Students Hatch and Release Salmonid Fingerlings


For the last decade, students from both Amador and Calaveras Counties have been raising salmonids in their classrooms. This is made possible through a program from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife called the Classroom Aquarium Educational Program (CAEP). Salmon or trout eggs are delivered to a licensed, classroom teacher, to be carefully watched and cared for by the students.  When the fish reach fingerling stage they are then returned to a permitted location designated by the CDFW. The salmon eggs come from the Mokelumne River Hatchery below Lake Camanche where the students return their fingerlings in order for the salmon to complete their life cycle.  The trout eggs are delivered from the Mt. Shasta Hatchery and are returned to those smaller waterways, specifically permitted, in the counties.

The CAEP program keeps students fully engaged in the life cycle of their salmonids.  They daily record the development of their fish from egg to fingerling.  They test the quality of the aquarium water to make sure it is optimal for healthy development.  They learn what makes up a healthy habitat, all by observing real live fish in the special tanks in their classrooms. After carefully monitoring their fish development they are rewarded by a field trip to release their fingerlings in a CDFW permitted location.

Stewardship Through Education (STE) is an education program under the Mother Lode Land Trust and the sponsor for the CAEP program in the two counties.  STE guides the teachers and their classrooms throughout the school year providing integrated curriculum, equipment, field trip transportation and directs activities on release days.

Thanks to a partnership with the Upper Mokelumne River Watershed Authority,  California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and STE, the classroom teacher is given  the tools needed to teach the Classroom Aquarium Education Program.  It takes special care and training to be able to release healthy fish into the watersheds. These partners help teachers obtain the permits and training along with the funding for the equipment such as filters and coolers.  On the Release Day, funding is made available to the classroom for field trip transportation, and a fun filled day of activities from many individuals which often include local organizations such as the Amador Flyfishers.  

This program helps many children not only learn about life cycles and the interconnectedness of nature, but also about how critical it is to take care of our watersheds.  If you are interested in learning more about this program, information can found on the STE website ( or contact STE team members, Mary Anne Garamendi or Toni Linde.

Authors: Mary Anne Garamendi and Toni Linde 

Foothill Conservancy has spoken with people from this program and are thinking of ways we may be able to support or expand it within Amador and Calaveras Counties. The CAEP is the perfect way to inspire students to be more involved in their watershed while also providing them with an educational experience. We look forward to getting involved in community engagement activities like this amazing program which teaches young students about the lifecycle of salmon and the importance of healthy rivers.

-Meredith Sierra, Watershed Conservation Advocate

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Leslie Smith, Sutter Creek, CA: Raised in Washington State, Leslie is a happy California transplant having moved to Sunny Sutter Creek full time in 2020. As a nascent fly fisher and lifelong skier, she is committed to the natural environment and brings extensive organizational and finance experience to the board from a nearly 40 year career in banking.