Planning Your Trout Release
It’s a sad time of year when we have to say good bye to our little ones, put away the equipment and wait for the new TIC year to begin once again. Just because it’s time to say good bye to the fry, doesn’t mean you can’t have a great time doing it - plan a trip, visit a nature center, do some stream exploring, clean up a stream - the possibilities are endless!
Many people wonder why their fry can’t just go into any stream or pond near their school, but if you have just spent the year teaching your students about the values of clean, cold water, why would you just dump them anywhere? The answer is - you wouldn’t!
With the Trout in the Classroom Program, NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife biologists want the fry going into streams where they have a chance of surviving once they have left your care. It’s like having your kids leave home for the first time - you want them to be in a place where you know they have a good chance of making it on their own. That means, the fry need to go into the best habitat for them - not the pond down the street.
Streams are classified by Fish and Wildlife biologists based on biological characteristics of the water body. They look at water quality and quantity - is it polluted, silted up, clear and free flowing? What fish and other organisms live in that water body? Are trout present? Are the fish all the same age or are trout reproducing in the water body?
Freshwater (FW) water bodies are classified based on whether they are wholly contained within state, federal or special holding properties (FW1) or if they flow through other areas of the state (FW2). These water ways are then further classified into three categories based on their ability to support trout.
TP = Trout Production. These waterways have been designated for use by trout for spawning or nursery purposes during their first summer.
TM = Trout Maintenance. These waterways can support trout throughout the year.
NT = Nontrout. These waters fall do not fall into any of the above categories. They are generally not suitable for trout because of their physical, chemical or biological characteristics, but can support other fish species.
Waters can be further classified into Category One Waters (C1) or Category Two Waters (C2). C1 waters are protected from changes to the existing water quality. These waters can be identified by their clarity, color, scenic setting, other characteristics of aesthetic value, exceptional ecological significance, exceptional water supply significance or exceptional fisheries resource. C2 waters are not designated as outstanding quality waters or C1.
Fish raised as part of the Trout in the Classroom program must be released into streams that are classified as Trout Maintenance (TM). They can not be released into Trout Production streams because we want to keep the wild fish - wild! To release a TIC fish into a non-trout waterway doesn’t make sense after all the hard work you have done raising the fry all year long. Biologists have determined appropriate release sites for TIC fish based on the classification of the waterway, proximity to major roadways, parking areas for buses and other factors. See the list of NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife approved sites to help you plan your release TIC_Approved_Stocking_Locations_(2017_-_2019).xls.
Many teachers incorporate a field trip into their release day. Plan a trip to a stream and do a stream clean up. Have the students assess the site as an appropriate place for trout to live and survive. Look for signs of predators. Measure the water flow and temperature. Look for riffles and pools. Look for natural trout food. Have Trout Unlimited or other water related organizations meet you at the release site for a program. Visit a nature center.
Turn the sad frowns of good bye into smiles of fun as your students learn that they have done the best they can for their “children”.