Extreme Fish Stocking: Repopulating Lakes by Air

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State and national parks have long been restocking lakes in recreational areas with fish. Repopulation the fish stock in remote lakes used to be an arduous tasks for both the biologists and fish. Fish were stored in canisters carried over land by horse.

Horse train carrying canisters of fish for lake restocking. Photo: Mount Rainier National Park Archives, Date unknown

Horse train carrying canisters of fish for lake restocking. Photo: Mount Rainier National Park Archives, Date unknown

Along the way, lakes and streams were repopulated by pouring the fish from the canisters into the water.

Fish stocking in the 1930s. Photo: Rocky Mountain National Park.

Fish stocking in the 1930s. Photo: Rocky Mountain National Park.

Since the 1950s, Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) has used airplanes to ferry fish from the hatcheries to remote lakes. Fish are released directly from a holding container as the plan flies over lakes. While this may seem an extreme way to restock a lake with fish, it’s less stressful for the fish. The fish are dropped from an altitude of between 50 – 150 feet and have a survival rate of about 95 – 99%. The DWR notes that because the fish are small (between one to three inches), it’s like a “high diver diving into a deep pool of water”.

Using airplanes to repopulate lakes has sped up fish restocking in Utah. Instead of taking the whole summer to restock by horse, the entire state of Utah can be stocked in about 10 days.

Watch this video showing a lake fish repopulation by air:

References

Extreme Fish Stocking. McKell, M. 2017, December 17. https://wildlife.utah.gov/blog/2017/extreme-fish-stocking/

Flying fish — stocking Utah’s back country. Utah Department of Wildlife Resources. N.d. http://www.utahfishfinder.com/articles/flying-fish.html

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