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Getting Hands-On With Fisheries Management

Getting Hands-On With Fisheries Management

PHS senior Jacob Savage recently completed an engaging Academy Experience at the Castalia Trout Club fishery complex in Castalia. The goal of the experience was to give him first-hand exposure to careers in fisheries management. Over several site visits, he worked directly with professionals to learn the day-to-day realities of managing a trout fishery. 

"I didn’t know what to expect going into my visit," Jake says. "I’ve previously watched a lot of videos on fish nurseries and hatcheries before going on my first visit, but I didn’t know what a trout nursery or hatchery would look like."

This reveals a key benefit of the Academy Experience–videos can provide a limited perspective that may differ from hands-on experience. By doing site visits, students can gain a nuanced understanding of potential careers.

At the Castalia Trout Club, Jake was able to roll up his sleeves and engage in authentic tasks.

"My first visit I got to help stock the stream on the site with the guys," Jake says. "This was the coolest moment I had at the fishery by far. We loaded a huge tank on the back of a trailer with around a hundred fish and went around the stream with the trailer. As we passed by the stream we threw a couple of fish at a time down a ramp into the stream." 

In addition to hands-on activities, informational conversations with professionals helped expand Jake's knowledge.

"I interacted a lot with Jim Schott, the Club Manager, and I learned that there is a lot more to the job than just caring for the fish," Jake says. "They do a lot of landscape work and tree planting. They try to care for the surrounding ecosystem as much as they can because of how the environment around the stream affects fish health."

Jake also gained exposure to practical aspects of wildlife management, like water quality monitoring.

"The blue hole water remains at a constant 48 degrees with a pH of around 7-7.5," he says. "These water conditions are great for trout to live in. When I first got to the trout club, and they explained this stuff to me, it didn't click that the water had to be around those parameters for the fish to survive."

By learning hands-on at the fishery, he was able to connect theoretical concepts about water chemistry to the survival needs of trout.

Overall, the immersive Academy Experience enabled Jake to determine if a career in wildlife management matches his skills and interests. He advises others preparing for site visits to keep an open mind: "Just don't be nervous about your visit because there's nothing to be nervous about. If you like the experience then that's great! You’ve found something you might want to do later in life. But, if you don’t like it that's just as good! You’ve figured out that you don’t want to do that." 

When asked about the impact of the Academy Experience program from the mentor’s perspective, Jim Schott shared, “Having Jake out here at Castalia Trout Club was a pleasure. Seeing young adults interested in environmental science is very refreshing. The Sandusky/Castalia region is 'ground zero' for fish and wildlife jobs. With Lake Erie being in our 'backdoor' there are numerous federal and state fish and wildlife jobs available in the region. The area is very popular for hunting, fishing, and birding. These 'wild' areas need wildlife professionals to maintain and manage these areas for years to come. When I was approached about having an Academy Experience student out here at Castalia Trout Club, I jumped on it. Young adults like Jake are exactly what northern Ohio needs in order to continue the wildlife mecca that northern Ohio provides. Academy Experience is a great program and the CTC will continue to support it.”

By providing first-hand experiences beyond videos and books, programs like the Academy Experience empower students to explore future career paths.

“Academy Experience has given me some insight into what I want to do in the future," Jake says. "All the colleges I’ve applied to for their biology program. Later in life, I would like to be conducting scientific research with wildlife.”

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