Remember To Return Your Permit!

After releasing your fish, teachers are required to complete the bottom portion of your permit and return the entire permit either directly to CDFW or to your sponsor (check with your sponsor to see what they prefer). Complete all sections on the bottom of the permit Make a copy for your records If you are sending directly to CDFW then Mail it to: 7329 Silverado Trail, Napa, 94558 Fax it: (707) 944-5563 email it: You can check the status of your permit at the link above titled “772 Permits Complete 2015″. It is YOUR responsibility to return your permit and check the status.

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The Year (of hatching fish) In Review

It has been a spectacular year for hatching fish despite the continuation of the drought in our state.

LARGEST PROGRAM IN THE NATION: 460 classes applied for permits in the Bay Area – that makes us the SINGLE LARGEST PROGRAM in the entire nation! 10% of all classes participating in programs that hatch fish across the country are part of the Bay Area Classroom Aquarium Education Program. Essentially, we rock. This is possible in large part due to the high level of participation of your sponsor. Be sure to say thanks to them!

TEACHERS CONQUER DROUGHT: Many teachers in Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties had successful years hatched rainbow trout for the very first time! The drought has made it impossible for these teachers to receive steelhead trout eggs for the 2nd year in a row. Rather than sit out yet another year, these adventurous souls tried something new helping their students learn that rainbow and steelhead are really the same species. Congratulations!

STRONG FISH SURVIVAL RATES: Almost all classrooms that received eggs successfully hatched and released fish despite higher than average egg mortality rates this year. In an effort to get the eggs into classrooms earlier (thus allowing more time for the eggs to remain in the tanks), CDFW delivered younger eggs than normal. This resulted in higher mortality rates of the eggs, and we saw a lower than average mortality rate in the fry (although I doubt these are related). There were surprisingly  few classes experienced “total tank failure” (fancy words for the entire tank going belly up).

EVERY MIDDLE SCHOOL SCIENCE TEACHER HATCHED FISH: Oakley School District started a new program with ALL MIDDLE SCHOOL SCIENCE classes hatching and releasing fish. They created curriculum to allow students to participate in the program 3 years in a row and each time study fish from a different perspective. Our congratulations to superstar teacher and TIC curriculum specialist Amy Di Maggio for her outstanding leadership.

PLEDGE TO PROTECT FISH: Marin Municipal Water District created a  Mt. Tam pledge for students. At the release, MMWD staff lead students in a pledge then allow each individual to agree to the pledge by putting an inked thumbprint on the sheet. This beautifully adorned pledge card goes to the school with the teacher to be posted on the classroom wall.

It was another great year. Clean your tank, store it for the summer, write down your ideas for next year and have a great summer. (OH – a remember to send your completed permit back to your sponsor or to CDFW)

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Release Day Activities

The release day is one of the most exciting days in the process of hatching fish. Bob Flasher created this list of activities you can use to extend the learning and fun on your release day:

Science: Create a template for observing the weather and the ecosystem of the trout’s new habitat. This can be easily photocopied to distribute for attendees students to fill out. Items on this template may include: temperature of the air (if no thermometer is available they can write “hot, cold, mild,”), temperature of the water, biotic factors, abiotic factors, the amount of wind and sunshine. This template may also include an area to draw, color, and label the location.

