In 2010 Richard Elliot Jr., an executive member of the Lake Huron Fishing Club, went to the elementary school that he, his children and grand-children all attended to pitch a program. A program that would put an aquarium with hatchery fish, intended to be stocked into Lake Huron tributaries, into the classroom. The hope was to help the students understand the importance of conservation and our ecosystem. That program has since grown to 50 classrooms! The program called the School Hatchery Program! But the impact Richard Elliot Jr. and this program have had for Lake Huron and the students are far greater than it seems.
Richard Elliot Jr. & the Lake Huron Fishing Club
When Richard Elliot Jr. joined the Lake Huron Fishing Club executive committee, he did it to start the School Hatchery Program. To share with the students his deep appreciation for nature and fishing, and how important it is to conserve it. But if he did not take on the executive role when he did, the Fishing Club would have folded. That may not sound like a big deal, except that the club is responsible for the stocking efforts of salmon and trout in Lake Huron. To put into perspective how important the stocking of Lake Huron is, consider this; in 2018, over 50,000 fish migrated up the Saugeen river. 54% of the fish that migrated were stocked. That is over 27,000 fish.
The School Hatchery Program
Of the 50 classrooms, Richard manages 24 himself. Setting up the tanks. Checking the equipment thought the season. He also visits throughout the year to change the fish food. As the fish grow they need larger pellets. Other conservation groups split the remaining 26 classrooms. Bluewater Anglers in Sarnia, Owen Sound Anglers in Sydenham, Gore Bay Club on Manitoulin Island, Fishing Friendzy in Orangeville, Georgian Triangle Anglers Association in Collingwood, Thames River Anglers and Forrest City Bass Masters in London, and the Bruce Peninsula Sportsman Association in Wiarton.
A feeder, filter, and a chiller are fitted on all of The School Hatchery Program’s aquariums. Oh, and of course fish! Classrooms get the fish as alevins and grow them to parr. The class then goes on a field trip to stock the fish they raised. Bruce Power funds the program and donates $2,000 per school. That has amassed to over $200,000 over the last seven years. Big Al’s Aquarium Services donates the equipment for the tank. The Lake Huron Fishing Club Hatcheries supply the alevins.
Richard Elliot Jr. and the Classrooms
When Richard visits a classroom, the class stops. He has the full attention of everyone in the class. Students often swarm Richard, trying to be the first to give him an update him on the fish. He has received gifts like written stories about the fish, paintings, handmade banners and of course hugs! Last year two different kindergarten teachers told Richard that the kids were more excited to see him than Santa, who had visited the school a week earlier.
Last year a class lost all the fish in their tank because soap got into the aquarium water. When Richard went to clean and re-stock the tank, he arrived at a teary-eyed remorseful class. Some members at the Lake Huron Fishing Club wondered why they are getting new fish, Richard argued the lesson they learned because all of the fish died, showed the class the hard way how delicate an ecosystem can be. That is what the program is all about.
If you want to see the program in action, you can visit a tank at the Business Improvement Area in Walkerton, On. You can get more information on the School Hatchery Program, or inquiries on how to get this program started in your area, by contact Richard Elliot Jr.