Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

‘Aerial Stocking': Viral Video Shows Clouds of Fish Falling From Plane Into Utah Lakes

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources replenished high-elevation lakes in the state by dropping tiny fish from low-flying planes into the water below.

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It’s not a bird, it’s not just a plane and it’s definitely not Superman — it’s flying fish?

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources replenished high-elevation lakes in the state by dropping tiny fish from low-flying planes into the water below.

Video footage shared on the agency's Facebook page shows a Cessna 185 Skywagon plane, which holds hundreds of pounds of water and can drop 35,000 fish in a single flight, releasing a cloud of fish in bursts across the state’s lakes. These "fingerlings" are one to three-inches long, "so they flutter down slowly to the water," the UDW said.

Because these lakes are inaccessible by vehicle, the department restocks the fish population through "aerial stocking." The fish included rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, brook trout, tiger trout, splake and Arctic grayling.

Small airplanes have been a popular vehicle for stocking lakes with fish since the 1950s, when getting to backcountry lakes made maintaining proper oxygen levels difficult. Division biologist Matt McKell wrote that fish are still transported today with buckets and backpacks by foot, four-wheeler or even horse.

While they’re not flying fish, the drop doesn't harm them much, with officials estimating that 95%-99% survive.

"The air slows their drop and they fall a bit like leaves. The slower fall allows the fish to survive. If the fish were larger, the survival rate would not be as high. We make sure to only aerially stock fish that range from 1–3 inches long. Fish are more stressed when transported by ground because it is difficult to maintain their required oxygen levels in small, packable tanks for such long distances. (Our high-mountain lakes are often many miles from any road)," the DWR said in an FAQ about the aerial fish restocking.

Instead of filming luxury skyscrapers, Doug Thron started using his drone expertise to help track and rescue animals left stranded after natural disasters. He explains how he rescued dogs after a wildfire and what you can see in his upcoming show "Doug to the Rescue" on CuriosityStream.
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