Aerial Fish Stocking
YouTube: Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Aerial Fish Stocking Helps Utah DWR Populate High Elevation Mountain Lakes

The only way to stock a high elevation lake is via airplane.

State wildlife countries across the country run their own extensive fish hatcheries that seek to stock local waterways with the most popular game fish. Most of these operations are pretty standard. Load the fish into a large truck and take them to the lake where you unload them.

Well, for a western state like Utah that has plenty of mountains, fish stocking becomes a bit more challenging when talking about high elevation lakes. Often, there is no road for the fish stocking trucks to reach them. This requires wildlife agencies to get creative.

The most interesting, and possibly the funniest way of stocking utilizes airplanes. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources recently shared a video of a small airplane making runs to these small lakes. They also explained a little about the unusual practice in a Facebook post.

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In a post on their blog, Matt McKell, the Northern Region cutthroat trout biologist for the the Utah DWR explains that airplanes are just one way the agency stocks lakes. For other hard-to-reach areas, they still use horseback, backpacks filled with water, and ATVs to reach locations that otherwise would be impossible to stock.

The DWR further explained on Facebook that this small plane can stock 35,000 fish on a single flight. The tank holds approximately 100 pounds of water to sustain the fish until they reach their new home. It may seem like an extreme method, but because of their size, they are unharmed upon hitting the water.

"The fish are between 1-3 inches long, so they flutter down slowly to the water," the DWR wrote on Facebook. "Aerial fish stocking in Utah is an effective method of stocking and has been since the mid 1950s. Post-stocking netting surveys showed that survival of aerial-stocked fish is incredibly high."

The DWR said in the post that they stocked 200 lakes at extreme elevation the weekend of July 9. Looks like the backcountry anglers have something to look forward to the coming years as those younger fish mature!

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