The time is right this summer for outdoor adventure into Oregon’s alpine lake regions and if you go, be sure that you take a rod and reel to catch feisty trout.
This week, I’ll show you the unique and speedy ways that “Flying Trout” reach hundreds of Oregon’s high lakes so to provide recreation for eager and adventurous anglers. Early morning – when air is cool and scenery quiet, stunning snow-capped Mt Hood is a marvel! But for one week every other summer, Oregon’s Cascade Mountain silence is broken when a Bell U1H1 (owned and operated by Columbia Basin Helicopters of Baker City) helicopter takes flight with a load of “flying trout.”
Oregon’s high cascade areas are remote and difficult to reach – usually by horse or on foot, so Oregon Dept of Fish and Wildlife’s “aerial stocking program” delivers tens of thousands of the so called “flying trout” on time and on target into nearly four hundred high lakes – in one week.
This week’s base for the Northern Cascade flights was the Mt Hood Meadows Ski Area’s Sunrise Lodge parking lot. On the ground, tens of thousands of baby rainbow, cutthroat and brook trout are loaded aboard a special unit called the “Aerial Stocking Device” or ASD. ODFW engineers built the fish-hauling unit back in ’97.
Ground crews load up to 400 of the 3-inch long trout into each of 30 aerated tanks on the remote controlled device. The device sports a rear tailfin and an aerodynamic nose that lend a familiar look – like a miniature “space shuttle.”
The history of Oregon alpine lake’s trout stocking is rich and colorful. In the early days of the 20th century, horse pack trains made long arduous treks into the cascades to deliver the baby fish – it was a summer long effort to reach all of the lakes, that were often frozen over or closed due to slides.
In the 1960′s, fixed wing aircraft took over and then helicopters cut down on time and expense. Today, they helicopter with it’s remote controlled unit hanging 60 feet under the ship’s belly will fly into nearly 400 lakes in just one week.
The baby trout thrive and grow fast in the nutrient rich lakes – they will grow to catchable size in just one year.
A recent angling survey noted that one out of four of the state’s 600,000 licensed anglers participate in high cascade lakes fishing opportunities and they are a dedicated group who say they return year after year.
The project is funded through the sales of Oregon angling licenses and tags and the cost: benefit of the project is significant.
Managers said that for every dollar that is spent on the week long aerial trout stocking of Oregon’s high lakes generates an additional $16.00 to the Oregon economy by the anglers and campers who journey to the remote areas.
For more on ODFW’s Trout Stocking Program: http://www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/fishing/trout_stocking_schedules/
About the Author: Grant McOmie
Grant McOmie is a Pacific Northwest broadcast journalist, teacher and author who writes and produces stories and special programs about the people, places, outdoor activities and environmental issues of the Pacific Northwest. A fifth generation Oregon native, Grant’s roots run deepest in the central Oregon region near Prineville and Redmond where his family continues to live.