RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) Every year, Vermont Fish and Wildlife stocks about 18,000 trophy trout into the lakes, ponds, rivers and streams across the state. You might think most of that would be in rural areas but they actually do it in urban parts of the state, too. Like in downtown Rutland. That's where our Ike Bendavid caught up with Fish and Wildlife as they got a little help from a middle school class.
"The trophy trout program is where we raise the fish an extra year beyond the normal time we raise hatchery fish for stocking. These are two-year-old fish. So we grow them a little. They average 16-17 inches in length. Some of them are even bigger than that," Vt. Fish and Wildlife Biologist Shawn Good said.
Good said his day would be busy stocking hundreds of fish all throughout Rutland, but he and his team got some help from the Christ the King School's seventh-grade class.
"We are stalking in an urban environment here. This is a city setting and this is an opportunity that we are bringing to people who live in Rutland that's unique," Good said.
Before the excitement, the day started with a quick lecture and lesson on trout. Then it was off to the river. The students got buckets to carry the fish off the trucks and then bring them to the river. That's where they got a chance to hold them up for a picture.
But sometimes they slip away. Then it's time to put them in the water and in their new habitat.
"This is the next generation of anglers and stewards of our natural resources and our environment. If we can ingrain that sense of importance of protecting our natural habitats and doing restoration activities, these are the people who will be responsible for that for generations from now. And you just have to look at the look on their face when they are handling the fish, maybe the first time they have ever done it," Good said.
Adding the fish is not only good for the anglers, but it also helps restore the habitat even if the fish have been in a tank their whole lives.
"The trout, they have instincts that are ingrained into their biology; it's built into their nature. It's really amazing when I watch what's going on, when I watch what happens after a stocking like this, how quickly these fish tune into the natural environment. They have been raised their entire life in an artificial tank in a hatchery system, fed artificial food. But you can stand here after the commotion and excitement die down and within 15 minutes, half an hour you can see these fish behave completely natural like a natural trout would," Good said.
So what did the seventh-graders think of their morning of bringing hundreds of fish into the East Creek?
"It's really fun. It's kind of frustrating, some of the fish are more lively than others and will splash you in the face," Emma Cosgrove said.
"Stocking is a rare opportunity so it was really fun," Aiden Good said.
But some students said this day of hands-on learning will have a deeper impact
"It's very rare for me to go fishing," Maeve Mclachlan said.
Mclachlan says she was scared to hold the fish but at the end of the day, she says what she learned has her coming back out with her friends.
"Now that I have done this, it has gotten me more interested and I probably would come out here and do fishing," she said.
A chance to educate and inspire the next generation is a successful day for Fish and Wildlife.
"These may be the only trout these kids may ever have the chance to catch as kids. Or even as adults who live in Rutland, a lot of people come and spend time on East Creek through the middle of Rutland and without this trophy trout fishing program opportunity here in the city," Good said.