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Trout stocking via helicopter means more fish for Minnesota anglers

Anglers will have the opportunity to catch trout on remote lakes in northeastern Minnesota following helicopter-based fish stocking efforts this fall.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources typically uses trucks to stock fish, but traditional methods can’t be used in some of the state’s difficult-to-reach lakes. In those waters, airplanes have been used for years to provide aerial stocking.

But recently, pilots in the DNR Enforcement Division’s Aviation Unit – which assists other agency divisions with creel counts, wildlife-population surveys and habitat-improvement efforts, in addition to its typical enforcement work – created and constructed a helicopter-based system that makes stocking more effective and efficient.

“The main benefit of using a helicopter, from a resource perspective, is that more of the stocked fish survive, so there are more for anglers to catch,” said Chris Lofstuen, the Enforcement Division’s chief pilot. “At the same time, flying over remote lakes in often challenging terrain presents a certain amount of risk to our pilots. Among all the other benefits of using helicopters, one aspect is most important – they’re safer.”

Since the helicopters can hover 5 feet above the water and drop fish into the water, the survival rate of stocked fish is about 100%. When they’re stocked from an airplane, which drops fish from 100 feet above the surface while traveling 100 miles per hour, the survival rate is about 85%. Also, the possibility of spreading aquatic invasive species is mitigated because helicopters don’t land on the water.