have some cool curriculum and ideas – is there a way I can share with other teachers?
GREAT.  You can post these to the TIC Facebook page or send them to Ethan and ask for them to be posted to the TIC Blog.

Is there a way I can stay in touch with other teachers who also hatch fish?
The easiest way is to “like” the TIC Facebook page – this keeps you in touch with other teachers and coaches. Sometimes if you have a question or problem, this is the fastest way to get a response.

I really appreciate the help of my sponsor and coach – is there something I can do to thank them?             
Coaches provide valuable support – helping with the permitting, delivering eggs, setting up the aquarium, talking to your students, troubleshooting problems and so much more. They do this because they want to share their love of streams and fish with your students. In general, they love getting letters and cards from students. You may want to ask if you can attend a club meeting to share your class’ experience hatching fish.

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An Open Letter From A Teacher To Her Sponsor

Derrell  – I would like to publicly thank you for your investment in my classroom over the past four years. Although it may not seem like much to you, your support and encouragement in the classroom has been appreciated by many students. Technically, I calculated 500+ students who were given a chance to witness the life cycle of a native species and learn a bit more about how to protect and enjoy their ecosystems.
I very much appreciate you as my sponsor for many reasons, however, I will start with you providing the essential equipment necessary to easily bring fish into the classroom. Many teachers are nervous about these adventures and your support with these tanks is imperative to their success. I will never forget the time you switched the chiller on my tank and saved the day!
Another thing you provide for teachers, as a sponsor, is the first-hand experience with these fish and their habitats. When a fly fishermen sponsor takes the time to come into the classrooms, the students feel a sense of importance and I find are more willing to listen, ask questions, and learn. You have a bigger impact than you think – my old students from the charter school still talk about your visit.
Derrell, thank you for all you do. Thank you for your support, time, smiles, and great conversations. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to expand this program with both of our organizations. I’m even more excited to say the team of teachers, administrators, and students are too. I can’t wait. See you soon!

Amy Di Maggio

Derrell Bridgman is with Tri-Valley Fly Fishers and is one of the first sponsors to support teachers in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Amy Di Maggio teaches in Oakley and had been developing TIC curriculum with CDFW for years. This year, she is leading the charge to have all teachers in two middle schools to hatch fish. Amy is developing curriculum so students study a new aspect of fish in each of the three years they cycle through this experience.

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What If All The Fish Die?

The Trout-in-the-Classroom program is a learning experience about watersheds and raising awareness of California fisheries. It is important to understand that sometimes, no matter how much care is taken, none of the fish survive. The program is not intended to be a stocking program. Also, know that Salmonids in the wild face a difficult lifecycle and they naturally have low survival rates. For every 2,500 eggs laid, only two will survive to become spawning adults. In the classroom/aquarium environment, we usually expect survival rates to be higher than they would in the wild, but it is common to lose a few fish at each lifecycle stage. Eggs, alevin or fry may not survive for a variety of reasons, including genetics, environmental factors and general defectives.

What we do know is that Salmonids must have cold, clean, highly oxygenated water to survive. Common reasons for sudden fish loss include:

  • Power outages (depleting oxygen levels and increasing water temperature)
  • Unplugged or broken chiller (increasing water temperature)
  • Unplugged or broken pump/power-head (depleting oxygen levels)
  • Introduction of outside chemicals (contaminating the water)
  • Changes in water quality (possibly decaying fish that have not been removed or overfeeding)
  • Improperly assembled equipment (fish get drawn into pump or burrow under the under-gravel filter)

The exact reason for fish die-off cannot always be pinpointed. Use the experience as a teaching tool, a mystery the kids can learn valuable lessons from trying to solve.


Could it have been temperature?

Questions for Students: What could have caused the temperature in the tank to rise or fall out of the salmonids preferred range?

Salmonids requirement: Salmonids prefer water temperatures between 45 – 55 degrees F. While they are tolerant of slightly warmer or colder temperatures, a sudden change in water temperature can shock or kill the fish.

In the Classroom: A power outage or unplugged unit may have caused the chiller or incubation unit to turn off for an unknown period of time, thus causing the water temperature to rise.

In Nature: Talk about what things in nature could cause river or lake water to fall outside of the desired temperature range. Common factors are loss of shade trees, low water level during drought, lack of snowmelt or thermal pollution from nearby industry.


