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It’s Raining Fish: Here’s Why Fish Don’t Mind Being Dropped From Airplanes

Catch and release fishing ensures healthy fish populations and great angling opportunities for now and the future. Fishermen are well versed in the knowledge of safe catch and release methods and the advice is always to be gentle with the fish. So, with this in mind, how do fish manage to survive being dropped from the sky? 

In a post on Instagram, Wes Benton (@coloradodude on Instagram) points out this interesting juxtaposition. How can fish survive the fall, and why do so many state departments stock their lakes this way? Let’s dive in. 

It’s Raining Fish 

According to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, this aerial process of stocking fish at high-elevation lakes has been happening for a long time. “If you see flying fish at Utah’s remote waters, don’t be alarmed,” they explain on their website. 

Since the 1950s, Utah’s lakes have been stocked by dropping the fish from airplanes. 

The planes, containing seven chambers of fish, fly at around 50 – 150 feet (15 – 45 m) above the water. The planes travel at about 70 – 80 mph (112 – 128 kmph). This method allows the aircraft to stock several lakes in one trip, 40 – 60 lakes in one single day and approximately 300 lakes per year, making it a very efficient way of distributing the fish. 

Image by Kathryn Archibald

Wildlife departments across the United States argue that the process is ethical, too. The fish, usually various species of trout, measure between 1 – 3 inches long (2 – 7 cm) and are able to survive the fall due to their small size. The air slows their fall allowing the fish to survive. In fact, transporting fish by ground has proved to be more difficult, because it is tricky to maintain oxygen levels in small tanks and it takes a long time to travel between some of the lakes. 

The sound of the fish dropping from the sky has been described as similar to the sound of raindrops on the water. 

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