Within the wilderness, vehicle travel is both illegal and impractical for transporting fish to these remote waters. A helicopter offers a fast and low impact alternative for stocking fish and typically stocking operations are completed in several hours. Helicopter stocking is normally conducted in even numbered years on Bighorn National Forest waters and odd numbered years on Shoshone National Forest waters. Dead Indian Creek on the Shoshone National Forest however, will be stocked again this year as part of the Dead Indian Creek Yellowstone cutthroat trout restoration project.
According to Sheridan Regional Fisheries Supervisor Paul Mavrakis, "The stocking is done every two years in the Bighorns with individual lakes stocked on a two or four year rotation depending on the stocking needs and amount of angler use. Weather permitting, the 2012 stocking will take place Monday, July 30 or as soon as possible if bad weather causes delays.”
To get the required number of trout into the high elevation lakes, the fish stocked are small, generally just 2-4 inches. Mavrakis says that within 2-3 years the fish grow large enough to be of interest to anglers, either to catch and release, or keep for the frying pan.
Mavrakis says, “While helicopter stocking is expensive, it is less costly than backpacking or stocking fish with a pack string. We believe the effort is worthwhile and appreciated by the many anglers who hike in for the unique experience associated with wilderness fishing.”
Flights originating on the Bighorn National Forest will begin around 6:30 a.m. and should be completed within two or three hours, depending upon weather conditions. Flights for the Shoshone National Forest will commence early afternoon on July 31.
Many of Wyoming's high country lakes are not capable of supporting a reproductive population of fish. Therefore, it becomes necessary to periodically stock these lakes to provide an adequate fishery for backcountry anglers. Only a small percentage of wilderness lakes are managed by stocking fish. Many others have wild, self-sustaining fish populations, or are presently fishless.
In years past, it would have taken fisheries workers several weeks to reach each lake to stock the fish. The "fingerlings" were held in milk cans and transported to the high country lakes using horses and mules. With two specially designed fish tank clusters and one helicopter, this same operation takes only three to four hours.
To learn more about wilderness rules and appropriate behavior while visiting wilderness areas refer to the Bighorn National Forest’s website.
(Contact: Tara Teaschner (307) 527-7125 or Warren Mischke (307) 672-7418)