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Students bid farewell to their chums

A class of Silverdale Elementary second-graders said goodbye to their chums on Tuesday, March 19.

Chum salmon, that is.

The 22 students have cared for the salmon since January in aquariums provided by the Central Kitsap Kiwanis Club. They released the salmon into Clear Creek Tuesday, the continuation of a 16-year tradition.

Students from other Central Kitsap elementaries will release their salmon in the next two weeks, culminating with the annual Clear Creek Task Force Earth Day Work Party for high school students on April 19.

“We have 32 aquariums out there,” said Sam Holcomb, a CK Kiwanis member who has been part of the program since its inception. “And each class gets between 100 and 150 fish.”

With so many schools involved, Holcomb gets to see hundreds of grade school and junior high school students help bring life to Clear Creek and its watershed each year. The fish eggs are provided by the Suquamish Tribe Fisheries Department and the program is certified by tribal officials.

The students typically raise chum salmon starting in early January, although Holcomb said they have used coho in the past. Clear Creek is a traditional spawning ground for chum, coho, king and steelhead.

Salmon are transported to the creek in a five-gallon bucket. From there, each fish is placed in a plastic cup the kids carry to the creek and ceremoniously dump in.

“If you fall in the stream, swim upstream,” Holcomb advised the students.

Silverdale Elementary teacher Laura Erickson volunteered to participate in the program in 1987. Fifteen years later, she’s still part of it.

“The thing the kids remember about the second grade is the salmon release,” Erickson said. “There are kids from past years that wanted to come out today.”

Some past participants were so inspired that they later wrote Holcomb to say they’re studying environmental issues in college.

When not learning about salmon, the students studied water quality, insects living in the creek and planted a tree.

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