Monday, April 29, 2019

1,200 More Reasons to be Excited About Restoration & Scientific Research

Nate Stott of BGSU and Laura Kubiak of TPS prep to release bags of ~300 early fingerling northern pike into a 1,200-gal
aquaculture tank that was generously donated to Toledo Public Schools and Laura's lab by Castalia Trout Club;
Standing Rush facilitated a site visit to tour the Club's hatchery and rearing house last fall so students could better
appreciate the operation and where their new aquaculture system was coming from

Call it foreshadowing, but the cover article of the most recent Ohio Outdoor News that Standing Rush was featured in (see below) was entitled "Spring Prime Time for Pike" -- we couldn't agree more. That's why we are once again teaming with Toledo Public Schools NSTC (Natural Science Technology Center), the ODNR Division of Wildlife, and the NJDEP Division of Fish & Wildlife to raise fingerling northern pike for release into the marsh.

One of ~1,200 four-week-old northern pike hatched in
Hackettstown, NJ and delivered to TPS'
Natural Science Technology Center last Thursday
You can read all about last year's inaugural efforts by visiting historical posts. While last spring was a resounding success in its own right, we felt compelled to make a few noteworthy modifications to this year's methodology. The first, and the most significant, is the addition of another foundational partner: Bowling Green State University's Department of Biological Sciences.

As it so happens, BGSU's fisheries lab (which I was a participant in 20 years ago) has a graduate student by the name of Nate Stott who happens to be concentrating his research on the reproduction and early stage development of northern pike in the Western Basin of Lake Erie. He is through his Master's but as we've gotten to know each other more, we've mutually determined that it makes sense to utilize Standing Rush for his doctoral research over the next two to three years.

A related modification from last year is that Nate plans to tag each individual pike (a process that does not harm the fish in any way) in the hope that a subset can be recaptured in the marsh after they are released into the wild. This will both further Nate's research and give us a better understanding of broader fish usage (beyond this single species) on the property. All involved are excited about what can be learned from these future field efforts. (I plan to elaborate on Nate's research in a future post.)

A final key modification from last year is the quantity of fish we plan to raise for release. In 2018, we started with ~225 individuals with a goal of releasing at least 100 advanced fingerlings (5-6" in length). In 2019, we are starting with more like 1,200 individuals with a lofty goal of releasing as close to 1,000 fish as possible. Not only are we starting with significantly MORE fish as compared to last year, we are also starting with significantly SMALLER fish . . . ~2" on average as opposed to ~4" on average. (Much of this size disparity has to do with a delayed spring in New Jersey this past February/March.) The goal will again be to "grow" these tiny predatory fish as much as possible between now and late May/early June -- getting them to eat as much as possible without eating each other! This year, both Nate and I will be interacting closely with the high school students. The idea is to have them take ownership in the project so that it really means something to them when they see the fish released into the wild.

An overview of the young northern pikes' new home -- at least for the next month or so -- at TPS' NSTC lab/classroom

Approximately 300 fingerling northern pike being moved from their transport cooler
(where they spent about 10 hours in the bed of a truck); aeration kept the small fish
healthy until they could be acclimated and released into their new home in TPS' lab

Completion of a critical first step -- the last of the newly arrived northern pike are added to their new surroundings at TPS