The term ‘flying fish’ will take on new meaning this week at Oregon’s high mountain lakes.
Officials are planning to drop more than 350,000 fingerling trout from helicopters into hundreds of backcountry lakes across Oregon's mountains.
The goal is to offer fishing opportunities to those willing to venture into the backcounty, officials said.
Spots that will receive a drop of fish near Salem include numerous lakes in the Cascade Range, including in the Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington and Three Sisters wilderness areas. You can see a full breakdown of lakes being stocked at: dfw.state.or.us/resources/fishing/trout_stocking_schedules
The type of fish stocked via helicopter include juvenile brook, cutthroat and rainbow trout. It usually takes two years for the small fish to reach the 8-inch size where anglers can keep them, officials said.
“Oregon is the only state that I know of that has such a robust high mountain fish-stocking program,” said Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife project leader Erik Moberly in a news release. “We want to provide a unique angling experience for backpackers and hikers who might like to catch a cutthroat or brook trout for dinner around the campfire.”
The fish drop in high mountain lakes takes place every two years. The trout are transported mostly by helicopter in a custom shuttle carrying 30 individual canisters that hold a few gallons of water and up to 1,000 fingerling trout. The canisters are opened individually by remote control from inside the cockpit while the chopper hovers over a lake, ODFW said.
Biologists typically use 3-inch juvenile fish because they can make the 100-foot fall to the lake with less trauma than larger fish, officials said, which improves survival rates. Ninety-five percent of the little fish survive the long freefall into the lake, but biologist believe they may have more difficulty surviving once they’re in the lake than larger fish. So, this year in some locations, ODFW is experimenting with larger trout, to see how their overall survival compares to the younger fish, the news release said.
“Trout fishing is still by far our most popular type of fishing in Oregon,” said Mike Gauvin, manager of ODFW’s Recreational Fisheries Program. “The thing about Oregon’s high lakes is there are not a lot of places in the lower 48 United States where you can have this kind of wilderness fishing experience.”
Officials said new is technology makes aerial stocking more efficient than in the past. In Oregon, biologists for each participating watershed district plot the flight paths and release sites on handheld GPS units, which they then use on board the helicopter to help the pilot navigate directly to each lake with pinpoint accuracy. A helicopter crew can seed as many as 20 lakes with 20,000 trout in a single one-hour flight. In other areas, ODFW still gets trout to the outback the old-fashioned way — afoot or on horseback with the help of volunteers.