Raining trout in the High Country | VailDaily.com

Raining trout in the High Country

Courtesy Colorado Division of WildlifeA modified Cessna unloads cargo of cutthroat trout fingerlings in an unidentified lake in the mountains of Colorado.

ASPEN ” It’s been raining cats and dogs lately in Colorado’s high country. Now it’s raining trout ” 325,000 trout, to be exact.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife started using aircraft to stock high-mountain lakes throughout the state with fingerling trout Monday. Modified Cessna 185 aircraft are undertaking difficult maneuvers to skim within 125 feet of the lakes’ surfaces and drop their cutthroat cargo.

The aerial stocking operation will continue through mid-September. So if you’re hiking near some High Country lakes and see a plane dumping something into the water, don’t freak out and call Homeland Security.

Don’t laugh. It happened: In 2002, when the nation remained on high alert after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, an aircraft with extra trout dumped its load on Ruedi Reservoir.

The water that exited the plane with the trout appeared to people on the shore to be a white powdery substance. Their report to authorities touched off an investigation. State wildlife officials had to sell the fish story to the FBI and Secret Service.

The aircraft stocking the lakes are white with orange or red markings and have a painted Division of Wildlife seal.

Lakes in Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Pitkin and Summit counties will be stocked with about 50,000 fish bred free of whirling disease at the Division of Wildlife hatchery in Rifle.

Sherman Hebein, the Division of Wildlife’s senior aquatic biologist for the Northwest Region, said stocking is necessary to maintain fish populations because many trout die during winters in the high mountain lakes.

Many of the lakes are in high mountain bowls where space is tight and wind currents are unpredictable. To stock the fish successfully, the plane has to be within 125 feet of the surface in order for the fish not to dry out before they hit the water. The typical speed of the aircraft at the time of the drop is approximately 85 mph.

There is a hopper on the belly of the plane that the pilots can load from a specially designed tank fitted for the aircraft in the back seat. The pilot pushes a button on the yoke at a precise time, which releases the fish and water.

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