Given continued COVID-19 realities, Fish Friends will look a little different this year. We can still provide eggs for schools to raise but our in-person support will be limited. We are currently exploring a virtual alternative for those unable to raise fish in-person, so stay tuned about that. If you are interested in some form of Fish Friends during the 2020-21 school year, please fill out this brief survey to indicate your interest. If you are fairly sure that you want to raise salmon eggs this year, please sign up for a permit by 11/15/20 here.
Have further questions or missed that deadline? Reach out to the Fish Friends Coordinator.
Learn all about it in their article about it here.
This is usually the time of year when I send out information about raising the temperature of the water in your tanks to simulate the rise in temperature of our local streams and facilitate egg development, but this year is a bit different due to Covid-19 and the school cancellations across Maine.
Below is a series of options for winter/spring 2020 Fish Friends participants who are caring for ~20,000 endangered Atlantic salmon during these challenging and constantly changing times. I have developed these in consultation with the hatcheries and the Department of Marine Resources. I have listed them in order of best to worst options and invite you to choose what option works best for you given your particular reality.
Don’t hesitate to contact Hazel, Fish Friends Coordinator, here.
- Keep tanks where they are, but make sure someone can check on them regularly to ensure the chiller is working and remove any dead eggs/fish. If you choose this option, see the end of this post about how to handle the temperature adjustment piece. Please consider that many of our Mentors are in the highest risk category for Covid-19, so please minimize asking for their in-person support during this time.
- Move tanks to a place where they can be checked on regularly. There is a higher risk of mortality due to moving them, especially once they’ve developed into alevin due to the possibility of damaging the yolk sac. In the likely case that you can’t move your whole tank at once, you’ll have to: 1) carefully move the salmon into a cooler with water at the same temperature as your tank’s water (put a bunch of ice cubes in the cooler’s water and add ice cubes as necessary), 2) drain the tank, 3) move your whole setup, 4) refill the tank and get the water back to the right temperature (this can be expedited by adding sanitized jugs of ice to the water), and 5) move the eggs back into the tank. The key thing here is to maintain consistency of temperature that the fish are in–any changes in temperature can cause problems. As above, please consider that many of our Mentors are in the highest risk category for Covid-19, so please minimize asking for their in-person support during this time. Also review the temperature adjustment considerations below.
- Put your eggs into someone else’s tank that can be checked on regularly, assuming they have the same stocking location on their permit as you. If you need help figuring out who near you does Fish Friends, let me know.
- Leave tanks where they are without being able to check on them or adjust temperature. Not being able to remove dead eggs or ensure that the chiller is running could cause complete mortality. If you’re not able to start raising the temperature by mid-May, you won’t be able to stock them and they’ll die.
- Stock salmon into river now. Please only use this option if you feel confident you won’t be able to check on your tank before the summer. Stocking them into the river now may kill them, but it may be a better option than letting the chiller run and having them die in their tanks in the event that you can’t get into the school before the summer. If you do choose this option, please stock them where your permit says to stock them and email me with the date, water temperature, and how many of what life cycle you stocked (e.g. x# alevin, x# eyed eggs, etc.). If they’re alevin, simply let them go in the water. If they’re eggs, find some gravel out of the main current, dig down a few inches (adult salmon usually dig down 6-12,” but do your best!), and “plant” the eggs there–gently covering them back up with gravel afterwards. Using a section of pipe or a cup with the bottom cut off may help you place them in the hole without them floating away.
Option A: Leave temp low: You can keep the temperature of your tank low as it currently is for awhile longer. This will delay egg development. It’ll take about a month to raise the tank temp from 35 to 50F, so if you’re not back to school until mid-May, you should still be able to start raising the temps then and stock them by the end of the school year in mid-June.
Option B: Raise tank temperatures as usual. Some general guidelines for raising the temperatures:
- Have your tank’s water at 50F by the time the fish need to be stocked (usual goal: late May/early June)
- Keep the temperature as cold as possible as long as possible
- Don’t increase the temperature abruptly—a change of 1F twice per week (e.g. Monday and Thursday or Tuesday and Friday—resulting in a total change of 2F per week) should be tolerable.
For example, if your goal is to stock your fish on May 31st, working backwards from there would look like this:
- 49F on May 28th
- 48F on May 24th
- 47F on May 21st
- 46F on May 17th
- 45F on May 14th
- 44F on May 10th
- 43F on May 7th (and so on).
It takes about a month to raise the temperature from 35F-50F. Once your tank’s water is at 50F, your fish have developed into fry (no yolk sacs attached), and the stream where you’ll release them is right around 50F too, they should be ready to go into the wild.
Hot off the presses: ASF’s “Magic on the Rivers” guide was published in July 2019 and is a great resource for Fish Friends schools and allies!
“The purpose is to assist those teaching young adults the pleasures of salmon and trout angling. It does so in light of the need for these 21st century anglers to practice conservation ethics that match the needs of the rivers and the fish.”
While the entire 126-page resource is full of educational gems, Fish Friends participants may find Modules 3, 5, and 6 most applicable.
You can download the whole thing by visiting our Participant Resources page. Let us know how you use it!
“The second grade students raise the salmon in their classroom and about three months later release them. Each year, the second graders raise the salmon for several months until they are ready to swim on their own. The seventh graders were there to help.”
Read more and watch their TV feature here!
“Grayson Spalding, 7, explained the journey that the salmon fry faced after being released, one by one, into the stream: “They start out here at the Segeunkedunk Stream, then they’re going to go to the Penobscot River. Then they’re going to go to the Atlantic Ocean for three to five years,” Spalding said. “Then they’re going to go back to the Penobscot River. And back here to lay eggs … it’s going to be like a cycle that goes over and over.”“
Read more here!
“Second-graders at West Bath School were excited to receive 200 Atlantic Salmon eggs from the Fish Friends Program. They knew there would be a release in the spring, but they didn’t know how many would survive.”
Read more and watch their TV feature here!
“Some second grade classes may have a pet hamster or hatch chicks in an incubator, but in Kelsey Marco’s class at West Bath School, students this year had more unusual classroom pets: 120 Atlantic Salmon.”
Read more here!
“Their adventure began at Hancock Grammar School, where they had hatched from eggs in January, and ended at the West Branch of the Union River in Amherst.
The fry were accompanied on the school bus ride by Valerie Sprague’s fourth-grade class. Once they reached the destination, Charlie “the Salmon Man” Kelly used plastic cups to scoop the fry out of the cooler, handing them to students and their teacher to release into the river.”
Read more here!