WATCH: Remote Colorado Lakes Stocked with Trout Dropped from Planes

by Jonathan Howard

Wildlife officials have to get creative when it comes to keeping habitats balanced. Over in Colorado, Parks and Wildlife officials have to REALLY creative with trout. There are lakes and waterways at 9000ft of elevation. Many times, these areas are impossible to drive to. So, what do they do when lakes need to be restocked?

Well, Colorado Parks and Wildlife get into planes. From the air, they drop thousands of fish into the waters below. Without a logistical way to drive restocking vehicles into the high elevations, air travel is the only way to go. The fish are dropped from 100 feet above the water. Recently, the CPW released footage of their work.

Cutthroat trout fingerlings were dropped from multiple helicopters. The fish are raised at the Rifle Falls State Fish Hatchery. After growing to an inch in length, they are ready to be deployed. Fish are loaded up into tanks that are carried by small planes. A GPS shows where the lakes are. From there, pilots give a quick flyover. Since the fish are so small, they land safely in the water below.

“They just have very little mass, so they’re kind of floating down into the water,” said pilot Jerry Gepfert. However, not all the fish survive. With that said, the survival rate is high at 90%. These drops help these lakes stay stocked and healthy. Without these fish, wildlife in the area will suffer. Ecosystems are a delicate balance. So, it takes hard work to keep everything balanced.

In just one day, Gepfert and his crew stocked 40,000 trout. Those fish went to almost 50 lakes in the state. That work just takes a couple of hours once the fish are loaded up. By summer’s end, Colorado Parks and Wildlife will stock 275,000 fish across 240 lakes.

Utah Stocks Lakes in Similar Fashion

Meanwhile, over in neighboring Utah, officials are doing the same work. When it comes to stocking fish, it seems that airplane is the best option for Wildlife departments. Mountains are not easy terrain. But, if you can just fly over, there isn’t much to worry about. These flyovers are important and keep ecosystems intact. If there are no fish in the water or the wrong kind of fish, all kinds of negative consequences happen.

For some of these small fish, they will be food for bigger fish. However, a lot of these fish are for recreational purposes. Making sure that fishermen aren’t pulling out the native fish and have something to actually catch. Some of these lakes only contain small fish that anglers don’t care for. With these trout, fishermen will be busy for some time.

While this seems like a new modern solution, it is anything but. At least for the state of Utah. They have been aerial dumping fish since 1956. The next best thing to reach these remote lakes, a mule or horse pulling a cart. So, airplanes it is then.