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Giving Idaho Hatchery Fish An Exercise Program

Courtesy of University of Idaho Photographic Services
Researchers are using the flume at the University of Idaho's StreamLab to find ways to give hatchery fish a good workout.

Exercise is something we often talk about in January, usually in the context of getting healthier.

But here in Idaho, biologists and engineers are looking for ways to get fish more exercise. Specifically - trout, salmon, and steelhead raised in hatcheries. The idea is to force fish to work out so they're in better shape - and more likely to live - once they're released.

Right now, hatchery fish are raised in long, rectangular tanks called raceways. The tanks are hard to clean and sweeping out fish waste is expensive.

The idea grew out of a plan to find better ways to clean raceways. Now, managers hope to kill two birds with one stone: flush out waste, and force fish to 'get physical.' The goal is to make the water in the raceway move faster by adding baffles.

Kevin Meyer is a biologist with Idaho Fish and Game. He says, along with saving money, the faster water could benefit the fish, by giving them a little healthy exercise.

“And when we stock them in reservoirs, it may give them an added ability to escape any predators that are out there, whether that’s birds or other fish, so we may see that sort of a benefit as well,” he says.

Ralph Budwig is a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Idaho’s StreamLab in Boise. The lab is basically a large indoor river on stilts. Budwig says it’s the perfect place to test ways to make the water move faster.

Meyer says they hope to try out the new baffle system in a couple of hatcheries early this year.

Find Samantha Wright on Twitter @samwrightradio

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