Sunday, June 10, 2012

Releasing our Salmon Fry

If you've been following us through the year, you'll know that we have been raising salmon in our classroom tank. Back in December, we got about 50 eggs in our tank. Our eggs were eyed already, which means that there were already baby salmon growing inside them.

Can you see the "eyes"?
A few months after we got our eggs, they hatched! We got to watch the tiny Alvein break out of their eggs and wriggle around on the bottom of the tank. Alvein can't swim because they have a heavy yolk sac still attached to their belly. That yolk sac gives them the energy they need to grow!

Alvein like this one can't swim yet!
As our Alveins grew, their yolk sacs shrank and they finally buttoned-up. Then they took their first trip to the surface of the tank! At the surface, they took a gulp of air and filled up their swim bladders. We learned that a fish's swim bladder is like a life jacket that helps the fish float. Now our Alvein are called Fry!

At the end of May, it was time for our little Fry to leave home! We carefully packed our Fry into a bucket, and set off for the Lillooet Lower Spawning Channel.

Cup by cup, we moved our Fry's water into a bucket so we could bring them on the bus.
Can you see the big block of ice? Fry need to be kept in very cool water. 
Once we filled the bucket with water, it was time to catch all our fish!
Our salmon made it safely to Lillooet with a bunch of Fry from Mr. Remple's class up at the high school. Mr. Remple even managed to rescue a few escapees from the concrete, so every last fish was able to make the trip! When we arrived in Lillooet, it was time to say good-bye to the little Fry we had raised.

Kevin gave us each a plastic bag with a few of our Fry in it to release.

The stream is massive compared to the tank our Fry have grn up in!
After releasing our salmon into the Spawning Channel, we were luck to go on a hike around the channel and explore our Fry's new habitat. The Lillooet Lower Spawning Channel was made by people to help Pink salmon, and now Coho salmon, regain areas to spawn and grow up. We learned a lot about what makes the Spawning Channel a great home for our little Fry. 

Taking the bridge across the Channel.
A guide explains the important features of the Fry's new habitat.
The Spawning Channel is a great fish habitat! It is surrounded by trees and bushes and these are important for the salmon because they keep shade over the water and that makes it nice and cool. We also noticed lots of large rocks in the Channel. When the water rushes over the rocks, it makes little waves kind of like rapids in a bigger river. Those waves are important because they mix more oxygen into the water and the fish need that to breathe. Another important part of the salmon's habitat is at the bottom of the Channel - it's covered in gravel. Adult salmon dig their redds in the gravel, so without gravel there would be nowhere for the eggs to be buried!

We also discovered that the Spawning Channel is home to a lot of other creatures that are friends and predators of the salmon. We got to look up close at many different creatures along our hike.

Can you guess what animal lives here?
One thing our Fry will need to start looking for right away is food! What does a tiny fish eat? They eat tiny creatures! In the waters of the stream, we found many tiny insect larvae and other creatures that the salmon prey on. 

With a net you can catch creatures in the muddy stream waters.
We used magnifying glasses and these viewfinders to take a look the creatures we caught.

We looked at drawings of larvae to try and identify the creatures we found. 
Our Fry aren't the only fish feeding on these tiny creatures, though. There are many different varieties of fish living in the Channel and they all need different things to survive. We took a look at some fish - big and small - that share a habitat with our salmon Fry.

Can you spot the sucker fish?
We got to feel fish scales and learn about how they protect a fish.
Division 2 takes a look at a map of the local watershed. 
Our Fry are only just beginning their journeys. After they grow up into Smolts in the Spawning Channel, they will leave the stream and head to the river. Once they reach the river, they will travel across British Columbia, from Lillooet down to Vancouver. They'll be heading for the coast! Once the reach the ocean, they swim up the coastline of BC, past Vancouver Island, and all the way up to the Arctic Ocean. It's a trip that will take years and thousands of kilometers to make. In the ocean, our salmon will eat larger fish and grow into adults. When they are ready to spawn, they will find their way back to the stream where we released them in Lillooet, and they will lay their eggs there! What an adventure!

Division 2 made an adventure of our own, pretending we were Smolts heading down the river towards the ocean. We had to work hard to "survive" the trip - passing lots of friends, predators, and human-made roadblocks on our way! Can you remember all the different challenges we faced as Smolts?

We set off on an imaginary journey as Smolts!

Leave us a comment: 

What did you see on your journey to the ocean as a Smolt? Was it a friend or a predator? 

Share something new that you learned about Salmon on our trip! 

What do you think it would be like to be a tiny Fry in the giant Spawning Channel? 


  1. Dear Miss.OC
    It was fun to release are fish.
    Was it fun to touch the fish that the boy caught?

    From Fuzzy

    1. Dear Fuzzy,

      I don't think I got a chance to touch the fish! I was busy taking pictures of all of us with sparkly silver fish scales on our fingertips. I'm so glad you had fun releasing the fish! It is my favourite field trip to go on all year. :)

      Your teacher,

      Miss. OC

  2. On our field trip we saw a lot of things when we were pretending to be fish.
    We saw a turbine for an electricity plant. Who liked going underneath the skipping rope?
    We also saw some birds. They were predators. Who liked runing away from the birds?
    Love Jaylee and katelynn

    1. @Katelynn and Jaylee,

      My favourite part of our journey as smolts was the song that the "shady tree" sang to us. Shady trees are definitely a friend of the salmon, because they keep the water cool! I still have the chorus of the song stuck in my head: "Craig has one emotion! He wants to reach the ocean!"

      Glad to hear you remember so much from our trip!

      Your teacher,

      Miss. OC

  3. @ Miss.OC
    Can you guess which fish is Chubby in one of the picture?

    your student friend


  4. Dear div2
    I had lots of fun relesing the fish. My favourite thing was the trail to the ocean.
    From Cole.


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