The sun was out and the Meikle Water was flat as a mill pond when the day had come to release the trout alevins hatched in the school shed between February and April.
Jamie was in charge of “Troot in the Shed” this year and he managed to successfully run the project with minimal loss! The eggs and fry were checked on a daily basis as it is critical to remove any casualties from the tank before the water quality starts degrading. The simple set-up we have in school doesn’t allow us to feed the fry once their yolk-sacs have been reabsorbed, so they need to be released without delay.
However, one can ‘t just hatch any fish and release them in the wild… We have to go through a very strict application process and submit our paperwork to Marine Scotland who will consider several criteria such as the species and size of fish, the origin of the broodstock, the receiving water, etc… If Marine Scotland consider the introduction as safe, we get issued with a « stocking consent » which allows us to proceed.
So, with the « stocking consent » in the bag, Jamie, John and Mr Pietri walked to the loch on the last day of term and carefully released about a hundred unfed fry into the Meikle Water. Mrs Rose had generously provided us with fine mesh nets and trays to sample the bottom of the loch for invertebrates and mollusks which the trout might come to feed on at some point… Food was scarce, so early in the season, but there’s no doubt the fry will grow into very healthy brown trout!
There were non-competition trips on the previous 2 days. Despite the difficult, very sunny, light wind conditions, some good fish were caught, including a 17 oz brown trout and a couple of sea trout weighing 9oz and 23oz.
On the competition day, the forecast light SE wind and cloudy sky didn’t occur and instead it was sunny again, with the wind freshening and veering to SSW. The young anglers therefore had to cope with casting into the wind on the lee shore. The trout were much less active than on the previous 2 days and were far out from the shore.
Reece Lowe won the Junior Bait section and the Bobby Windwick cup with 2 trout weighing 14.4oz. Ade Sclater came second with a trout weighing 9.4oz.
The Senior Bait section and Orkneyinga cup were won by Brian Elder, who weighed in 2 trout totalling 1 lb 3oz. Liam Barnett was second with a 6oz trout caught on fly and bubble (allowed in the bait section). Brian was also presented with the W Shearer cup as he had the largest fish, weighing 12.9oz.
No fish were caught on fly lines and the WS Sinclair cup was therefore not claimed.
All the competitors received prizes or gifts donated by WS Sinclair and Stockans. W Shearer provided discounted packs of floats, hooks and worms for the young anglers.
KGS Depute Head Neil Ewing organised and supervised the 3 days of angling. KGS staff Andy Torbet, Simon Hall, Kay Hume, Joe McCall, David Fletcher and Gemma Harcus gave assistance to the young anglers and helped at the weigh in.
Although they didn’t all catch fish, the KGS pupils all worked hard at developing their angling skills and are now much more proficient at assembling tackle, tying knots and especially casting. Perhaps some of their parents or relatives will take them on angling trips to Kirbister or other lochs, when the weather conditions are more favourable.
As explained in previous posts, the Sanday mini-hatchery was, this year, subjected to the vagaries of the Orcadian winter and boy, wasn’t it an interesting one…
By early-March the floating basket containing the ova became encased in 6in. of ice for a few days! This doesn’t sound too unusual for many parts of the country but Orkney winters tend to be much milder as can be seen on the graphs below:
By the time the thaw came, nobody was expecting the fragile trout eggs to have survived the freezing conditions! However, we had underestimated their resilience and forgotten that brown trout did thrive in Britain through the various ice ages when they certainly would have been confronted to much nastier weather conditions! This was a very pleasant surprise and during the weeks which followed, the alevins reabsorbed their yolk sacs and were ready to be released in the wild by the end of April, nearly a month later than in the previous years.
As we were by the Bea Loch in early spring, it was a good opportunity to do a bit of “kick sampling” with fine mesh nets and find out what our trout would be feeding in the years to come. The pupils caught huge amounts of freshwater shrimps (Gammarus), water boatmen (Corixa) and even a stickleback, which shows how rich those North Isles lochs are!
Here’s a short video filmed by the pupils showing a typical routine check of our mini brown trout hatchery: water temperature reading, removal of dead ova, solar pump check, water level, etc…
The mini hatchery is located outside and submitted to the changing weather conditions as opposed to the Stronsay set-up,located in a shed at a more constant temperature. This explains why, the Stronsay ova have all hatched by now whereas they haven’t started yet on Sanday.
Johnny and Jamie noticed today (22/02) that there seemed to be less and less ova visible on the mesh tray in the tank… We discovered why just before dinner when we realised that they had all pretty much hatched and found their way under stones and gravel just like they would in the wild, to keep away from predators and strong currents.
The boys used a small waterproof action-camera to record the first moments of those little trout’s lives! It was a good opportunity for them to learn how to use Movie Maker and edit their video clips.
Here’s the one that Johnny made earlier…
This is a short video of the mini-hatchery set-up at the Stronsay School:
I’m glad to say that our mini-hatchery project is back at the Stronsay School for the 7th year! For this session, most of the supervision and maintenance of the ova will be covered by Jamie and Johnny; they also attend the AFYD (Angling For Youth Development) classes and their interest and expertise in “trouty” matters will insure the project is a success!
The fertilised ova were delivered last week and so far, only 3 dead eggs have been removed. They were probably ova which became damaged during collection at the hatchery or even during transport in the thermos flask on-board the Loganair Islander during a particularly bumpy flight last Friday!
The set-up for our hatchery remains very similar to the one used in the previous years (dark shed with no heating source). However, the old hand-made tank gave up the ghost at the end of the 2016 session and we are very grateful to the Stronsay Development Trust for funding a replacement for our equipment (new tank, pumps and nets).
More photos and posts to come as the ova develop…