Oak Harbor Elementary students send 30,000 salmon into Puget Sound

Students feed coho salmon before they were released from the Oak Harbor Marina. - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Students feed coho salmon before they were released from the Oak Harbor Marina.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

Students at Oak Harbor Elementary School walked from their classrooms to the Oak Harbor Marina to watch tens of thousands of their friends leave.

The staff at the marina released 30,000 coho salmon penned up for months. The marina received the salmon in February and maintenance staff have been caring for them until they were released in early June.

“They doubled in size from the time we get them to the time we release them,” said Neil Ketchum, a maintenance worker at the marina.

The fourth-graders and fifth-graders have been studying salmon throughout the school year in a separate, but similar, project. They teamed up to raise and release 285 salmon. When they received the eggs in mid-January, they hatched 24 hours later. The tiny fish were cared for in a tank located in the elementary school hall near the main office. That way, students could see how the salmon develop. Students took turns feeding and cleaning the tank. They tracked the progress in journals.

Fourth-grader Sweden Sintoung said she enjoyed learning about the salmon.

“It’s like a human life cycle, but in fishes,” Sintoung said.

The students took a trip to Indian Creek on Fidalgo Island May 13 to release their salmon.

On June 9, release day at the marina, the students gathered around two large tanks that housed the coho salmon provided by the state’s Marblemount Hatchery.

Students grabbed cups of food to throw into the bins. Once the salmon were worked up, maintenance workers removed the nets and, after more food was tossed into the water, the fish swam away.

The Oak Harbor Elementary School students enjoyed lunch on the piers before they walked back down Pioneer Way and up Midway Boulevard to their campus.

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