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Fowler students release salmon fry into Summer Creek

If all goes well, some of the salmon might return in four years to spawn
by: Barbara Sherman, GIVING NEMO THE HEAVE-HO — Fowler seventh-grader Chantelle Wolfgram (foreground) carefully releases her salmon fry while Maddie Kemp waits to release hers into Summer Creek behind the middle school, which is one of many environment-enhancing projects students have undertaken this year.

TIGARD - Fowler Middle School students had a fun if slightly messy time releasing Chinook salmon into Summer Creek behind the school on Dec. 12, and some day those salmon may return to spawn.

During class time, Sue Manning's seventh-grade science students released some of the 490 fry she had obtained, and then Manning released the rest at the end of the day.

She received the eggs from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife on Oct. 18.

'We had the option to get salmon or rainbow trout,' Manning said.' Since rainbow trout are not native to Summer Creek and would compete with (native) cutthroat trout, we couldn't release them here.'

The eggs were kept in a 50-gallon tank of water that was cooled to 55 degrees using a refrigeration unit.

'We had a very good survival rate this year and only lost 10,' Manning said.

Students each caught one or two fish in the tank with nets and carried them in cups of water to the creek.

Paul Kevak said that for most of the kids, catching the fish was not difficult, 'but it was harder for some than others.'

Once the students were walking toward the creek, 'they came up with some creative fish names - Speedy, Bubbles, Sushi, Nemo, Dorrie, Marlin, Zigzag, Bruce and Dinner, to name a few,' Manning said.

She had made the call not to have the kids put on their black rubber boots, which may have been a mistake, as the kids were slipping and sliding on the muddy creek banks, which were saturated from all the recent rainfall.

Kyle Mortensen slid and fell on the bank, and as he walked back to class with a lot of mud on his back, he said, 'This was the wrong day to wear new pants.'

The salmon-release project is one more way that students can be stewards of their environment while learning about native species, according to Manning.

'They understand the direct effect that their tree-planting efforts and newly planted bioswale (in the front parking lot) have on the creek and the newly released salmon,' she said. 'Our hope is that after four years, the fish will return to spawn.

'If they don't travel it all the way to Summer Creek, maybe they'll at least make it to the Tualatin River. Wouldn't that be wonderful?'