Hands-On Trip Gets Kids Excited about Fish Conservation

Article excerpt

Byline: Ed Muniz Daily Herald Community Sports Writer

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CORRECTION/date 05-30-2002: To correct a misspelling that appeared in some April 18 and 24 editions, this photograph and caption are being reprinted: Taylor Schoebel, from left, Katie McHugh, Mellissa Johnson and Kaela Sennett all sixth-graders at Edison Middle School in Wheaton, clip fins on

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If you ever get the urge to go fishing and need a buddy to tag along, call on Edison Middle School's fishing club and ask for Science teacher Greg Gills or one of his 40 or so other a-fish- ionados.

The Fishing Club began in 1999 as teachers Gills and Mark Stankus wanted to find ways to get their students involved not only in fishing but also in giving back to the environment.

"We started with a trip up to the Root River after Mark suggested we go up for the salmon run in Racine (Wis.) Well I thought he was out of mind," said Gills.

After some convincing and reassurance from Stankus, the 14-car caravan made its way up to Racine. Upon arrival, the Edison group was given a tour of the Weir, a salmon processing facility, and it was there that they were introduced to Salmon Unlimited, a conservation group that works with various states' fish and wildlife programs.

"After we were told about Salmon Unlimited, Mark and I made some calls, and the people at SU agreed to come and do a salmon fishing program at our school. That's where we found out about other ways of helping in the fish conservation program at the Jake Wolf Fish Hatchery in Menito Ill."

SU volunteers explained how each year they clip a fin on various species of fish that are raised at the hatchery for identification. They mark 90% of all the fish released in Illinois waters.

The clipping is done to help sports fishermen identify which year the fish were from, and each species has a different fin done before being released into lakes throughout Illinois, including Lake Michigan.

After learning of the fin clipping project, Edison Fishing Club contacted the JWF and scheduled a field trip to the hatchery. Gills and Stankus explained the seriousness of the project and the students were excited about contributing their part.

The JWF welcomed the Edison group and after a tour given to all schools, the kids were led to the clipping area. To the staff's amazement, after 3 hours of clipping, the Edison students had clipped nearly 15,000 fish. They had only expected to mark 2,000.

This isn't your typical school field trip. The JWF saw the effort Edison students put forth and welcomed them back in 2001. This time they clipped 25,000 fish, again surpassing all expectations.

This year the JWF had set aside the state's entire Rainbow Trout clip, 50,000 fish, for the Edison students. …