Suzzette Wilson’s fifth grade class sits at the edge of the city’s Urban Fish Hatchery pond surrounded by city officials. The day has come to release a homegrown batch of trout into the world.
Last September, Fremont Elementary School in Sandy started a program in conjunction with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. The YMCA Trout Unlimited program teaches kids the biology of aquatic life through a hands-on approach. The children have been feeding the fish and watching them grow since they first hatched from eggs.
Sandy City Chief Administrative Officer Byron Jorgenson spoke to Wilson’s class at a park shelter near the hatchery. He explained the purpose of the land the young ones would be contributing to.
“We have tried hard to create a great recreational experience for the families here in Sandy,” he said. “This place was built for people to come, be mellow and find the peace and beautiful feelings that come to you from being in the outdoors.”
Jorgenson also expressed his gratitude to the children for being dedicated to raising the fish to be added to the hatchery. He encouraged the class to take up fishing and noted that the class contribution would allow more people to do so.
Looking down at the kids sitting with their legs folded on the grass, he smiled and said, “I hope your fish are happy here! And I hope that you can come and be happy here with them.”
Though the pond allows for families to fish, Parks and Recreation Director Scott Earl explained that many of the fish are protected in a habitat area surrounded by fencing. The 13-foot-deep pond engulfed by reeds allows for trout to spawn and repopulate each year. The two-acre fishing area receives water via a pump, which then sends the water into neighboring wetlands before finally being reintroduced into the Jordan River.
Earl excited the class by explaining what the kids may find in the park area. “As you walk around, pay attention to the wildlife around you. We have spotted deer, elk, frogs, toads and birds here,” he said.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources was particularly invested in helping the youth learn about fish in order to build habits of environmental responsibility early on. Division of Wildlife representative Michael Slater explained that shipments of catfish and rainbow trout arrive every week and it makes him even more excited to see the fifth graders helping out with building the fish population.
“We wanted to be a part of this program to build awareness about illegal introduction of pets into ponds … raising and releasing fish should occur in a controlled environment, and that’s what we wanted to stress,” Slater said.
The program is set to spread to other elementary schools in the coming fall school year, and Wilson believes the program will continue to be a success.
“It’s a great program. It helps the kids see there is a bigger world out there, and if they care about it, they will protect it,” Slater said.
Utah residents are encouraged to remember that June 7 is free fishing day in the state. All are free to fish without purchasing a license for one day only.