Gene Chague: One final salmon fry release for Becket students

Sunday June 16, 2013


Becket Washington School students released salmon fry for the last time into the Yokum Brook branch of the Westfield River on May 30. The Atlantic Salmon Egg Rearing Program has come to an end after eight years because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and MassWildlife will no longer support it.

"Elvis has left the building," third grade teacher Mary Kay McCloskey said to a library full of excited children and adults. One of McCloskey's students had named his salmon fry "Elvis," which prompted the statement. Visitors were impressed with the enthusiasm the children showed for their salmon and how knowledgeable they were about the species and the project.

Karen Karlberg of Becket, the ASERP liaison from the Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited, had been assisting the teachers and students in this program from the beginning.

"I am so proud to hear about the great test scores the Becket Washington students receive in Earth Sciences because of this hands on project," Karlberg said. "We were helping to create the future stewards of our water, earth and wildlife with this important program."

Nineteen fourth graders in Patricia Robie's class, and the 13 in McCloskey's, took turns scooping out a cup full of the salmon fry into the big bucket, that was then carried down to the outdoor classroom area next to Yokum Brook.

The 300 salmon eggs, which were delivered in mid-February, had been nurtured and observed by not only the third and fourth graders, but also the other students and parents. Even visitors would stop in and check on the progress of the school's salmon. The eggs were watched carefully as they developed to consume their egg sacks, and then were ready to feed on brine shrimp. That helped them to acclimate to feeding on their own in the new river environment upon their release.

With luck, they will continue to mature for another couple of years, migrate to the Atlantic Ocean and return again in three years to Yokum Brook in Becket, next to the school ground, to spawn.

Thanks go to Karen Karlberg for providing the above information.


Kudos go to the Housatonic Valley Association (HVA) staff. On May 31, they took Lanesborough School fifth graders out to Town Brook to find some creepy crawlers.

Here are some quotes of the kids who went:

"It was really amazing to go from living in our big world to exploring their little environment."

"I cannot believe that I caught giant stonefly larvae, caddis fly larvae, damselfly nymph, clams, and leeches, too. I will definitely do this again all by myself."

"My favorite ones to find were the salamanders, the baby catfish, and crane flies."

"[We] saw a caddis fly larva, stone fly larva, mayfly larva, crane fly larva, aquatic worms, and midge larva."

"Thank you so much. Hope we can do that again next year. I want to work at HVA someday."


Some of us gray-haired anglers remember when June 15 was an important date. It used to be the opening date of the bass fishing season in Massachusetts. The season was delayed because Mass. DFW wanted to wait until the end of the bass spawning season. They didn't want people pulling the parent bass off of their nests while they were protecting their eggs/young. However, the season was changed years ago, and now bass can be caught year round.

Bass fishermen have been out since early May, and the Greylock Bass Club has had several tournaments. Their first tournament was on Cheshire Lake on May 5. In that event, there was a tie for first place between Bob Olinski and Chip McCann. Third place went to Dave Benham Jr., and Jim Underhill took fourth.

On May 18, they fished Richmond Pond and Bill Gates took first, Underhill took second, Benham took third and Joe Chague took fourth. They fished Ashmere Lake on May 19. Benham took first, Chague took second, McCann took third and Gates took fourth.

On June 2, they fished Goose Pond. Benham took first, Mark Lane took second, Josh Colligan took third and Gates took fourth. The lunker so far this season was a largemouth bass weighing 4 pounds, 9 1/2 ounces, caught by Gates.


On June 19, Russ Cohen of the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game, Division of Ecological Restoration, will share river ecology information on an HVA paddle from Lee ending behind HVA's office. A potluck dinner will follow.

The paddle trip is free but registration is required. For more information and to register for the paddle trip, visit, call (413) 394-9796 or email or

Incidentally, the HVA and the Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT) are having a Housatonic River Clean-up in Pittsfield next Saturday. Contact HVA at the above addresses or BEAT at for more information.


In his June report to the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen, DFW Western District Manager Andrew Madden reported that the division website has a new look. It is part of an ongoing statewide effort that results in a standard "look and feel" among all state government agency websites.

New and useful features for the new format include wider pages, enhanced navigation, and mobile phone/tablet viewing readiness. The DFW main web page address remains the same,, and the information from the old address has been moved to the new website. You will need to update any favorites, bookmarked, or saved searches on specific DFW web pages as those links will no longer work.

To reach Gene Chague:,
or (413) 637-1818.


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