Salmon study ends with release

Granger students put fingerlings into Yakima River watershed

Tiffany Bishop, of the Yakima Basin Environmental Education Program, hands a student a fingerling to release into the Yakima River.

Photo by Ted Escobar
Tiffany Bishop, of the Yakima Basin Environmental Education Program, hands a student a fingerling to release into the Yakima River.

— Seventh-graders from Granger Middle School finished off a year of hands-on study of salmon and their life cycle by releasing fingerlings they hatched and raised into the Yakima River yesterday, May 9.

The release was done at the Horse Heaven Farm on the river in Green Valley. Co-owner Merrit Mitchell-Wajeeh of the 90-acre layout with more than a mile of river bank is the key figure in the study.


Horse Heaven Farm co-owner Merrit Mitchell-Wajeeh gives the Granger students instructions before heading to the river to release their fingerlings.

Mitchell-Wajeeh lends her farm to the program through Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group and Yakima Basin Environmental Education Program. She visits the school and hosts the students on the farm.

The students started the project after arriving for the school year last fall. By the time of the release, they had about 100 fingerlings, or just enough so that each student could release one.

Tiffany Bishop, of the Yakima Basin Environmental, helped the students by taking their fingerlings out of a bucket of clear water in a plastic cup with clear water.

Then they got down low, and let their fingerlings go as close to the water’s surface possible.

In the process, students learned that salmon habitat is a different reality than the classroom.

The fingerlings went from clear water to trashy, muddy, murky water in that instant.

“Where did it go?” asked Daniel Guardado, the first student to release a fish.


Daily Sun news

Granger student Daniel Guardado was the first student to release a fingerling into the Yakima River.

No one could tell where it went, but they did know where the fingerlings are supposed to go.

In addition to the release, students reviewed what they had learned about salmon at different teaching stations set up at the release site.

Their final answer was that the fingerlings will go down river from here in the rushing spring water of the Yakima River, make a right turn at the Columbia River, and then turn right again to the north Pacific Ocean to live most of their lives.

If they avoid fishing poles, natural predators and manmade obstacles while getting fat, the fingerlings will return in five years to the Yakima, spawn and start the salmon life cycle again and die.

“The salmon-in-the-classroom program provides students with a very real connection to the river and the habitat it provides,” said Margaret Neumann, executive director of Mid-Columbia.

“As students prepare to release the fish they have reared, they gain a better understanding of the complex river system, from the headwaters to the ocean,” she added.


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