Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Kokanee Spawning Saturday in September

How did you spend your Saturday?  Mine was spent watching Kokanee spawn.
September is my favorite time of year in Central Oregon.  It's the one time of year you can stand on the riverbank and watch Kokanee spawn in inches of water just a few feet away.  In case you didn't know, Kokanee are landlocked Sockeye Salmon.  Watching the fish spawn is amazing and if you've ever witnessed it, you'll want to watch this incredible event every year.

This is a perfect time to connect curriculum like watersheds, habitats, food chains and food webs, life cycle, and water quality to real life.

I've been fortunate to be connected with the program called the Kokanee Karnival. Local fishing club volunteers in conjunction with our Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Deschutes National Forest (among others),  developed a program that teaches local students about this precious resource.  Each year, my students participated in a year of fish-related activities.

In the fall, students took a field trip and spent the day watching Kokanee spawn in the wild, and then participated in three stations called the Incredible Journey (life cycle), Nature's Restaurant (food chains), and the Comforts of Home (habitat).  They also visited a fish hatchery and learned how the fish are raiseded for release into lakes, rivers, and streams.

Also in the fall (or sometimes spring), we incubated Rainbow Trout in the classroom and released them.  Students observed progress, journaled, recorded data, and drew sketches as the fish grew from eyed egg stage to fry to smolt.  Students measured the water temperature and pH an calculatde the temperature units needed for the fish to grow.  We read stories, watched educational videos, learned about man's impact upon the fish, and watched for current events involving fish.

Spring brought the Angling Clinic, where students participated in an Angler Education program an attended a culminating event where they learned at stations about water safety, fish anatomy, knot tying, what's in a tackle box, and learned about ethics and rules.  In the afternoon, students got to go fishing with a mentor volunteer in a pond that had been stocked with hundreds of Rainbow Trout just for this event.  For many students, it was their first experience fishing and possibly they start of a lifelong hobby.

Also in the spring student teams dissect a salmon or trout and identify all of the body organs.  This is another highlight of the year and the excitement in the air is contagious.

Students loved learning and remember their year of fish-related studies.  For me, I love the Saturdays I get to spend watching Kokanee spawn in September.


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