Vaughn Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Doug Smith led a large gathering of students to Vaughn Creek, where the kids carefully released tiny salmon fry in the chilly waters to begin their growth and eventual journey to the Pacific Ocean.
This year’s release had to be moved up several days because the cooling apparatus in the aquarium where the salmon develop malfunctioned.
“The water was too warm for them,” Smith said. “They were dying.”
Smith reported about 60 students between his class and Ann Puckett’s fourth-grade class released some 200 salmon into Vaughn Creek on a Friday morning in mid-February.
“We released them on James Bosch’s property,” Smith said. “He is wonderful. He gives everyone ice cream to thank them for releasing salmon.”
The students learned about a salmon’s life cycle, habitat, prey and predators by reading books about them.
Fourth-grader Lucas Blanchette thought the best thing was letting the salmon out.
“We walked all the way (from the school) to the stream, and I named one of them Mr. Smith and one Mr. George and one is Eel,” he said.
Classmate Blaine Monson thought the best thing was learning how the salmon come back to the area from which they were released.
“There was not much silt in the water,” Monson said. “If you do not know what silt is, it’s like being in a sandstorm, but with fish.”
Drew Hook learned salmon can live in a fish tank for two months before they start to jump out of the tank.
“It’s great they do not have to live in the tank anymore,” he said.
To Olivia Gehrke, “releasing the salmon and watching them swim away into their new habitat was the best thing.”
She also learned that eels are a salmon’s predator.
Moriah Redford thought the best thing was watching the salmon swim in one group and start swimming up stream.
“Salmon always find their way back to where they grew up,” Nolan Littleton said. “It’s amazing to swim thousands of miles and come right back to where you were born.”
Kody Young liked learning about the salmon’s life cycle: egg, alevin, fry, smolt, adult and spawning.
And Natalie Langhelm thought the best thing was watching the salmon hatch.
“I liked this because they wiggled around, and suddenly they pop out, and their egg cases were left behind, floating in the aquarium,” Langhelm said.
Chayse Ferencik liked releasing the salmon with his friends and watching the salmon go upstream. Jane Oliveira liked watching the salmon grow.
“We’re going to wait for the life cycle to restart,” Oliveira said.
“When I released the salmon,” Alexis Moore said, “I watched mine swim. I called her Ramona.”
Shaun Madlinger and Aiyanaa Burke liked releasing the salmon and watching them swim.
Kassidy Young thought the best thing was naming the salmon Running Brook and Whiskers. Avery Tillotson named his salmon Kirby.
“I learned about the dangers that salmon face,” Young said. “I learned most of this in a book.”
Javier Macias also liked naming the salmon, and Rachel Aspee liked watching them hatch, grow up and swim away.
“I learned that they start out as eggs, then babies called alevins, then they turn into fry, then smolt, adults, and then spawning salmon,” Aspee said.
Joey Cusick enjoyed watching them break loose from their eggs.
“I liked learning that salmon need oxygen, and they use gills to breathe,” Cusick said.
Kyre’e Peralez learning there can be 5,000 eggs in a redd, a salmon’s nest.
Kenneth O’Toole found out salmon can change color when they come back from the ocean, and Cassie Stephens helped gently pour the salmon into the creek.
Interested in learning more about salmon? Call Doug Smith at 253-530-4700. He also happens to be a licensed veterinarian.
Hugh McMillan is a longtime freelance writer for The Peninsula Gateway. He can be reached at 253-884-3319 or by email at email@example.com.