For the first time, the Fort Peck Multi-Species Fish Hatchery will be using one of the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks helicopters to stock fingerling rainbow trout to many Region 6 public and private ponds that are opened for public fishing.
In the past, the ponds – which are included in the “Region 6 Pond Fishing Guide” published and distributed free by the FWP — were stocked using pickup trucks, said Hatchery Manager Wade Geraets.
“We plan to begin helicopter stocking on April 16 and continue through completion, likely on April 18,” Geraets said. “We are also working in conjunction with the FWP Region 7 helicopter plants that are scheduled earlier that same week out of FWP’s Miles City Fish Hatchery.”
Geraets said the Fort Peck Hatchery will stock two-inch-long Arlee rainbow trout, which are commonly known as fingerlings. These fish were received as eggs from FWP’s Jocko River Hatchery late last December.
Members of the public should be aware that the helicopter will be flying north and east of Glasgow and south and east of Scobey, between Culbertson, Circle and Richey, north and west of Plentywood, north and south of Chinook; and on federal Bureau of Land Management lands and private areas east of the DY-Junction area of the Missouri River Breaks south of Malta. A total of 37 ponds will be stocked this way in Region 6, Geraets said.
“We also have a couple of large fingerling stocks, and all of our catchable-size rainbow trout stocks will be planted using pickups as in previous years,” he said.
Geraets said there are several reasons to switch to helicopter stocking. First is that it will relieve stress on the fish because they can be stocked much earlier in the year than before. Comparisons of overall costs of stocking with a helicopter versus state pickups will need to be evaluated once the fish have been moved.
“Due to Mother Nature, we are sometimes forced to stock the trout in late May and into June because we are unable to get our vehicles into certain areas,” Geraets said. “By waiting this long, water temperatures in some of these ponds increase to levels that create more stress and higher mortality rates for the fish.”
For more information about the upcoming changes in the pond stocking program, call Geraets at 406-526-3689, Ext. 205.
(Report by Montana FWP; Photo via gofishbc.com)