Adopted trout release

Posted: September 19, 2013

The Winchester Star

Young brook trout swim in a tank at the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum. The museum and the Winchester chapter of Trout Unlimited are raising the trout to be released in local streams. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)
Daryl Bell (left), Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum lead museum educator, shows the almost year-old brook trout to Mark Zimmerman, Trout in Classroom coordinator for Winchester Trout Unlimited. The museum and the chapter are raising fish to be released into local streams. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)

Winchester — Redbud Run will receive a sizeable influx of wildlife this week thanks to an Adopt a Trout program at the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum.

About 75 to 100 tank-raised brook trout will be released into the wild at 4 p.m. Friday as part of the museum’s participation in the Trout in the Classroom program, said Daryl Bell, lead museum educator.

Participating in the program adds an environmental component to the museum’s educational offerings, Bell said. It is one of two live animal displays at the museum, the other being a snake. “Kids gravitate toward things that are alive.”

The event is open to the public, but only those who have adopted a fish may help release them, he said. However, people can adopt a fish for $10 through the week and onsite at the release. Proceeds benefit the museum.

“We have 15 adopted this year, so we still have at least 60 more fish to be adopted,” he said.

Participants will gather in the parking lot of the Winchester Third Battlefield off of Redbud Road before heading to an upper section of the creek in Frederick County.

The local Trout in the Classroom program is run by Winchester Trout Unlimited, which is dedicated to the conservation and enhancement of Virginia’s cold-water fisheries, and to the education of today’s and tomorrow’s fishers, said Mark Zimmerman, the program coordinator. The program is now in its eighth year.

The group sets up tanks in different locations, which costs about $1,000, and gives them the items needed to feed and maintain the fish, which costs about $50 a year per tank, he said.

The cost of the tank and equipment can either be paid for by the organization, the school, or in the case of the museum, split 50-50. Zimmerman wants to expand the program further, but that takes either grants or donations, he said.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries donates a new batch of fertilized eggs every October, and students, or in this case museum staff, maintain it and use it for learning opportunities for the youth, he said.

The museum’s tank is one of 19 the organization has installed as part of the conservation program for youth, Zimmerman said. The other tanks are at regional elementary, middle, and high schools, including Powhatan School in Boyce.

Throughout the year, students, educators and staff raise trout from eggs to fry, monitor tank water quality, engage in stream habitat study, learn to appreciate water resources, begin to foster a conservation ethic, and grow to understand ecosystems.

In the future, Bell wants more educational programs surrounding the tank at the museum. He wants children to understand why it is important the trout are being raised and show what they can reveal about the environment.

He plans to work with Zimmerman to “offer on-the-spot programming and dedicated programming” to better use the tank as a learning tool. “The goal is to have a program that will keep going and evolve into a real educational opportunity for the community.”

Because of the school calendar, the schools release their trout in May, said Zimmerman, of Winchester. That means they are much smaller than the ones that will be released Friday by the Discovery Museum.

“The ones we release in May, if they get up to 2 or 3 inches, that’s big,” he said. “Some of these are close to 5 inches.”

During the release, Mark “Mr. Mark” Lawson will sing a trout release song he composed using the music of a popular song, Bell said.

The fish are transported to the creek in 5-gallon buckets using portable aerators to make sure the water is well oxygenated, Zimmerman said. They usually try to acclimate the fish by adding creek water gradually before releasing them.

Once the fish have acclimated, participants can use a scoop, put the fish in the water, and “watch them swim around,” he said. “The best part is seeing the kids who participate get so excited about putting the fish in the stream. It is a fantastic teachable moment.”


For more information about the Trout in the Classroom program, contact Zimmerman at 540-247-8721 or

To adopt a fish at the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum for $10, contact Bell at 540-722-2020 or

— Contact Laura McFarland at