BIDWELL—Manitoulin Streams hosted the 9th annual brook trout stocking event with students from Pontiac School and Central Manitoulin Public School (CMPS) earlier this month.
The Grade 4 Pontiac School students and Grades 6 and 7 CMPS students visited the Hutton Farm in Bidwell and Norton’s Creek, learning first hand about stream restoration, aquatic habitat, fish lifecycle and fish stocking.
Manitoulin Streams Project Coordinator Seija Deschenes began the day by teaching the students about the history of Norton’s Creek and the work done to restore it. The students also learned about fish stocking and how to use eye droppers to plant brook trout eyed-eggs into ‘Scotty boxes’ that would later be planted in the stream bed just up the road at Norton’s Creek.
As the students worked on inserting the 10,000 brook trout eyed-eggs into the Scotty boxes, retired Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry biologist Bob Florean explained the history of the project.
He noted that the fish eggs were supplied by the MNRF’s Hills Lake Englehart hatchery.
“Norton’s Creek’s natural population of brook trout had dropped over the years,” explained Mr. Florean. “The creek habitat couldn’t support other species either. The late Bob Hutton purchased the upper portion of property on Norton’s Creek and in 2008 asked Manitoulin Streams to work with him to revitalize it.”
Work was done to restrict livestock from the stream, restore the banks, create aquatic substrate habitat, create spawning grounds and plant vegetation to provide shade—to name just a few of the elements done to improve the stream as part of phase one of the project. Further work was done in 2009 as phase two of the Norton’s Creek project.
In 2009 the brook trout planting program started bringing students out to participate and learn about the importance of conservation and stream habitat rehabilitation.
This reporter was able to get her hands ‘dirty’ and help insert the eggs while learning more about the process.
Each of the egg chambers in the Scotty box have small holes at each end to allow the cold fresh water of the stream to flow through the chamber. Once the eggs hatch, in late February, the tiny fry can swim out of the holes and into Norton’s Creek. The placement of the block-shaped Scotty boxes is critical, explained Mr. Florean, as they must be located in sufficient water flow to keep the eggs healthy and with the escape holes for the fry located at the bottom so that any sand or silt that drifts in on the current falls out through the hole instead of blocking the exit.
Once the boxes are loaded with eggs they were placed in coolers, ready for transport to Norton’s Creek.
“This is really cool and fun,” said Journey, a Grade 4 Pontiac School student. “It’s hard to fill up a whole tray by myself, but I can do it. My family fishes so it is cool learning about the other side of things.”
After a warm lunch, hot chocolate and treats prepared by volunteers Les and Delmer Fields, Alice and Burke Pennie and Sue Moggy, the students boarded their buses and headed to the creek.
Mr. Florean climbed into the creek in waders and moving rocks, showed the students invertebrates and other creatures that live below the surface.
He also showed the students how the Scotty boxes are installed in the creek.
The students were also able to enjoy the outdoor classroom that was built at the edge of the creek with a memorial plaque to commemorate the contributions of Bob Hutton.