Island students get reel takeaways from Sheg hatchery visit

Students from Little Current Public School, Lakeview School and Assiginack Public School take a close look at walleye, and other species, caught via hoop net especially for the schools’ visit to the Little Current Fish and Game Club’s walleye hatchery in Sheguiandah. photos by Warren Schlote

SHEGUIANDAH – Grade 4 students from across Manitoulin Island got to see first-hand some of the work that Island fish and game clubs perform in conjunction with Manitoulin Streams Improvement Association (MSIA) to increase the health of the region’s aquatic ecosystems.

“We’re trying to impress upon them the importance of conservation and give them an educational experience they’ll remember for a long time,” said Little Current and District Fish and Game Club (LCFGC) president Bill Strain.

The club has been running this event in partnership with MSIA since 2005 and has operated the Sheguiandah fish hatchery since 1986. 

“We started with one school, Little Current, and it seems like we added one more school every year,” said Mr. Strain.

Now, nearly all of the elementary schools on Manitoulin—Little Current Public School, Assiginack Public School, Central Manitoulin Public School, Lakeview School, Pontiac School and Charles C. McLean Public School—take part in this annual event with their Grade 4 classes. Only Sheshegwaning’s St. Joseph’s School has yet to join the group.

To begin the morning, Mr. Strain showed the students a hoop net that is used to capture live fish so they can be assessed. LCFGC members had used a similar unit in the stream earlier that morning to gather fish from the stream and place them in a tank so the children could view some of the species native to the area.

Ray Beaudry

Club member Ray Beaudry said that they had only captured male walleye in the net—water temperatures were still a couple of degrees shy of the mark at which they come into the streams. On that day they had brought in a 28-inch walleye alongside some perch, a pike, a sucker and a bowfin. The previous day, their chart-topping walleye spanned some 30 inches.

After getting an up-close look at the fish species, the students headed toward MSIA program manager Seija Deschenes who called upon the help of three students to demonstrate the construction of a bass nest. She said her favourite part of this event is the reactions of students when they see and touch the fish up close in the tanks.

“I like watching the kids’ eyes when they see the fish first thing in the morning. They get to see different kinds of fish that they might not get a chance to see otherwise and you can really see the excitement in their eyes,” she said.

There were a number of stations throughout the grounds at which the students learned something new about many aspects of the environment. LCFGC member Dave Marshall led a session on the many aquatic and terrestrial animals that call Manitoulin home, Ms. Deschenes informed the students of the kinds of work MSIA performs, LCFGC member John Diebel led a river walk to show students the fish ladder they had created in collaboration with MSIA, Mr. Strain showed students inside the walleye hatchery building, MSIA’s Sue Meert showed students some of the many insects and invertebrates living in the waters around Manitoulin and LCFGC member Bill Caesar flaunted a few fascinating fossils that are firmly fixed in the folds of limestone that make up Manitoulin Island.

“This is a great way for kids to spend the day outside of their classroom and getting a hands-on experience while learning what’s happening in their community,” said Ms. Deschenes.

Lakeview School Grade 4 teacher Kristen Gammie agreed that this was indeed an informative and hands-on opportunity.

“They really had a variety of things for the students, like the river walk and the slideshow presentation, and the station with the insects. The students really enjoyed it,” she said.

This was Ms. Gammie’s first time taking part in this event since becoming the Grade 4 teacher this year, and said the event connected well with the curriculum.

“Our kids are learning about habitats and communities; through this event they’re seeing habitats first-hand and are taking an interest in them,” she said.

A special moment at this year’s event was when Larry Killens, who has been involved in ecological initiatives for years, was awarded a certificate of appreciation from the LCFGC.

“He’s always been a big supporter and we wanted to show our appreciation for all his support over the years,” said Mr. Strain.