Oneonta middle schoolers release trout into creek

May 3—On Friday, May 3, dozens of seventh-graders at Oneonta Middle School released more than 100 brown trout raised from eggs in their science classroom into the creek outside the school.

Among them was 12-year-old Dylan Hoyt, an outdoor enthusiast who helped science teacher Adriane Cej with last year's project.

"I helped feed them sometimes, I helped with the pH, and it was really fun," Dylan said. "It was exciting to help out with them again, and I knew that I was going to release them at the end of the year, and that would be really fun."

The most surprising thing that happened, Dylan said, was when one of the eggs hatched with a two-headed fish.

"The year before, we had another two-headed fish," he said, "and I was surprised that we got another one. It ended up dying, but we saved it in a container ... I am really hoping that a lot of fish survive when they get into the creek."

Dylan isn't the only ecology-minded member of his family — his brother David Hoyt, an Oneonta High School sophomore, helped pull a tire from the creek found behind the school's baseball field during a campus cleanup for Earth Week on April 23.

Trout Unlimited has sponsored the program for the past four years, providing the tank, equipment and fish eggs.

Cej said Friday that the annual project to raise trout in the classroom was initiated by a retired teacher, Patty Leitenberger.

The class started with 150 eggs in October, and about 110 fingerling trout survived to be released Friday. Last year, the students released 130 trout into the stream.

The eggs come from the state Department of Environmental Conservation fish hatchery in DeBruce. They are hatched in an incubation bucket and raised in an aquarium by the students before they are released in local streams in the spring to help replenish the brown trout population.

Cej said that the program is about increasing biodiversity and teaching students about growth and development.

"Part of the curriculum for the class that I teach this year is to talk about growth and development in living things," she said, "so we've been able to watch these trout from eggs hatch and grow."

Students Elise Manchester, 12, and Willow Landry, 13, also were excited about releasing the trout and getting to see them in their natural habitat for the first time.

Elise said she observed the larger trout swim around, kind of herding the smaller trout into the corners of the tank.

"There were little corners with like, one fish and the other corner was filled with all of them," she said.

The students have been preparing the fish for release by catching aquatic invertebrates from the creek to feed the fish so they can get used to their food sources.

"It's fun to see what types of critters the trout eat," Willow said, "and discovering new critters that I never knew were actually in the creek, like the stone fly larva."