Most kids have a dog or cat for a pet.
However, Trent Graves and his middle school classmates at the Christian Academy of Campbell County raised a couple hundred rainbow trout fingerlings this year in a project sponsored by the Clinch River Chapter of Trout Unlimited.
For nearly four months, the students nursed their finny friends in a 55-gallon aquarium in the classroom of math teacher Travis Dunn. On May 14, the trout were large enough (about 2 to 3 inches long) to release into Clear Creek, a tributary of the Clinch River in the Norris watershed.
Graves took charge of the project early on and got the honors of releasing the fingerlings. He waded into the meandering brook to send the baby trout on their merry way.
“I had to feed them every day and change their water every other day,” Graves said.
“My family is proud of me for taking the responsibility of taking care of them.”
The students had to constantly monitor the temperature of the aquarium in order to keep the water cold enough (50 degrees Fahrenheit) for the trout fingerlings to survive.
“It’s been a blessing to see how they took on the responsibility and enjoyment of raising the trout. It’s been a whole classroom project. Everybody was involved,” said Dunn, who grew up fishing in the backwoods of Upstate South Carolina.
An ounce and a half of fertilized eggs for the project came from the Erwin National Fish Hatchery via Duane Oyer of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
“It’s a good thing that Trout Unlimited has got going, to get the kids interested,” Oyer said.
This is the second year that the Christian Academy of Campbell County has participated in Trout in the Classroom. The Clinch River Chapter of Trout Unlimited has enlisted the help of Anderson County students the past four years. Middle school students from Norris and Lake City participated in the project this year. The total fingerlings raised this year by students from the three schools were approximately 700 to 800 trout. All were released at the same site on Clear Creek.
Terry Douglas, a member of the Clinch River Chapter of Trout Unlimited, coordinated with the schools on their living science project.
“On release day, the kids had a real concern for the welfare of the
trout. This is what the project is all about,” Douglas said.
“They got to see how vulnerable our cold water fisheries are and the need for
organizations like Trout Unlimited to conserve, protect and restore our cold
water fisheries and watersheds.
“This year, all three schools were a success for raising the fish to the fry
stage, with a few unexpected glitches.
“The students changed the water, fed the fish and tested the water on a regular basis. But of course the real success is the education to the fact that Trout Unlimited has their same concern for the welfare of all the cold water fishes.”