Could it have been low oxygen?

Questions for Students: How do low dissolved oxygen levels affect fish? What might have caused a change in oxygen levels in the tank?

Salmonids requirement: Like all living things, salmonids require oxygen to survive. Dissolved oxygen (DO) in the water allows fish to breathe, and adequate oxygen flow is necessary for the development of fish, eggs and alevins require an even higher level of DO than fry.

In the Classroom: A faulty powerhead or interrupted electrical power can cause the dissolved oxygen levels in the water to become very low. An insufficient flow of oxygenated water to eggs and alevin during early life cycle stages can cause delayed or stalled development. Also, some powerheads may be too small and unable to meet the needs of the tank size. Furthermore, warmer water holds less DO, so tank temperature can affect DO levels.

In Nature: Silt and sedimentation of water through erosion causes higher turbidity (cloudiness), which warms water by increasing the absorption of sunlight and lowers DO levels. Loss of shade and factors listed above that would increase water temperature would decrease DO. Increased levels of phosphorus or nitrogen cause algae and plankton growth; decomposition of dead algae and plankton utilize oxygen and decrease DO levels. Forest fires or use of fertilizers in a watershed can also cause changes in DO.


Could it have been a pollutant or poor water quality?

Questions for Students: Was the die-off sudden, or did it happen gradually over time? What could cause sudden changes in water quality? Could the water have been contaminated by a chemical? How is the closed system of a classroom aquarium different than the river system?

Salmonids requirement: Salmonids require clean water with a close to neutral pH and are sensitive to changes water chemistry.

In the Classroom: Removing dead eggs, alevin and fry, regularly cleaning pea-gravel and changing water prevent the buildup of wastes and toxins in the tank. The presence of dead or waste materials may lead to increased nitrogen levels or decreased pH, causing gradual die off. Overfeeding fish leads to excess food that is not consumed, causing changes in water quality. The introduction of outside chemicals (intentionally or by accident) causes rapid change in the water quality, which can shock or kill the fish.

In Nature: Pollutants from roads, developments and landscapes are transported to waterways by runoff. Pavement and other impervious surfaces collect oils, metal compounds, and chemicals that run into streams during rainfall. Agriculture and landscape maintenance practices use pesticides and herbicides that contaminate runoff and soak into groundwater. Pollutants and chemicals can affect salmonids directly, causing health problems and developmental impairment, or indirectly, by depleting native insect populations and altering the ecosystem.


Using Games as a Teaching Tool

Using natural survival games and activities to help illustrate the difficulties of the Salmonid life cycle is a good way to address high mortality rates. The Project WILD Aquatic activity ‘Hooks & Ladders’ is a good activity that illustrates natural survival in a fun and engaging manner.


In Conclusion

Losing all your fish is an unfortunate occurrence, but as shown above it doesn’t have to be the end of your teaching experience. You can still take your field trip and engage in other lessons. If near one, you could visit a hatchery. Just encourage the students to apply the knowledge they learn to their everyday life and the world at large. Things like conserving water, cleaning up litter, and keeping pollution out of our storm water systems (gutters, roads and drains) help all the living organisms in our watershed.


This article was written by Molly Schnur, CDFW

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So What Do I Do With Classroom Animals At The End Of The Year?

Animals in the classroom can be a great teaching tool – but when the year is over, many teachers are faced with the question of what to do with these critters.

Intentional release of animals can be environmentally disruptive:

  • Non-native invasive species may compete aggressively with California natives for survival
  • Even though an animal may be native or endemic to your area, it may harm the existing gene pool if released.
  • Individuals from one area may harbor diseases or pests to which local populations (or other local species) are vulnerable

Do not release classroom animals into nature. While this may seem humane at the time, most animals released into the wild become dinner for something larger in a very short amount of time. You will also be in violation of state law unless you have a permit to do so. Remember, you do have a permit to release the steelhead or rainbow trout you hatch as part of the Trout-in-the-Classroom program.

Here are some suggestions on what to do with your classroom animals:

  • Send the animal home with a student to baby sit for the summer
  • Call local pet stores to see if they will take the animal
  • Call your local animal shelter or humane society
  • Keep the animal at your home for the summer ready for a new batch of students in the fall

It is important that you follow your local, state, and federal guidelines and regulations for handling and caring for live organisms in your classroom—and for dealing with them after your use. We do not advocate releasing live organisms into the outdoors.

