At the end of July, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department stocked over 21,000 fish in high country lakes on the west slope of the Bighorn Mountains using a helicopter. The helicopter offers a fast and low impact alternative for stocking fish in remote areas. Game and Fish normally stocks Bighorn National Forest waters every other year.
To stock fish using this method, the fish are loaded in eight cylinder shaped tanks, which are attached to the helicopter by a cable. Each tank holds approximately five to eight gallons of iced water and 10 to 25 pounds of fish, depending on the size and species of the fish. Each tank may contain different species or sizes of fish, depending on the lake to be stocked.
Each tank compartment has a door that opens at the bottom to release the fish as the helicopter maneuvers over the lake. The pilot has a control switch that can trigger each door individually or all eight tank doors at once. The canisters are approximately ten feet above the water when they are opened.
Yellowstone cutthroat trout were stocked in East Marion Lake, Emerald Lake, Lake Elsie, Lily Lake, Little Poacher Lake, Lost Lake, Lost Twin Lakes # 1 and # 2, Maybelle Lodge Lake, and Poacher Lake. Golden trout were planted in Gunboat Lake, Lower Pouch Lake and Upper Pouch Lake. Splake were planted in Lower Medicine Lodge Lake and tiger trout were stocked in Cliff Lake and Granite Lake.
Many of Wyoming’s high country lakes are not capable of supporting a reproductive population of fish. Therefore, it is necessary to periodically stock these lakes to provide an adequate fishery for backcountry anglers. Only a small percentage of the wilderness lakes are managed by stocking of fish. Many others have wild, self-sustaining fish populations, or are presently managed as fishless.