The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is now using helicopters to stock trout in remote northeastern Minnesota lakes.
Traditionally, the DNR uses trucks to stock fish in lakes for anglers. But this doesn't really work for the state's remote lakes, so in the past, the DNR has used airplanes.
Recently, though, pilots with the DNR Enforcement Division's Aviation Unit created a helicopter-based system to stock lakes more effectively and efficiently.
“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.”
Helicopters can hover 5 feet above the water to drop the fish in the lake, which increases the fish survival rate to about 100%, the DNR says. When fish are stocked using an airplane, which is about 100 feet above the water traveling at 100 mph, the survival rate is about 85%.
Using helicopters also helps prevent the spreading of aquatic invasive species.
According to the DNR, Minnesota is among just a few states in the U.S. with naturally reproducing lake trout populations. The state has 116 lake trout lakes, which is second only to Alaska.
The DNR does not stock lake trout in the 35 known native lake trout lakes