Call the Department of Fish and Wildlife at (707) 944-5500 if you have questions.

Here are some additional resources that may be helpful:

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TIC Teachers LOVE When Coaches Come Into The Classroom

Teachers and students love it when coaches make classroom visits. Making a difference to a class of students is easier than you may think. You don’t need to be a credentialed teacher, just be your fly-fishing-loving self, spin some yarns, and answer some simple questions. Oh, and there’s the issue of being able to tolerate a lot of adulation, admiration, and enthusiasm from the students. Here is what three teachers have shared about the value of active sponsors:

“The coaches can really make a difference in the program, so anything we can do as teachers to improve or inspire coach involvement is a good thing! I hadn’t really thought about how diverse and widespread the support groups are – even if they all have fly fishing in common. Very cool!” — Kate

grandpa in school






“I think the best thing for sponsors to know is that they are the connection between what the kids should know and what the teacher delivers – meaning that if a teacher has a question about ANYTHING trout – it was my impression the first ‘go to’ person was our sponsor. If that is the case, the more sponsors make us teachers feel more welcomed and invited to ask these questions, the more interaction there will be between teachers and sponsors. Although they may not feel like experts – sponsors are a link to information that teachers may have no experience with – like why cold water is so important to trout and how a fisherman can feel the temperature difference in the sun vs. the shade and that’s why they sometimes move along a river to get to a better “sweet spot.”

I know sponsors can be intimidated by this, but I think if they knew how valuable their experience and intelligence was, they would be more open to discussing these things with the teachers. I think if we engage the sponsors more at the training with the teachers, that will also help to bridge the gap – is it at all possible we could do some simple team building exercises at the next training? I have some simple ones that can also be used in the classroom … and I could find a way to make them more trout friendly – I already have an idea to build a “trust bridge” that we could call a “trout fish ladder” – – hmmm

Let me know if you want more feedback – I could talk for an hour on the subject of how valuable the sponsors really are/can be :-)” — Amy

“We love when Larry comes in to the classroom to share his enthusiasm for aquatic insects and for fly-fishing.” — Ruth


Thank you coaches…for all the great work you do.

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Sponsors Meet To Discuss/Improve Program

Each year CDFW hosts a meeting of all the sponsors of programs that hatch fish in classrooms around the San Francisco Bay Area. The purpose of the meeting is to share ideas, information, and resources so we can all better support teachers. Here is an overview of the meeting held on May 17th, 2014.

Last year, we came up with these ideas to improve our service to teachers:

  • Have teachers sit at same table with their sponsor during training, so they get to know their supporters and know who to call if/when the going gets tough.
  • Simplify the tank set-up part of training and do it earlier on in the day, as setting up the tank is one of the main anxieties teachers experience. Get it over with so they can relax.
  • Recruit more club members to do classroom visits by increasing their comfort level. Use Ed’s DVD to show club members how rewarding it is. Make a video of interviews with current members to show how much they enjoy the adulation of students and teachers. Point out that if we want to keep fishing in clean, healthy streams, we need to take the time to recruit today’s students as next generation’s environmental stewards. If we don’t, who will?

This year’s suggestions and perspectives regarding recruiting new members to help with tank set-up, egg delivery, and/or classroom programs:

  • Sponsors benefit from doing classroom visits as they can communicate their love of fishing and being outdoors. Club members can field more questions than can teachers. We know about flies and can show ones we’ve made to teach about trout diet. We provide a new voice in the classroom, which draws a lot more attention than listening to the teacher.
  • Sponsors should have a wide choice of activities to do in the classroom, such as art projects (trout hats and dioramas, educational games (Return to the Redd and Race to the Redd), “Wild About Trout” CD, or physical education ecology games (Hooks and Ladders, Defend the Redd and Oh Trout!)
  • Current members who do classroom programs can invite other club members to shadow them to see how appreciated they would be if they did similar classroom visits.

Egg delivery issues:

  • Clubs need to know approximate egg delivery date months in advance to avoid conflicts with vacation schedules.
  • FFF can help bag eggs on morning of delivery to compensate for understaffing of CDFW.
  • CDFW needs help processing 772 permits now that Talia has moved on. Clubs may want to use new techniques like gathering all the permits when delivering eggs and turning them all in together by school.