Tracy Fly Fisher teaches casting to students at Shadow Cliffs Reservoir

Tracy Fly Fisher teaches casting to students at Shadow Cliffs Reservoir

Language arts: Standing in a circle, ask students to share how they feel about today’s activities. Another option is to challenge them to come up with one word that best describes their experience today. They may also want to share wishes for the survival of their trout in the wild. Then, in their journal, record observations of the watershed, feelings about freeing the trout, poems about the trout life cycle, etc.
Physical education: Play Oh Trout! to return student focus to the basic needs of trout: food, water and shelter. If you’ve already played this enough, do Habitat Lap Sit instead.
Habitat Lap Sit: Students form a shoulder-to-shoulder circle. Have each student in turn call out the basic survival needs of trout, going around the circle (food, water, shelter, food, water, shelter, etc). All students then turn to face one direction so they are looking at each others backs. Take two or three sideways steps toward the center of the circle. (Students should now be uncomfortably close to each other.) Instruct everyone to put their hands on the shoulders of the person in front of them. If this is still a reach, have everyone take a few more steps toward the center of the circle. Then on the count of three, students, keeping their knees together, try to sit on the knees of the student behind them…as the student in front of them tries to sit on their knees in turn. If the habitat has all the basic needs in the right places at the right time, the circle of sitting students will hold. If it doesn’t, the whole ecosystem will collapse. After a collapse, ask students if they would like to try again, telling them that students in one grade below theirs did it successfully.
More science: Play Ecosystem Connections, a game in which students become scientists trying to see the connections between everything in the watershed. Groups of 6-7 students stand in a circle, shoulder-to-shoulder. Each reaches across the circle and grabs the hand of one other student. (This simulates one of the local ecological connections like trout eating insects, or sunshine growing plants.) Then each student reaches across the circle with their free hand and grabs the hand of a different student. The challenge is now to untangle this knot of inter-relationships to see the connections more clearly. Students can rotate hands, but cannot let go of hands while they work cooperatively to untangle the knot. Most groups will succeed. Some end up in one circle and others in two interlocking ones. If some groups finish quickly, ask them to form a new knot and try again to see whether their success was luck or skill. Some get stuck and you can tell that group that it’s nighttime now and interactions will change. Ask students to release one hand and grab a different hand, then try to untangle the new nighttime knot. If they still can’t succeed, you can tell them that ecological relationships are so complex that scientists still haven’t figured out most of them.

MMWD pledgejpg_Page1
Culinary Arts: Have a parent volunteer bake trout-shaped cookies, which the students can decorate with icing, sprinkles, etc. Another option is to make chocolate trout beforehand using a mold. These can be shared with chaperones, principals, and the press on release day.
Community Interaction: Invite your sponsor or local park agency to attend the release and sponsor activities such as fly casting, macroinvertabrate studies, invasive species programs, or bird walks.

Have fun experiencing the watershed that your aquarium simulated. Appreciate the birds, dragonflies, newts, and other wildlife that are sharing your trout’s habitat. Send us your ideas and copies of the work generated by your students

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Invasive Species Art Contest

Here is a great follow up to your class project hatching and releasing fish. Now your students have released fish, they can engage in other activities, including the art contest, to learn ways to ensure the fish have healthy habitat.

The Art Contest is open to students in grades 2-12 and they can submit an entry using a variety of media.

The contest is a part of California Invasive Species Action Week being held June 6 -14.

Join the excitement – there are a variety of fun activities held around the Bay Area for families and schools.

Image result for zebra mussels

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FAQs – Hatching Rainbow Trout VS Steelhead Trout

Steelhead eggs for teachers in the STEP program (Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties) are not available again this year due to a fungal issue at the hatchery. CDFW is making rainbow trout eggs available to all eligible teachers as an alternative. The response from teachers so far is very positive.

Below is a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) I am receiving from teachers. Please feel free to ask more questions and they can be included here.

What are the differences in raising rainbow versus steelhead trout?

The fish are identical in almost every way. Your existing equipment is fine and you hatch and raise rainbow in the same manner as steelhead trout.

Why are steelhead not available again this year?

There are a series of unfortunate events occurring at the hatchery – most notably a fungus that has put the fish and eggs under quarantine. Both the State and Federal agencies are not allowing release of eggs or fish from the hatchery at this time.

Is it true that releasing steelhead helps rebuild the population while releasing rainbow trout just provides food for predators or fish to be caught by anglers?

Almost every fish released as a part of the classroom incubation program will become food for a predator regardless of whether you release salmon, steelhead or rainbow trout. The process of hatching and releasing fish in classrooms is an educational program and not intended to supplement fish stocking or restoration efforts. The value of raising fish in the classroom has more to do with what happens in the minds and hearts of the student than in the lake or river where the fish are released.

Will using my tank for rainbow trout “contaminate” the equipment and make it unusable should steelhead be available in coming years?

Absolutely not. Steelhead and rainbow are essentially the same fish. You should use the same protocols for cleaning your tank as you do every other year.

