What could be more fun than kids and baby fish?

By David F. Rooney

SHELTER BAY — Kids from Columbia Park and Arrow Heights Elementary Schools as well as dozens of curious adults came top Shelter Bay Provincial Park to help release 7,500 white sturgeon hatchlings on Tuesday.

Funded by BC Hydro, the 10-month-old fish were hatched and reared at the Freshwater Fisheries Kootenay Trout Hatchery for release into the Columbia River under the Columbia River Water Use Plan. This was the fifth year that BC Hydro, the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program and the Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C. with the Revelstoke Rod and Gun Club hosted a release event downstream of Revelstoke Dam.

For the kids, this was a an exciting chance to escape their classrooms and help young animals begin a new stage in their lives.

White sturgeon are North America’s largest and longest-lived freshwater fish, reaching a maximum size of six metres (19 feet) and 682 kilograms (1,500 pounds). It is estimated that white sturgeon life expectancy can exceed more than a century. Current population estimates show that within the Canadian portion of the upper Columbia River basin approximately 50 adults reside in the Arrow Lakes Reservoir, with an additional 1,500 wild fish downstream of Hugh Keenlyside Dam in Castlegar. Researchers have recorded spawning, but have found very few young fish, indicating that few young sturgeon are surviving to adulthood.

Here are some photos from the day’s event:

Students and teachers from Arrow Heights and Columbia Park Elementary Schools, along with a few parents, too, await their turn to release some of the 7,500 white sturgeon hatchlings at the boat launch at Shelter Bay Provincial Park on Tuesday morning. David F. Rooney photo
Staff from BC Hydro, the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program, the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC and the Revelstoke Rod & Gun Club even cajoled me into releasing three young and squirming sturgeon. Jennifer Walker-Larsen photo
The vigoroous young sturgeon took a moment to orient themselves and then eventually swam for deeper, darker waters. Jennifer Walker-Larsen
Getting close to wildlife and even handling them is always a an exciting thrill for kids, like these from Allison Just's AHE class. David F. Rooney photo
Once Gary Krestinsky of the Rod & Gun Club had scanned the hatchling (each one carries a micro-transceiver beneath its skin that enables researchers to track them) the kids were encouraged to gently release them. Here, Jade Davies prepares to free her hatchling. David F. Rooney photo
And... off each young fish would go. This year's fish were 10 months old, slightly older than previous generations of white sturgeon hatchlings. It was though that slightly older nd larger fish might better survive the hazards and predators of the river. David F. Rooney photo
The young fish were quite vigorous squirmers. Some even managed to escape from those kids who were too gentle in their handling of them. Not Marcus Swift, though! He held on and managed to let it go properly. David F. Rooney photo
The two-handed clutch was the best way to ensure you didn't prematurely release your fish. David F. Rooney photo
Alison Just snaps a photo as the Rod & Gun Club's Gary Krestinsky describes how each fish carried a micro-transceiver beneath its skin making it easy for researchers — and even kids — to track them on their computers. David F. Rooney photo
Teacher Wendy Mulligan (right) lines up her young charges so each will have their turn. David F. Rooney photo