Monday 14 May 2012

Catching Minnows

There is only one thing that kids like more than catching frogs.
They love putting the trap in and catching minnows.

We are fortunate to have a pond next to the house, 
but you can find minnows just about anywhere there is water.
Left overnight, traps like these yield crayfish too.
Left too long and you get crayfish and no minnows,
as the little fish become prey to the clawed crustaceans.

When the light is right, you can see the fish swimming in schools.
But it's just not the same as having them right there in front of you.
There are many species of minnow and trapping them allows us to identify the various kinds.
Some are colourful enough to bring inside to the aquarium.  
Red-sided dace are especially brilliant.
The sizes range from very small to remarkably large.
There are suckers moving around right now and though we didn't trap any today, the kids were still able to watch them spawn in the gravel beds below the dam.

Bread is usually the bait of choice, but dog food works equally well.
It also provides an afternoon snack.

The water levels are abnormally low this year.
We were concerned that the fish would suffer, but it seems to be enough for them.
As picturesque as it is in the creek, the low water speaks of a troubled future here.

It only takes a few hours to fill the trap.
The abundance of minnows has encouraged us to take advantage of the rich protein source.
One year, we used roasted minnows to discourage feather picking among our first group of chickens.
The same year, we canned minnows for ourselves to eat.
They are just like sardines so why not?
The result wasn't great, but it's on the list to try again, perhaps smoking them before canning.
I'll be sure to post that.

As abundant as the minnows are, they remain a fragile resource and so we are careful not to harm too many.
Minnows are difficult to handle gently and children are not known for being gentle.
There is usually some damage done in the course of learning.

These lessons outweigh most others.
Interacting with our environment has become more challenging as our ability to control it has grown.
This is the best time to teach the subtle balance of give and take.
Morality is personal, with no textbook rules and no clear lines.
The goal is to help the kids learn to value life and to be empathetic to all creatures.
The decision to take life must be founded in the love and respect of all plants and animals.
As we teach them about habitat, we teach them to preserve it, but also to know how to source food.
As we teach them about hunting and trapping, we instill the value of life, and the skills needed for survival.
As we teach them to kill, they must also learn how to care and to nurture.
Their survival is inextricably linked to the survival of a balanced ecology.
And that can only be learned by being a part of it all.

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