Outdoor Ed - Beach Seine

Outdoor Ed - Beach Seine

The idea of fishing using a seine has existed since the Stone Age.

Over a year ago we introduced you to the Beach Seine and Sea Lab programs offered by Camp Casey and their long time instructor, Keith Ludeman. Keith’s interest in marine biology has been a lifelong passion. 23 years with the Navy studying marine life, biology and zoology; and a working relationship with Camp Casey since 1983. Today we take a closer look with a 6th   grade class from the Entiat Middle School and a 1st grade class from Coupeville.

The idea of fishing using a seine has existed since the Stone Age. A large U-shaped net that is deployed off the shore. The net sits vertically in the water, with weights on the bottom and floats on top. Keith explains that tides are important in this process. “We have to do it at low tide and we can’t do it at too low of tide, because some tides are so low that I can’t even get the boat in the water.”   In a beach seine ropes allow people on the shore to pull the net through the water and capture sea life. This allows campers the ability to experience marine life and learn more about the Puget Sound environment. The class is divided into two groups taking ends of the rope. Definitely not a passive activity as a virtual tug of war begins against the weight of the net and the marine life captured begins. Over shouts of “pull, pull” Entiat’s teacher, Lee Southard, who has brought his class to Camp Casey for 13 years, comments that he is always pleased to see Keith recognize siblings of campers that have attended over the years.

As the students start to crowd around Keith he empties the net into several large buckets and instructs them to form a line. At first it appears that only crabs had been captured, but that is hardly the case. We ask Keith what his most memorable find has been in the past and he mentions a 6’ octopus.  While there is no octopus found in the net this morning, we did see a Red Rock crab, Helmet crab, moon jelly fish, tube snout, graceful decorator crab, baby flounder, kelp perch, and a gunnel. Each item Keith gently pulls from the bucket and walks up and down the line of students, giving a story or short lesson. Did you know that crabs blow bubbles to recycle water through their bodies? That not all jelly fish are stinging or poisonous? That a decorator crab camouflages itself by attaching seaweed to its body? Or that gunnel’s have a separate tail? Each comment is followed by raised hands, questions such as “why are they attaching seaweed to their bodies,” “what do you mean it has a separate tail,” and lots of whispering among the students as their heads touch while huddled over notebooks. In this particular class Lee has given his students journals to provoke their thoughts and record activities. You can see them busily scribbling responses to questions and drawing pictures of the crabs and other sea life. Clearly Lee and Keith have found a way of increasing the student’s participation level – so much so that as the lesson comes to an end students are lining up to ask Keith for his autograph.

Several parents mention how the entire trip has been a learning experience. Many of the kids have never traveled this far from home much less driven onto the ferry to get them here to the Camp. And apart from the Sea Lab from the prior day, last night was spent building forts on the beach and sharing their stories around the campfire.

Students head back up the beach to load onto buses waving goodbye. Most of the marine life brought in with the seine will be transported to the Sea Lab. Others are set free back into the Sound. This morning’s Sea Lab will provide instruction to 24 students from Coupeville Elementary. As we start to head in, we meet a parent and chaperone, Jesse Wells. He tells us he went to the lab as a child and is excited for his daughter. Favorite memory from his childhood experience? The Sea Cucumber of course!

In our next blog post, we’ll continue with this story as the Outdoor Education moves into the Sea Lab.