NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Their enthusiasm more than made up for their lack of bucket skills when it came to fish stocking.
A few times they dropped the fish on the lawn, sometimes on the beach but most often in the water.
Several times they nearly dumped the trout on themselves and once had MassWildlife officials ducking as the foot-long fish came squarely at their heads.
The trout seemed to take it in stride.
"They'll be fine," said Andrew Madden, Western District manager of Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, as he tossed an errant trout into Windsor Lake. "They're tough fish."
The city's entire fourth-grade class turned out for the fish stocking event, getting some information on the four types of trout Mass Wildlife raises in its four hatcheries and getting the chance to help with the annual event. The day was designed to promote outdoor recreation, and provide the children an opportunity to be involved in a conservation project. The Berkshire County League of Sportsmen's Clubs was also involved.
Some 500 rainbow trout at 14-plus inches, ranging in size from about a foot to up to 18 inches, were being let loose in Windsor Lake, colloquially known as Fish Pond, on Friday.
Madden explained that the fish are about 18 months old when released.
"We put a lot of effort into that so you can go outside and have a good time fishing," he told the crowd of giggling preteens on the beach at Historic Valley Campground.
"It's very important to get the fish on our truck safely into the water and away," he said. "Once you get a fish in the bucket, I can't have you backing out of it, you've got to get the fish in the water."
A bucket brigade was set up with with one to three fish being dropped into a white bucket from the container truck; the goal was to grab the bucket and jog down to the beach edge about 30-40 feet away, and toss the fish lightly into the water.
Accompanied by shrieks and cheers, the children made the best of it. Madden and a colleague were in the water, ready to rescue the trout. The fish didn't seem to mind, scooting away once they were in the pond.
"It was kind of scary because if you throw them out, they might land on the sand," said Kaitlyn Mongeon of Colegrove Park Elementary School, who was worried about the fish.
Carter Lacasse of Brayton Elementary was a little leery as well. "You look in there and there's these two fish, and when you get to it, you try throwing it but it doesn't even work!" he said, adding "it was fun to save the fish."
Teacher Sarah Spooner of Colegrove said it was a nice break from recent days of testing.
"It's good to get out of the classroom and do something like this," she said.
Once each student — and a few teachers — had taken a turn, they lined up to do one more run. Madden didn't expect them to release all the fish, and said his team would take what was left over to the other end of the lake for release.
"It was a geat experience and a chance for them to see fish that they might not otherwise get a chance to learn about," he said. "It was a little bit about the biology and a little bit about fishing."
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