Saturday, March 13, 2010

Raisin' Fish: A Disaster, then Release

Yesterday was an emotional roller coaster.

I woke in the morning with the sweet anticipation of releasing 68,000+ coho salmon fry into McAleer Creek in the late afternoon with Francis, Stephen and Vivian. As I arrived at my desk at work, I received a call from Francis. He sounded depressed and had good reason to be. When he got to the house that day, he noticed that there was the smallest dribble of water coming out of the incubator's outlet pipe. That is definitely not good. He roused Stephen and they went right to work restoring the water flow and bleeding excess air out of the system.

We had had a great deal of rain over the previous two days and the increased water flow pushed lots of sand and gravel around. Unfortunately, that gravel movement included covering over our intake pipe. When that happens, the clock starts ticking on the fish living in the barrel. At the point when water stops flowing through the system, they begin to breathe the oxygen out of the water the same way we would breathe the oxygen out of the air if we had a plastic bag sealed over our heads. Once the oxygen runs out, you die. That's what happened to lots of small coho salmon fry yesterday morning.

When Francis opened the top of the incubator, all he saw was dead fish and "maybe 50" live ones. As he told me this story on the phone my depression grew. Since my mother's death in December I've been working through the grieving process. This was one more poignant reminder that life ends, sometimes quite abruptly. I was quite depressed all day.

I had intended to work all day Friday and leave early at 2:30. I did that with decidedly less spring in my step than I would normally have had. I was not looking forward to cleaning up a "99% die-off" (Francis' estimate).

When we got down to the incubator, there were lots of dead fish in there, but I noticed many more than 50, and as we flushed out all those poor dead ones, I began to notice many more fish rising up out of the bottom of the barrel. It turns out that Francis' estimate was way off, thank God. While the mortality was still a significant percentage, I'd estimate it at 50 or 60% rather than 99% Getting 20-35,000 fish out, while not up to our usual standards, is still quite a bit better than none at all.

I had not intended to take any video of that sad event. In the end, I did take a couple of minutes of video. I downloaded some editting software yesterday and will try to put stuff together and get it posted here very soon (Hey, I might even do all those videos that I have from loading the incubator!)

All in all, a good, then awful, then much better day. Life goes on and we go on with it.

I'm sure there were a bunch of happy crawdads downstream yesterday in the afternoon given the bonanza of food we released to them!

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About Me

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I'm currently 60 years old. I currently work as the learning management system specialist for American University of Madaba in Madaba, Jordan. I was originally certified as a high-school English teacher and taught school for 13 years (1 year of substituting, 1 year of 7th grade, 2 years of a combined 5th, 6th, 7th grade, 9 years of 8th grade). I've worked for hardware and software companies for the past 23 years doing training, training materials development, certification test development and other education related stuff. My wife and I have raised four children to adulthood; some of them live at home at the moment, but that won't last (they're too independent for that). We live at home with 2 Golden Retrievers, 2 black cats, a crazy cat, and, during the winter, 70,000 coho salmon.