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Fourth-graders and Fish Tales

“Let’s talk fish!” a Department of Natural Resources official told a group of Southeast Elementary School students, as they learned about the process of hatching and raising fish to stock Michigan’s lakes, streams and rivers.

They spent the day at the Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery in Mattawan, which produces four different fish species for inland and Great Lakes waters. From egg to release, the hatchery raises steelhead trout and Chinook salmon, walleye and Great Lakes muskellunge, providing everything the fish need: food, water, and shelter space until they are ready for release. It stocks Michigan waterswith millions of fish each year, which helps keep the water healthy and the anglers happy.

Fourth-grader Yelianeth Ramos feeds the fish

“We are so lucky in Michigan, because we have a lot of water for fish to live,” said Shana Ramsey, DNR head interpreter for the hatchery’s visitors center, adding that there are 153 kinds of fish in the state and more than a million licensed anglers.

“People love to come to Michigan from all over the world to fish in our lakes, rivers and streams,” Ramsey said. “We want fish out there for them to catch.”

Southeast’s fourth-grade classes enhanced their social studies and science curriculum with a visit to the hatchery. They toured the facility and its surrounding land — spying fish of all sizes — to learn about fishing as an important economic activity in the state. They also learned about the importance of protecting the Great Lakes from invasive species, including Asian carp, which can grow to 5 feet long and 100 pounds, and can eat up to 40 percent of their body weight daily, crowding out native fish.

In the hatchery, students learned about the process of egg harvesting from adult “parent” fish in the lakes, incubation and raising young fish. They also saw an ancient bottom feeder, whose appearance is a bit reptilian.

“I like learning about lake sturgeons,” said fourth-grader Zavier Price, sharing a fun fact. “They survived what killed the dinosaurs.”

Feeding the fish in the outdoor ponds allowed for glimpses of fish of all sizes

Teacher Carrie Ziegler learns along with her students

The hatchery follows a process of raising fish from egg to adult

Kaitlin Gaule, assistant intern for the DNR, talks about the ecological features of the area

Students watch small fish being raised in the hatchery

A truck is used to transport fish to rivers, lakes and streams around the state

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers and On-the-Town Magazine. She has been covering the many exciting facets of K-12 public education for School News Network since 2013. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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