Monday, September 2, 2013

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a ... it’s a fish

by Nelson Harvey, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

Airborne fish aren’t native to the Colorado Rockies, but in recent weeks about 125,150 lucky swimmers have learned what it feels like to fly — at least for a few seconds.

The fish have been plummeting out of planes all over southern Colorado as part of the annual aerial stocking effort conducted by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), the agency charged with maintaining the state’s fish populations.

Aerial stocking, with helicopters and Cessna 185 airplanes, is used to drop fish into the state’s high mountain lakes that are virtually inaccessible by foot or horseback. The program targets more than 600 lakes across the state, many of them at elevations of between 10,500 and 12,000 feet.

Aside from insuring that backpackers and other backcountry travelers will have fish to catch, stocking remote high mountain lakes can help establish isolated populations of fish for scientists to draw on in case the need to breed them should arise.

Plane drops are a mere subset of the state’s annual stocking effort, which will put more than 53 million fish into Colorado waterways this year alone. According to CPW figures, fishing is second only to skiing as an economic contributor to Colorado’s recreation economy, contributing around $1.2 billion annually. Maintaining that moneymaker takes a lot of work.

Last week, the Garfield County Airport was at the epicenter of aerial stocking efforts in the state, as three pilots used the Rifle runway as a base to stock 265 high alpine lakes in western Colorado. This week the pilots will head to Salida, Gunnison and Durango to stock lakes high in the San Juan mountain range, according to Mark Jimerson, assistant manager at the Rifle Fish Hatchery.

In Colorado, aerial stocking typically takes place in the late summer or early fall, when high-altitude lakes are mostly thawed out from the previous winter.

"I don’t like bouncing them off the ice," said Al Keith, a Colorado Springs-based pilot and one of four who handle the bulk of aerial fish stocking across the state.

The pilots alternate each year between stocking southern and northern Colorado, which is much wetter. Last year, according to Jimerson, the pilots stocked 422 northern Colorado lakes.

Link to full article from Aspen Daily News:


Atlas said...

Wow, thats incredible. I never would have even thought about the logistics of how to do that. Fascinating and makes me smile.

Daniel said...

I know it is not the same thing with a larger fish, but when I see someone tearing into another person on the internet for barely handeling a fish,ie. touching it with bare hands or holding the jaw and not supporting the belly in a vertical position, I think of areal stocking and chuckle.