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Cordova's Flying Fish

Deer Lake Hatchery – Aircraft Fish Stocking

Submitted by Wayne VanVolkenburg

Otter aircraft loaded with fish, Cordova Lake. c.1969

In the late 1960’s and 70’s Beaver and Otter aircraft were employed to stock smaller, otherwise inaccessible lakes within the district.  These versatile aircraft were fitted with special tanks that held perforated aluminum trays.  An oxygen supply system was added to increase the carrying capacity and the distance that could be travelled.

The trays were each loaded at the hatchery with a predetermined number of fish.  Once the aircraft had reached the lake, the fish were dumped into a hopper with an exit chute.  At the appropriate time, the release mechanism was activated and the fish dropped into the lake.  The lakes were small and the timing was critical, so sometimes the target was not reached by all of the fish.

In order to fly fish from Deer Lake Hatchery it was necessary to install a temporary dock at the north end of the lake which would accommodate an aircraft.  Also, the temporary installation of a communications radio was necessary.  This would allow contact between the hatchery staff and the pilot.  In order for things to happen in an efficient manner the hatchery needed to be notified about thirty minutes before the aircraft landed.  This would allow time for loading the trays and making the trip to the landing site.

Sieving fingerings from pond,

On one occasion, while making his approach to the lake, the pilot radioed the hatchery and informed the manager that there was a fire burning behind the office.  Apparently the manager had started a fire in the incinerator and gone back to his other duties.  Some sparks had ignited the surrounding grass and a fire resulted.  Luckily it was caught in time and extinguished.  Although there was a shed full of fire suppression equipment on site, it could have proven to be quite embarrassing,       

This method of aircraft stocking was replaced by the use of helicopters. The shock of dropping fish from an airplane had shown to cause significant mortality. Although the helicopter was more costly to operate, it proved to be more cost efficient in the long run.

For lots more on the Deer Lake Fish Hatchery,  CLICK HERE