Trout Release in the Mountains

Trout Release in the Mountains
Posted on 06/06/2023

A contingent of interested science students and family members recently departed Montross Middle School on a brisk Saturday morning for high adventure.  Their mission was to release baby trout into the cold waters of Graves Mountain Lodge in Syria, Virginia.  For the past seven months, the students of Mrs. Debbie Travis’ Life Science classes raised baby trout from eggs to fingerling size. The trip to Graves Mountain was the final step, which was required of the funding grant, Trout in the Classroom. The school was awarded this grant in 2022.  The grant was funded by the Friends of the Rappahannock and the Environmental Protection Agency. The purpose of the grant was to support Environmental Education in the Rappahannock River Watershed.

For this leg of their journey, the fish were placed into a cooler with a monitoring thermostat.  Throughout the trip, the water temperatures were monitored to maintain the stability of the fish.  This was huge since they were the survivors of a much larger cohort. Surprisingly, all of the fish survived the journey without any problems.   The cooler was unloaded at Graves Mountain Lodge. Then the MMS party was met by the owner, Lucky Graves. Mr. Graves explained the importance of the Trout in the Classroom program. He told the students why the water temperature was so important to monitor and how the survival of the baby trout was dependent upon cold, clear water. “The presence of Brook Trout in a stream indicates clean, cool water.” In Virginia, the fish will die if the water temperature gets over 70 degrees.  The students’ fish were released in the Rose River at the Lodge, which is a part of the Rappahannock Watershed.

Many of the students had questions for Mr. Graves. They asked about how big the fingerlings will grow (6-8 inches in the small mountain streams).  Mr. Graves noted that a 10-12-inch-long Brook Trout is considered a “whopper” of a fish.

According to the Trout in the Classroom (TIC) program, Brook Trout are a crucial native species of salmonid. “As early as the late 19th century, native Brook Trout disappeared from many streams as forests were cleared and the land developed. Many streams became too warm to host the native brook trout. Because of pollution and other environmental issues, the efforts to restore Brook Trout to regulated waters is very important.”

The students were each given a cup for the release of their fish. Mr. Graves had guided them to place the cup in the water to acclimate the fish to the temperature. After a few minutes the fish became very active and some jumped from the cup into the cool stream. Every student was able to release a fish or two into the waters and observe its first moments in the wild. There were a lot of wide smiles as they observed the fish and how they all “hung” together. It was a real “school of fish.”

The students were invited to visit the farm animals at Graves Mountain Lodge. They petted the horses that are used by guests and even saw some massive pigs and cows. They were treated to lunch at the General Store and enjoyed wonderful food and homemade milkshakes created by Mrs. Graves and her crew.

Thank you to the Friends of the Rappahannock and their staff for assisting the MMS students in this venture. It was a great learning experience for everyone.