My school is on break during the time I will have the eggs – will this be a problem?

The fish and eggs should be fine if left unattended for a week although you are encouraged  to check on your tank every few days. It is unfortunate the students will miss an entire week with the fish, but this is unavoidable

Why the short notice?

We waited as long as possible in the hopes the problems at the hatchery would be rectified and steelhead eggs would be available.

Why can’t I release the fish in the same place I did in previous years?

These fish are of a different genetic strain than the fish used in the past and may only be released into lakes that has been evaluated as appropriate for these fish. The release of fish is carefully monitored by State and Federal agencies.

For many teachers, especially those in Santa Clara County, the release sites for rainbow trout will be easier as the release sites are closer to the school and to where students live.

Do I need to re-submit my 772 application?

No you do not. All you need to do is send an email answering the two questions outlined in the email sent to you on 3/5/15. CDFW staff will update your file and generate a new permit for you.

Why do I have to pick up the eggs instead of having them delivered to my classroom?

Volunteers from the STEP program have provided the egg delivery service to your classroom for many years. They are opting to not participate in the program this year. CDFW is working with other organizations to create a series of egg pick up sites to give teachers as many options as possible.

Can someone else pick up my eggs for me?

Absolutely. You may have a co-teacher, parent, spouse or friend pick up the eggs. They will need to arrive and tell the staff who they are picking up for.

What do I need when I pick up the eggs?

CDFW hatchery staff and volunteers will pack the eggs for transport for you. You will need to arrive with a small ice chest (with some ice). Ideally, the eggs should be placed in your tank the same day you receive them.

Have other teachers successfully hatched rainbow trout?

Rainbow trout are the most widely hatched fish in classroom aquariums, Presently there are over 250 classes in the Bay Area alone incubating these same eggs with great success.

Will steelhead eggs be available next year?

At this time, we do not know.

Have other teachers made this switch?

Last year teachers in Sonoma County faced a similar issue and were also offered rainbow trout as an alternative. Almost all of the teachers in that program opted to hatch rainbow trout and had a very successful year. They taught many of the same lessons and felt the it was a success. Many of those teachers inquired about continuing with rainbow trout in the future.

When will the fish need to be released?

You may keep the fish for up to 6 weeks after hatch – this would make the final release date May 13, 2015

Do you have more questions? Send them to

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More Painless Poetry

At our teacher workshops, we have been doing water-related Painless Poetry.

Try this with your students – put them in groups of 4 – 5, have each write a word or phrase that relates to water or fish, then have them work as a group to combine them into a poem. Here are some examples from a recent teacher workshop:


2 hydrogens & an oxygen

Splash! A rush of cool refreshment

The current flow is swift

Water gives life

Image result for flowing water

What are sustains life

Crystal clear effervescence

Flowing wet creek sparkling bubbles

River flowing clear and fresh

Image result for flowing water

Clean water

Quenches thirst

Rushing, moist mist

Flows over rocks


Image result for flowing water

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The Bay AREA Trout-in-the-Classroom Program leads the nation

The Bay Area is home to 10% of all classes that hatch fish nationwide. That is an amazing statistic and due to the dynamic work of our partners. There are 23 organizations that work hand-in-hand with the Department of Fish and Wildlife to make this program a reality here in the San Francisco Bay area.

This good work has not gone unnoticed.

In 2012, the American Fisheries Society delivered an award for an Outstanding Aquatic Education Program. Dan Nygren, the President of the American Fisheries Society, flew out from Kansas to present the award to us the Fish & Game Commission meeting.  Justin Cutler, from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, pointed out that we “give students a reason to care about watershed health.” Chuck Bonham, the Director of Fish & Wildlife, praised the efforts of teachers, staff and flyfishers saying, “We can do all the biological, legal and policy work imaginable, but we need to inspire and touch the soul of our children and their children.  Reaching students is central to our success.

In 2013, The Aquatic Resource Educators Association recognized the Bay Area Program as an outstanding example of a partner-based aquatic education program. This award was given to the Northern California Council Federation of Fly Fishers for their outstanding andlong term support of the program.

Keep up the good work folks! We are making a difference.

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