Hatchery scheduling issues:

  • Hatcheries need to know our TIC schedule so they can attempt to work with it. We need to let them know our desired date of hatching so classrooms receive eggs at least a week beforehand.
  • Teachers need information from the hatchery about the TU and expected time of hatching at the time of delivery.

Tank temperature control issues:

  • Is the problem with chillers or with inadequate insulation? More clubs are going to 2” of insulation, using Reflectix aluminized sheeting from Home Depot in addition to Styrofoam. Another option is Victory Foam, a black neoprene that sticks to the tank, but makes the trout habitat inside look ugly.

Grant issues:

  • It is extremely important to submit the hours you and teachers put into the program, as that determines the matching funds we get to administer the TIC program.
  • The grants determine the tasks we need to accomplish, and the hours are proof that we put in the time to do it.

Program and release day suggestions:

  • Refer teachers to our new Teacher’s Manual. It reviews everything from tank set-up to posters to release day activities, and more. Ed Huff has done amazing graphics to make this an attractive document.
  • Teachers should invite school administrators to the release, as this helps recruit support for the program and can encourage other teachers at the same school to participate.   Also invite CDFW, local press, school district board members, and councilpersons, so the class’s achievements are fully appreciated.

Brainstorming how to improve the program:

  • We need to learn how to talk to kids at different grade levels, how to present information in ways that involves and interests them.
  • We need Universal Early Retirement in the US so we have more people available to help in classrooms. We could, in fact, recruit retired teachers to help clubs with classroom presentations. We may be able to team up with others as well, including service clubs, the NRA, churches, and others that have environmental or outdoor goals that overlap with our own.
  • We could recruit members of the CDFW Natural Resource Volunteer Program to help in the classroom, especially in Napa and other northern areas.
  • We need to ask club members directly, face-to-face, if they will participate, as asking for a show of hands at a club meeting doesn’t usually get results.
  • Encourage more club members to attend our fall teacher workshops so they see the enthusiasm and develop the desire to help.
  • Offer training workshops for members who want to become TIC coaches. We can only meet the new teacher needs every year if we think “we” instead of just “me.” Make it easy to get involved by recruiting members in baby steps. For example, a member could accompany you to schools on egg delivery day to deliver eggs to other TIC classrooms.
  • Ask students to create a “what I’ve learned by hatching trout and getting to know flyfishers’ video to share with club members.
  • Post your successes in places club members will see them, such as your newsletter, your website, or your favorite trout’s Facebook page.

Other enjoyable activities at our meeting:

Lunch was awesome. Ethan’s snacks (pistachios, coffee cake, drinks, chips) were great as usual. Flasher apologized for failing to bring coffee, and promised it at all future events.

Ken Brunskil talked about the role of FFF and his outreach efforts to the clubs.

Jim Scherer showed his spreadsheet that helps interested teachers control the time of hatching and buttoning up, based on TU calculations. Another helpful date of hatch worksheet is included on page 9 of the new Teacher’s Manual.

Ed Huff showed the CD he uses to help recruit club members to help in the TIC program. He will share copies with all interested clubs. The video on our website is also a good tool to use to give club members an idea of what the teacher and club members do in the classroom and at the release site.

CDFW recognized Redwood Empire Trout Unlimited for their pioneering work in developing a program that hatches fish in the classroom.

Eric ­­­­Larson of CDFW talked about the potential impacts of the drought on fisheries and fish habitat this year. His PowerPoint showed the dramatic changes in rainfall and anadromous fish success from year to year.

Bob Flasher played “Supermarket” with attendees and discovered that he needed to give much clearer instructions the next time. The game showed how we achieve at least twice as much working together as we do alone. This was a subtle hint that we benefit from sharing at these meetings and when more club members lend a hand in the TIC program.

Hope to see you all next year. Happy fishing until then.

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Thoughts on The Value Of Nature Education – David Sobel

“Wet sneakers and muddy clothes are prerequisites for understanding the water cycle”.

wet sneakers






“The heart of childhood, from seven to eleven, is the critical period for bonding with the earth”.

kids in nature2





“If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, let us allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it”.

love the earth






“Exploration of the natural world begins in early childhood, flourishes in middle childhood, and continues in adolescence as a pleasure and a source of strength for social action”.

teens in nature

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