This past fall it looked like the Trout in the Classroom (TIC) program was on a roll with all 4 schools receiving eggs from the NCWRC hatchery near Morganton. We were a bit apprehensive since in the past we had always started with hatchlings in late winter and had no experience with eggs. However, using eggs allows the kids the opportunity to start earlier and experience the whole process. It also gives the teachers a longer time to integrate the TIC lesson plans into their curriculum.
The plan was to start with eggs in early September, hatch out the fry, grow them to fingerling size by late winter, and release them into local streams in the spring. In November we hit the first snag when the chiller at Madison High School started blowing fuses on a regular basis then totally failed resulting in the total loss of the fish.
Tom Brewster, our TIC coordinator contacted the manufacturer and verified that our chiller was still under warranty and got the unit shipped in for service immediately. It was diagnosed as dead on arrival and we are now awaiting a replacement unit. About the same time the chiller at Owen Middle School began to have trouble holding the set temperature and would only work with an external fan blowing on it. Finally, it bit the dust too–along with all the fish. Hopefully we’ll have both setups in operation again in the next month or two and can either move fingerlings from the other 2 schools or get more from the NCWRC.
The state council has a backup unit but it was already in use at another TIC setup–there were several chiller failures this fall. What this experience has shown us is we probably need a backup chiller, however each unit is $300-400 and our treasury is a bit taxed right now.