Kids stock fish as part of New Milford arts and nature program
NEW MILFORD — The West Aspetuck River got 64 new fish Saturday afternoon, thanks to a fish-stocking workshop run by the Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust and a Washington after-school program.
Several dozen children headed to the point where the river runs through Smyrski Farm’s 220-acre property, each carrying a bucket holding two brook trout from the Rowledge Pond hatchery in Newtown. The children released the fish from a small bridge into the waters.
The event was run by Washington’s After School Arts Program and Weantinoge, which owns the farm. After School Program Manager Ali Psomas said the event is one of several activities the program does with local land trusts so children can learn while spending time outdoors.
“We really encourage kids to unplug and get out,” Psomas said. “Even most of our art programs are outside.”
Psomas added that she plans to run the fish stocking event every other year, after many families who had done it two years ago asked if they could do it again.
Some of those families that had done the event years ago were back Saturday to give it another try.
Alex Alcoff, who has a house and grew up in Roxbury, came from New York City with her 5-year-old twins, Audrey and Owen.
“We did it a couple years ago and had such a good time, we thought we’d do it again now that they’re a little bit older,” Alcoff said.
The event also aimed to teach children about the fish-stocking process. Todd Bobowick from Rowledge told the crowd that the hatchery stocks 20,000 to 30,000 fish each year.
The brook trout released on Saturday were all hatched by the company in September 2016 and had grown to about 10 inches, Bobowick said.
After they let their fish go, the families were invited to participate in two other activities to learn about the farm.
The first was a table set up where children could dissect owl pellets, the undigested food such as small bones that owls regurgitate. The activity lets the children learn about the food chain, Weantinoge Program Administrator Elizabeth Schrang said.
“This is a good activity for Symrski because this is an excellent bird habitat,” Schrang said. “It is connecting the kids to things that might eat the fish and how other things might eat the mice.”
Schrang said Smyrski farm has 75 species of birds, 50 of which she was able to see in a morning birdwatching session on Saturday.
At another table, families could make “wildflower seed bombs” — seeds encased in balls of clay — that they can toss onto land so flowers will sprout.
Schrang said partnering with ASAP for activities like this can help families who live in the area learn about open space and farmland and how Weantinoge and others work to conserve them.
“ASAP does so many programs with children they have relationship with families in the area who might not know about our work, so it’s a great way for us to meet families tell them about the work we do and have fun,” Schrang said.