Stocking fish into remote access lakes – one heli of a ride!

Another year, another completed season of fish stocking into Alberta waterbodies!

Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) stocked a variety of fish species into various waterbodies across the province in the spring and fall, as water temperatures are too warm in the summer. Stocking is simple: fish are transported from provincial fish hatcheries directly to a waterbody that doesn’t usually see these game fish species. Fish are traditionally stocked into the water through a large hose; however, if road access is challenging, these fish need an extra lift to get there.

Fish are transferred from the hatchery truck into buckets, which are then carried onto the helicopter.

Helicopter stocking (or heli-stocking) is the ideal choice (and just plane awesome!) to stock waterbodies that cannot be accessed with a vehicle. Access can be remote and require hiking, ATV, snowmobiling or other methods. However, it is worth the journey as these areas are well-used and loved by anglers since they provide a unique and secluded destination for fishing. The use of heli-stocking allows fisheries biologists to deliver these exclusive angling opportunities whilst reducing angling pressure on natural fish populations. This year, AEP staff documented the stocking process for Lily Lake in the Slave Lake region.

Approximately 3,600 brook trout and 325 tiger trout fish first took off from the Cold Lake Fish Hatchery to arrive for stocking in Lily Lake. But first, the hatchery truck had one stopover: the Marten Fire Tower on Marten Mountain where it would meet the helicopter and specially-trained Agriculture and Forestry wildfire staff to bring the fish to their final destination. Marten Mountain is a well-known look out point with access to a popular hiking trail down to Lily Lake. This is also the perfect location to meet, land and load the helicopter for fish stocking.

The helicopter hovers about 1m from the water surface in order to release the fish into Lily Lake.
Alberta Wildfire staff stocking Tiger Trout into Lily Lake.

Three loads transported a total of nine buckets of fish on a short 1km flight down to Lily Lake. This was an especially exciting trip as the tiger trout were first-time fliers in Lily Lake, whereas the brook trout are known as frequent fliers and have historically been stocked in this area. Once the helicopter arrives, it hovers about a 1m from the water surface, so the staff can dump around 1,800 fish from the buckets into the waterbody (per trip!) – now that’s one heli of a ride for these fish!

One of the 325 Tiger Trout ready to be released into Lily Lake for the first time, alongside 3,600 Brook Trout.

Staff and fish were literally flying high! For anglers, this provides you with diverse fishing opportunities within Alberta, as 240 waterbodies are stocked every year.

Always be sure to #KnowBeforeYouGo as sportfishing regulations differ at each waterbody! If Lily Lake is on your radar, a fishing licence is required and only two brook trout are allowed to be kept, whereas tiger trout are solely catch and release.

Safe travels!

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