Helicopters to drop trout into Oregon’s high-mountain lakes

SALEM, Ore. — More than 350,000 fingerling trout are being dropped from helicopters into lakes across the mountains of Oregon.

The goal of this week’s drop is to offer fishing opportunities to those willing to venture into the backcountry, The Statesman Journal reported. The fish to be stocked in high mountain lakes include juvenile brook, cutthroat and rainbow trout.

“Trout fishing is still by far our most popular type of fishing in Oregon,” said Mike Gauvin, manager of recreational fishing for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “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.”

The fish drop happens every two years, and it usually takes two years for the small fish to reach the 8-inch size where anglers can keep them.

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 by remote control from inside the cockpit while the chopper hovers over a lake.

A helicopter crew can seed as many as 20 lakes with 20,000 trout in a single one-hour flight. In other areas, the agency still must use the old-fashioned way of getting trout to the outback – afoot or on horseback.

Biologists generally use 3-inch juvenile fish because the 100-foot fall is less traumatic for them than larger fish.

Ninety-five percent of the little fish survive the drop, but biologists believe they may have a tougher time surviving once they’re in the lake. The state will experiment with larger trout in some locations, to see how their survival rate compares.

Spots near Salem that will get fish include numerous lakes in the Cascade Range, including in the Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington and Three Sisters wilderness areas. The Fish and Wildlife website includes a statewide list.

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