Students in 13 schools across Pennsylvania are getting a hands-on opportunity to grow channel catfish for their local waterways.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission provides fingerling-size catfish to the schools in October, and the students care for them throughout the school year.
"They are raising channel catfish, which are a little hardier (than trout) when it comes to rearing them, especially in the school," said Brian McHail, unit leader for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission's Cooperative Nursery Unit. The students use scientific and biologically based methods with the fish; they study water quality and growth rates, for example.
"When they are done with them, they are able to stock them, whether it's in a stream or lake," McHail said. "They got them when they were fingerlings, they helped raise them and were able to get something out of them from an educational standpoint, and then they can stock them."
The catfish program started about seven years ago with the Berlin-Brothersavlley School District in Somerset County, and then it took off in 2019 with a wide number of schools signing on. Several schools overlap with the Trout in the Classroom program provided by Trout Unlimited and the Fish and Boat Commission. The students raise trout from eggs in the fall and release them in public waterways in the spring. More than 400 schools have been enrolled in that program since 2008.
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