The channel catfish going into Glade Run Lake this Saturday won’t be quite this big, yet. But they could lead to good fishing down the line.
The trout stocked at Glade Run Lake in Butler County on Saturday will likely get the most immediate attention.
But don’t overlook the channel catfish.
Somewhere around 200 of them are going into the lake, too. But it’s their journey there that’s special.
The fish — an increasingly popular species with anglers — were raised over the past year by seventh and eighth grade students from Butler Intermediate High School.
Science teacher David Andrews has had a “Trout in the Classroom” program for years. Students raise brook trout from fingerlings over the course of the school year, in an aquarium in his room, and release them in the spring.
That program continues.
This year, though, the school bought a 300-gallon re-circulating tank to raise catfish, too.
The fish were provided last October by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. They measured 1.5 to 2 inches then.
When they’re stocked in Lade Run Lake, they’ll measure 4 to 5 inches.
“They’re kind of slow growing in the winter. But we pretty much doubled their size,” Andrews said.
Virtually all his students participate in raising the fish. His regular classes visit the tank once a week or so.
Another 40 students in the school’s enrichment studies program – for those who get good grades and apply for inclusion – helped on a more daily basis.
“They’re sort of my worker bees,” Andrews said. “They do a lot of the stuff I need done.”
It’s been a learning experience for all.
Andrews had a few brief conversations with teachers elsewhere who have done something similar. But most of the past year’s work has been trial and error.
It’s been largely successful, and full of lessons.
Students use the waste water from the tank to support the greenhouse’s plants, both those growing in soil and hydroponically, so there’s recycling involved. They’ve seen life and death, too, as some fish have perished. And they’ve learned to adapt.
The greenhouse’s direct sunlight – which all expected to be only a good thing – lead to some algae blooming in the tank. That’s behind a decision to move the tank to the school basement next year.
But it’s all been good for the students, Andrews said. Even if it’s a lot of work.
“It’s that hands-on thing. You can look at all this stuff in books and papers and worksheets, but to actually be able to see those fish swimming, it opens up the lessons in ways they normally might not get,” he said.
“It’s a pretty large commitment. But it’s something different for the kids and they seem to like it.”
And Saturday will be a celebration of all that.
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Glade Run Lake – located on Lake Road in Valencia – will host a family fishing day.
The catfish release will kick things off. Andrews and the commission will do a little presentation on the student program at 10, with the fish released into the lake around 10:30.
At 11 commission staff will give a presentation on fishing fundamentals for families interested in learning to fish. Trout will be stocked at noon.
Then, from noon to 4, families who register can fish – on a catch and release basis – without adults first having to get a fishing license.
There will be other activities, too. Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania will lead a bird identification walk at 12:30, while Butler County Conservation District will run a macroinvertebrate identification station throughout the day.
Other conservation groups will be on hand, as well.
But the catfish effort will be something special.
All of the fish are being fin clipped before release. That’s so that, later, as anglers catch the fish, they can potentially report their catches to the commission.
That will tell how many fish survive and grow to catchable size.
And no matter what, students will know they had a hand in restoring and improving the fishery in a waterway close to home, that they themselves can use.
“They have some ownership,” Andrews said. “And I think that’s one of the biggest things with kids these days, is trying to get them to take a little bit of ownership in their future and things that are happening.”