Conservation Update: Trout in the Classroom

By Chuck Dinkel

The mission of the Mid-Atlantic Trout in the Classroom (MATIC) program is to develop school children into future protectors of and advocates for establishing and maintaining healthy conditions for trout in local streams. Through the exciting experience of rearing trout from fertilized eggs and stocking them in local waters, TIC helps young people to become stewards of the environment. Raising trout through a combination of classroom and hands-on activities demonstrates to youngsters both the importance of clean water and the difficulty of maintaining it.

Quite simply, MATIC is essentially a cold-water conservation and not a hatchery program. Linking students to their watersheds, TIC activities reinforce existing multidisciplinary curriculum requirements from grade three onward. Students learn to value our natural resources through the lifecycle of the trout. Besides creating a durable understanding and appreciation of the importance of clean water, TIC also exposes children to broader themes.

These include the concepts of ecosystems and watersheds, preservation and enhancement of natural resources, protection of the environment, and the value of maintaining healthy trout populations as an indicator of environmental quality. A collateral purpose is to encourage young people to enjoy sport fishing as a way to connect with nature and part of a healthy life-style.

In Maryland, over 100 schools and environmental centers from Baltimore to Garrett County are taking part in this important conservation education effort for the 2019-2020 school year. Frederick County has 23 participating schools.

In December, TIC volunteers assemble at the Albert Powell Hatchery in Hagerstown to collect fertilized Kamloops eggs. Approximately 120 eggs are delivered to TIC schools. Once the eggs hatch, students monitor the lifecycle of the alevin as they grow into fry and fingerlings. With their teachers’ help, students feed the trout, monitor them for growth, and test water quality, in many cases on a daily basis.
In late spring, students release the fingerlings at DNR-approved sites. The release program usually includes taking stream measurements, surveying insect life, fly-casting and tying demonstrations and hands-on experience, and in some cases visits to fish hatcheries and stream restoration projects.

Since Frederick County lacks a TU chapter, for many years PVFF members have stepped up to fill critical roles such as delivering eggs, teaching students fly tying, raising eggs and alevin, and assisting at trout releases. Without this support, TIC would not flourish in Frederick County.

The requirements to serve as a TIC volunteer are minimal. I don’t know a single PVFF member who wouldn’t measure up. Volunteers are eligible to attend the annual training provided for teachers. If you like to fish for trout, which most PVFF members do, aspects of TIC training will make you a better fisher. The training is held at Hood College and professors from the school will typically covers topics ranging from trout anatomy, life cycle, and food sources. DNR staff will teach you how to collect and identify the aquatic bugs that are one of the main sources of a trout’s diet.

Interested, want more information? Talk to me at the next meeting or contact me now at 301-401-5066 or Assisting at an upcoming trout release this spring will provide you an introduction to the program, and my guess is, like me, you’ll be “hooked” too.