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Utah drops thousands of fish from plane to restock remote lakes

Friday, August 6th 2021, 9:19 pm - Every year the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources takes stockpiles of fish aboard a plane and drops them into otherwise inaccessible rivers and streams -- a mostly safe process for the aquatic animals.

Travelling by plane is mostly reserved for humans and some pets, but for thousands of fish in Utah, they get to experience flights every year.

Because many of the state's lakes and streams are inaccessible, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has to get creative in order to restock them with fish. So, every year the division takes stockpiles of fish aboard a plane and drops them from more than 100 feet above the waterways.

However, dropping them from that distance is "surprisingly painless" and typically survivable for the small trout that the organization restocks the high-elevation waterways with, the agency said.

A video of the aerial process was posted online recently, showing how the fish are scattered into the lakes and streams from a plane flying high above. Parts of it were slowed down considerably to highlight how frantic the fish were as they were released.

The airborne restocking occurs several times a year, typically starting in July, and has been commonly used since the 1950s, according to the division. Pilots are able to drop up to 35,000 trout into 40-60 lakes in a matter of a few hours. The procedure is quicker and more efficient than pushing the fish through a pipe that channels them into a lake, which is typical for restocking accessible lakes.

Because a number of waterways can't be reached by car, pilots take to the air -- stationing the plane at around 150 feet above the lakes and streams -- to release the fish somewhat smoothly into their new habitats.

 Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (Utah Division of Wildlife Resources/Storyful)

The division stated that it takes the fish just a few hours to reach the water after they've been dropped from the plane, despite falling from considerable height. As a result, the aquatic animals feel less stressed, leading to a greater survival rate during the release.

About 95 per cent of the fish survive the release, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources told CNN in 2018.

What happens to them after they've reached their destination below? They have already adapted to the water temperatures before their fall and examined after the release to determine the number of fish that survived.

Thumbnail courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources/Storyful.

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Nathan Howes is a digital reporter for The Weather Network. He covers breaking news, weather, environment and climate stories. Reach him at

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