Video: Air-dropping Trout into Colorado’s High Mountain Lakes

Cutthroat trout are getting a lift up to Colorado's alpine lakes. CPW is stocking 330 mountain lakes by airplane in the northern half of Colorado with 380,000 cutthroat trout.
Video: Aerial Stocking Fish in Colorado’s Mountain Lakes

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is stocking alpine lakes in the northern half of the state. This year, 330 pristine lakes have been selected to receive roughly 380,000 trout that will be dropped in from the sky.

Last Wednesday, an airplane loaded with 70,000 fish – 65,000 cutthroat trout and 5,000 golden trout – took off from the Granby Airport on a mission to deliver trout to 40 high-elevation lakes in Boulder, Grand, Jackson and Larimer counties.

Cessna 185 Aircraft
Cutthroat trout are getting a lift up to Colorado’s alpine lakes. CPW is stocking 330 mountain lakes by airplane in the northern half of Colorado with 380,000 cutthroat trout.

The trout were reared at the Mt. Shavano Hatchery in Salida and driven to the Granby Airport starting at 4 a.m. by Fish Culturists Doug Sebring and Taylor Woolmington. There they met CPW wildlife pilots Larry Gepfert and Denise Corcoran, who were ready to airlift the 1¼-inch trout in their Cessna 185 Aircraft to their new mountain-life home. It will take these fish a year-and-a-half or two years to grow to a catchable size of 10 inches.

Why Planes?

“It’s efficient,” Sebring said was one of the many reasons the alpine lakes get stocked via airplane. “We can get a large quantity of fish into high mountain lakes that are basically only accessible by foot or horseback.”

And the fish, well they just float on down once deployed from the airplane at about 100-150 feet above the lake.

Air-dropping trout into Colorado's pristine high-elevation lakes.
Air-dropping trout into Colorado’s pristine high-elevation lakes.

“They are so small and they don’t have a lot of mass to them, so their acceleration rate is pretty low,” Gepfert said. “Their heads are the heaviest parts, so they tend to go head first and drop straight into the water.”

CPW’s Fish Production

CPW operates 19 hatcheries that breed, hatch, rear and stock over 90 million fish per year. Many of the fish produced are to enhance angling opportunities, while others serve a critical role in native species recovery efforts.

“There is definitely a niche of anglers that seek out high alpine fishing every year,” said Jeff Spohn, Senior Aquatic Biologist for the Northeast Region of CPW. “This is another opportunity that CPW provides to our angling community.”

Next year, the aerial effort will be focused on the alpine lakes in the southern half of the state. The rotation is part of CPW managing its natural resources for the future enjoyment of the public.

Written by Jason Clay. Clay is a public information officer for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife northeast region.

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