Grade 4 students enjoy taking part in Bass Creek educational program

Members of the Little Current Fish and Game Club remove eggs from a female walleye while Grade 4 students look on.

SHEGUIANDAH—You could see and hear the excitement of grade four students who took part in the Bass Creek educational program, hosted by members of the Little Current Fish and Game Club (LCGGC) and Manitoulin Streams Improvement Association (MSIA).

“We do this for future generations, for students like you to learn about the importance of conservation to the future of the fishery,” stated Bill Strain, a LCFGC member. Held over three days last week, students in seven elementary schools around Manitoulin Island, including Charles C. McLean (Gore Bay), Central Manitoulin (Mindemoya), Little Current, Assiginack (Manitowaning), Wasse-Abin (Wiikwemkoong), Shawanosowe (Birch Island) and Lakeview (M’Chigeeng) students took part in the program held at the LCFGC Bass Creek hatchery.

Students get up close and personal with different species of fish captured from a hoop net at the mouth of Bass Creek in Sheguiandah.

“Our students (and volunteers) had such a fantastic time with all of you on Wednesday,” wrote Melissa McCulloch, a teacher at Little Current Public School in a letter to Bill Strain and members of the LCFGC. “The event was our first field trip in almost three years and it certainly didn’t disappoint! Students were so excited to participate and by the time we returned to school, there were many who claimed that it was ‘the best field trip ever!’ continued Ms. McCulloch. “Thank you for teaching us so much about our local waterways and fisheries in such a fun, hands-on way. It was just what we needed! Thank you as well for your continued volunteer efforts, not only to educate kids, but to protect and enhance sustainable fish populations, local habitats and ecosystems.”

“On a side note: my partner, our eight-year-old son and I went out in our canoe Wednesday evening after your event to try our luck at catching dinner. We ended up landing a small pike and our son helped net it,” wrote Ms. McCulloch. “Young anglers are excited to be out on the water and enjoying the fishing experience and so are their friends and family! Keep up the fantastic work.”

At a session held last Wednesday for grade four students from Little Current and Assiginack Public Schools, Mr. Strain said, “we would like to welcome everyone here today. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to hold this program for the past couple of years (due to COVID-19).”

Mr. Strain first took all the students on a tour of the trap nets to show how they are operated. The walleye are removed from the weirs, brought to the tanks, milked of sperm and eggs and club members even help to mix the two together to fertilize the eggs. As part of his presentation, he pointed out that by protecting a spawning female walleye, a 10-pound fish will lay 300,000 eggs. Conversely, if 30 female walleye fish are harvested, it means nine million eggs are destroyed.

“We have a river watch program along Bass Creek up from Sheguiandah Bay, and members are here early in the morning to make sure the spawning fish are not being disturbed or harvested,” said Mr. Strain.

“We work with Manitoulin Streams,” said Mr. Strain. “We are very fortunate to have an organization like this on the Island. They are a great organization.”

Bill Strain of the Little Current Fish and Game Club demonstrates a hoop net to the Grade 4 students.

Members of LCFGC were on hand to show the students the club’s hatchery where the fish are raised, then on to a display of mounted warm and cold weather/water species of fish and animals, a display of and information relating to invasive species such as cormorants, and a river walking tour. Seija Deschenes of Manitoulin Streams taught the students how to make a bass nest along with a video presentation of MSIA stream rehabilitation, the work it does, and how it is helped in many cases by non-profit and volunteer driven groups including students. Ms. Deschenes’ presentation included information about how Manitoulin Streams receives funding from provincial, federal and municipalities and organizations and outlined the many accomplishments MICA has achieved.

Liam Campbell of Manitoulin Streams presented the ‘Stream Detective Invertebrates’ program. He noted that the quality of a water body can be demonstrated by what bugs are found in it.

The education program has been ongoing since 2005 and has been highly successful in educating Grade 4 students from most of the Island’s elementry schools about the importance of conservation to the future of the fishery and the work being done to support and enhance that fishery. As a bonus, all the students who take part receive a fishing rod encouraging them to take up the sport of fishing.

Margaret Stringer, a Manitoulin Island trustee on the Rainbow District Board of Education, was on hand for the tour last Wednesday (with Superintendent Lesley Fisher joining students on Thursday morning) and told The Expositor, “I have to begin by sending out a sincere thank you to all the volunteers with Little Current Fish and Game Club and Manitoulin Streams! They are very knowledgeable and dedicated groups which give so much of their time to their community, and we are so lucky to have them.”

“Since 2005, this event has been teaching our Grade 4 students about fish conservation and environmental stewardship. It is definitely a highlight in our Grade 4 student education each year, a day which they eagerly look forward to,” said Ms. Stringer.

“The day provided our students with a rich, hands-on learning experience, one that meshes well with the Grade 4 provincial curriculum on habitats and communities,” continued Ms. Stringer. “But more importantly, the lessons learned today are likely to stay with these young people in the long term while also allowing them to see they can indeed make a difference in this world.”