Biologists air-drop trout into mountain lakes

State fish biologists took to the air last week to release 350,000 trout in more than 450 backwoods lakes within the Cascade and Siskiyou mountains, including several in Jackson County.

Rainbow, brook and cutthroat trout — all about 11/2; inches long — were dropped into the lakes from a special stocking shuttle carried beneath a helicopter.

The tiny fish flutter into the lakes from about 100 feet above the surface, easily surviving the trauma better than older, larger trout, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Most of the trout grow to 8 to 12 inches long and they are the backbone of the high-mountain fisheries enjoyed by summer backpackers and horsepackers visiting lakes not accessible by roads.

The stocked lakes include several in the Sky Lakes Wilderness Area, including Carey, Pear, Horseshoe, Blue Canyon, Blue, Beal, Round, McKee, Alta, Cliff, Middle, Grass and Ivern lakes.

Others include Lost Lake in eastern Jackson County and Miller Lake near Applegate Lake. In the Red Buttes Wilderness Area, the stocked lakes include Tannen, East Tannen and Bolan lakes.

Bolan Lake is the only one of those stocked that's accessible by road, says David Haight, a fish biologist at the ODFW's Central Point office who took part in the stocking.

The local effort took two days out of the weeklong program, Haight says.

The aerial stocking is a method used for decades by the ODFW, replacing the more laborious method of carrying bucket-loads of trout in backpacks.

In recent years, helicopter pilots have been joined in the air by agency biologists armed with Global Positioning System units that help increase efficiency and reduce flying time, which costs $2,200 an hour, according to Ted Wise, the ODFW biologist in Bend who oversees the program.

Wise estimates the stocking to cost about $156 per lake.

Volunteers from the Rogue Valley Chapter of the Oregon Hunters Association cleared logs from nearly 11 miles of a popular trail in the Sky Lakes Wilderness Area damaged last year by wildfire.

Using axes and handsaws because mechanized tools are banned from wilderness areas, eight volunteers cleared about 50 logs that blocked access along the Tom and Jerry Trail within the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

The trees had fallen during the Middle Fork fire, which burned about 2,700 acres within the wilderness area last August and September.

OHA chapter members have long done regular maintenance work on the trail, which is popular among backwoods elk hunters.

Later this summer, chapter members plan to return and repair the Bessie Shelter at the trailhead and improve boundary markers flagging environmentally sensitive areas along Bessie Creek, according to the chapter.

Firefighters drawing water from Diamond Lake to battle a nearby wildfire have convinced the Umpqua National Forest to close a section of the Dellenbeck Trail along the lake's south shore area.

The Whitney Fire is burning within the boundaries of Crater Lake National Park, but firefighting crews and the incident command team are stationed at the overflow section of the lake's Broken Arrow Campground.

The trail section stretching from the South Shore Boat Ramp to Teal Lake and Silent Creek will remain closed to make way for helicopters lifting water out of Diamond Lake for fighting the flames.

The trail closure will be in effect indefinitely. All other Forest Service facilities at the lake remain open.

An Ashland man has been reappointed by the Oregon Senate to the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, which administers Oregon Lottery money for projects that improve basin habitats.

Dan Thorndike was appointed by Gov. Ted Kulongoski to serve a four-year term as a member of the public at large for OWEB, which awards about $30 million annually to landowners, watershed councils and others for water-quality and habitat improvements.

Thorndike is the general counsel and corporate secretary for Medford Fabrication. He has served since 2001 as the Water Resources Commission Representative on the board.

In his new seat, Thorndike will be able to serve no more than eight consecutive years.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail

Share This Story