Utah wildlife officials have called it “extreme fish stocking.” It’s hard to argue with that description after watching video of the tiny fish plummeting from an airplane into a lake.
The state’s division of wildlife resources posted 20-second footage on Twitter last week showing an airplane dumping scores and scores of tiny, floundering trout from its underbelly. From the plane, a feathery white gush of water carries the falling fish into the blue waters of the high-mountain lake below, video shows.
It may look like a deadly fall, but it’s actually not that perilous — for trout, at least. State wildlife officials wrote on Twitter that between 95 and 99 percent of the trout generally survive the drop.
Officials said the trouts’ little bodies (they’re only 1 to 3 inches long) are what allow them to survive the fall. Pilots start dumping the fish when the plane is roughly 150 feet above the surface of the lakes, state officials say.
“Because of their small size (reduced mass), the process of dropping doesn’t hurt the fish,” officials wrote on Twitter. “Think of it as a high diver diving into a deep pool of water.”
There are alternatives to air travel for taking the fish from hatcheries to the wild, including carrying the animals by truck, backpack or even milk cans and saddle bags.
But in a variety of ways, those options would be no better or safer, officials said.
“Transporting the fish by ground takes a lot longer,” the division wrote on Twitter, adding that ground travel is “much more stressful on the fish.”
Utah began dumping fish into lakes by air in 1956, according to the state wildlife agency.
Utah isn’t the only state taking advantage of fishes’ skydiving prowess, the Great Falls Tribune reports.
“Many mountain states with remote lakes do,” said Bruce Auchly, a spokesman for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, according to the Tribune. “We’ve done it over the years. It’s a step up from decades and decades ago when fingerlings were taken in milk cans and pack strings.”