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Stocking cutthroat trout by airplane into Colorado’s mountain lakes

DENVER – Colorado Parks and Wildlife is stocking its alpine lakes in the northern half of the state, which there are 330 selected to receive roughly 380,000 trout dropped from the sky this year.

Forty of those lakes and 70,000 of the fish – 65,000 cutthroat trout and 5,000 golden trout – took off Wednesday from the Granby Airport and were air-dropped into the pristine high-elevation lakes in Boulder, Grand, Jackson and Larimer counties

The trout were reared at the Mt. Shavano Hatchery in Salida and driven up Wednesday to the Granby Airport starting at 4 a.m. by Fish Culturists Doug Sebring and Taylor Woolmington.

There they met CPW wildlife pilots Larry Gepfert and Denise Corcoran, who were ready to airlift the 1¼-inch trout in their Cessna 185 Aircraft to their new mountain-life home. It will take these fish a year-and-a-half or two years to grow to a catchable size of 10 inches.

“It’s efficient,” Sebring said was one of the many reasons the alpine lakes get stocked via airplane. “We can get a large quantity of fish into high mountain lakes that are basically only accessible by foot or horseback.”

And the fish, well they just float on down once deployed from the airplane at about 100-150 feet above the lake.

“They are so small and they don’t have a lot of mass to them, so their acceleration rate is pretty low,” Gepfert said. “Their heads are the heaviest parts, so they tend to go head first and drop straight into the water.”

CPW operates 19 hatcheries that breed, hatch, rear and stock over 90 million fish per year. Many of the fish produced are to enhance angling opportunities, while others serve a critical role in native species recovery efforts.

“There is definitely a niche of anglers that seek out high alpine fishing every year,” said Jeff Spohn, Senior Aquatic Biologist for the Northeast Region of CPW. “This is another opportunity that CPW provides to our angling community.”

Next year, the aerial effort will be focused on the alpine lakes in the southern half of the state. The rotation is part of CPW managing its natural resources for the future enjoyment of the public.