Anglers on remote lakes in northeastern Minnesota will be be able to catch more trout thanks to helicopter-based fish stocking that took place this fall.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says while they usually use trucks to stock fish, that method can't be used in some of the state's remote, difficult-to-reach lakes. In the past, airplanes were used in those locations but that changed this fall.

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Pilots in the DNR Enforcement Division’s Aviation Unit, which assists other agency divisions with creel counts, wildlife-population surveys and habitat-improvement efforts, in addition to its typical enforcement work, worked to create and construct a helicopter-based system that makes stocking more effective and efficient.

“The main benefit of using a helicopter, from a resource perspective, is that more of the stocked fish survive, so there are more for anglers to catch,” said Chris Lofstuen, the Enforcement Division’s chief pilot. “At the same time, flying over remote lakes in often challenging terrain presents a certain amount of risk to our pilots. Among all the other benefits of using helicopters, one aspect is most important – they’re safer.”

The DNR says that since helicopters can hover just 5 feet above the water to drop fish, the overall survival rate is nearly 100%.  By comparison, when they're stocked from an airplane, which drops fish from 100 feet above water while traveling 100 miles per hour, the survival rate is about 85%.

Another advantage is, unlike planes, helicopters do not land on the water so the possibility of of spreading aquatic invasive species is mitigated.

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