Dozens of children formed a bucket brigade at Collins Lake on Thursday and helped transport juvenile rainbow trout from trucks to fish pens as part of the annual trout net pen program.
The November event typically sees school kids participate during field trips, but because of distance learning this year the participating children were brought by their parents.
Jacob Young, assistant manager of Collins Lake Recreation Area, said their annual event is one of the last fall fish plants they do every year before winter. About 50 children helped in the effort this year.
“The kids get to be hands on with the fish. Getting that up close and personal, unless they’ve been fishing or something, many of them have never been that close to fish,” he said. “It’s also an educational process because we get to tell them what we do with these fish during the winter and they get to ask questions, so we are able to educate them and their parents.”
In total, approximately 2,400 pounds of trout will be stored in a dozen pens at the lake.
Each fish weighs up to three-quarters of a pound when first placed in the pens. By next spring, they’ll weigh closer to 2.5 pounds when they are released into the lake.
“Our plants are coming from the hatchery, so placing them in the pens allows them to better acclimate to the environment, which ultimately makes them stronger and healthier,” Young said.
His favorite part of the annual event is getting to see the reaction on the kids’ faces.
“They get so excited and have great enthusiasm to do it. Our staff could do it ourselves, but it’s nice to let the energy of the 5-8 year old kids help in that process,” Young said. “Seeing that excitement is the best part, and also their parents get enjoyment out of that too seeing their kids get this experience.”
Young said it’s a joint effort every year, with Collins Lake crews caring for the fish, the Department of Fish and Wildlife supplying the fish, and organizations like the California Inland Fisheries Foundation, Inc. and Kokanee Power providing support for fish food.
The trout will continue to grow in the pens over the next 4-5 months before being released in the spring. Young said some of the fishermen he’s talked to lately have been catching 5-7 pound rainbow trout out of the lake, and some have reported landing a 12 pounder.
“These past couple weeks we’ve seen a ton of trout activity, so it’s great to see these healthy fish and also the quantity,” Young said. “So, people looking for some outdoor recreation, we still have great fishing right now and that will continue until the winter weather moves in.”