LENOX -- Readers may recall that the Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Egg Rearing Project (ASERP) ended last year. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided to no longer fund it, and the affected New England States' Fish and Wildlife Agencies could not absorb the cost to maintain it.

When the salmon program ended, so did the ASERP school programs. The faculty of the Becket Washington Elementary School felt that this program was too valuable an education program to end. In lieu of salmon, they switched to raising brown trout. Like the salmon program, the third and fourth graders received the eggs from the MassWildlife Reed Hatchery, hatched them out in their aquarium, fed them and released them into the nearby Yokum Brook on May 29.

They had received 80 eggs in the spring and, according to teachers Mary Kay McCloskey and Patty Robie, there was a very low mortality rate. The trout averaged around 2 inches long when they were released. Many of the fish were given names, like Elvis III, Airiana, Wink and Pete. Unlike Atlantic salmon, which migrate to the sea after a couple of years, these fish will stay and grow in Yokum Brook or swim downstream to the nearby West Branch of the Westfield River.

Hats off to the school, teachers and principal Leslie Blake Davis for continuing this program and exposing the children to the fish and their environs. Unquestionably, there was additional work running this program, but they enjoy doing it. For example, Robie received a Berkshire County Teacher of the Year Award this year and received a small stipend which she used to buy more boots for the kids.

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Incidentally, returning adult sea-run Atlantic salmon are being tagged and released at all fishway/trap facilities. If a tagged salmon is caught while fishing, you must release it immediately unharmed. You are asked to call (413) 548-9138, ext. 121, as indicated on the yellow streamer tag below the dorsal fin, to provide information on the event. Please do not remove the fish's tag. As of June 5, 19 of them have returned to the Connecticut River.

The estimated total of all anadromous fish that returned this year will be covered in a future article, as soon as the final tally is made.

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While the Becket-Washington students were busy raising and releasing the trout, students from Taconic High School were learning how to catch them with a fly rod and how to release them unharmed. Don't worry, those Becket-Washington trout are too smart to be caught. After all, they went to school.

Taconic teacher Ron Wojcik conducts an after school fly fishing class. The course includes fly casting, fishing knots, entomology, ethics and good sportsmanship. At the end of the course, he and his wife Diane fed the kids pizza, cookies and soft drinks before taking them fishing at a private pond. Five students were able to participate: Michael Boc, Adam Delphia, Joe Kozlowski, Alex Kent, and Jonathan May. There they were joined by Taconic Chapter Trout Unlimited members Allen Gray, Paul Knauth, Marc Hoechstetter, Steve Smith -- and me -- who helped them improve their fly casting skills. The students managed to catch several nice trout.

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The Berkshire County Chapter of Ducks Unlimited will hold a dinner on Saturday, June 21 at the ITAM on 93 Waubeek Road, Pittsfield. There will be raffles, and live and silent auctions. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Space is limited to 150. The basic price is $40 per person and there is a sponsor package beginning at $250.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.ducks.org/massachusetts/events/34336/berkshire-county-of-ducks-unlimited-annual-dinner. Online sales end June 20. You can also call either Joe Delsoldato at (413) 717-0938, or JP Murphy at (413) 822-3915.

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Shooters: Do you want to save on ammo expenses? Jim Finnerty of GOAL is teaching a course on rifle reloading.

It includes component selection, proper brass sorting and case preparation, load selection, gauges and tools, crimping, sizing rimmed and belted cases, loading for long range shooting, review of pressure signs, and testing with record keeping.

The 5-hour course costs $100 and space is limited. Contact Larry for more information at (413) 442-7807.

To reach Gene Chague:
Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com,
or (413) 637-1818.