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Ali Burkhamer, 12, tests the temperature of the water where 230 trout eggs are getting ready to hatch in the tank at Weare Middle School. (NANCY BEAN FOSTER/Union Leader Correspondent)

Raising fish hooks Weare kids on learning


WEARE — Keeping 230 trout eggs at just the right temperature is the challenge for students at Weare Middle School, but the fish are starting to hatch and the kids will have a chance to watch them grow before releasing them into the wild.

Science Teacher Derek Davis' seventh- and eighth-grade students received a shipment of trout eggs along with a chiller — an electric device that keeps water temperature cool — last week as part of an educational program sponsored by Trout Unlimited. The fish eggs are being kept in a large tank, carefully surrounded by foam insulation to maintain a water temperature that's just right.

"The warmer the water, the faster they grow," said Davis, "but if it's too warm it could kill them."By nature, trout like cooler water, so temperature means the difference between a good year and a bad one for sport fishermen in the Granite State. And in southern New Hampshire, native trout are hard to find."As the climate is warming, the native trout are migrating further north," said Davis.

But folks still like to fish so the state stocks lakes and rivers with trout every spring, and they're getting kids into the action through the schools by using the raising of trout as important tools for learning.

"It's a great collaboration between the state and schools," said Patti Osgood, community outreach coordinator for the district. "There are great teaching moments through this program."

Each day, students are responsible for measuring and charting the temperature of the water to ensure things are going well for the eggs, which look like little more than little transparent orbs with two black spots — the fish's eyes.

Student Ali Burkhamer, 12, said she's enjoying the process of monitoring the fish and does the same thing at home.

"Every year, I get a baby catfish from the river and raise it," she said.

In the short time since they've had the fish, one of the tiny creatures has hatched.

"It's cool seeing the difference every day," said Sarah Wagner, 14.When the fish reach about an inch in length, the "fry" stage, they'll be released into the Piscataquog River. But before the release date, the students will be testing the water quality of the river by looking for signs of dragonflies and other insects, and will be keeping a close eye on the weather.

"We want to keep the water in the tank around the same temperature as the water in the river so that when we release them they don't get shocked," said Davis.

The tiny fish are currently feeding from yolk sacs in the eggs. As they outgrow those sacs the students will be feeding them freeze-dried black flies, but feeding will stop just before the fish are released so that they'll seek natural sources of nourishment."I think it will be cool to release them," said Burkhamer. "It will be interesting if they stay together or all go their separate ways."

nfoster@newstote.com

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