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Questions on Skydiving Fish

Dear Eduardo Medina,

Recently, I stumbled upon your educational and entertaining article: “A Plane in Utah Lets Fish Fly.” I never thought I would say something like this, but: thank you for writing this article about skydiving fish. Starting with the headline and first few sentences, your article immediately grabbed my attention and kept it throughout the piece. I learned a lot about the process of restocking lakes—a process that I originally had no idea even existed!

After reading this article, though, I was left with a few questions: why is it necessary to use planes, people, and equipment in order to restock lakes for anglers? Can the fish not reproduce on their own? How big of a problem is overfishing? Looking through the comments, I found many readers with similar questions. As one reader commented, “I am curious why the fish, dropped or not, don't reproduce enough once in the lakes to maintain the population.”

A different user answered that “these stocking efforts are basically for a put and take fishery… In the high alpine lakes the low temps hinder feeding hence growth… that's just the way it is.” The explanation that these lakes are “cold and sterile environs” which do not naturally sustain many fish seems to make sense until one takes into consideration what a fellow curious reader wondered, “If that is the case, what induced early anglers to trek into mountain lakes in the first place, there being no fish naturally sustainable in the mountain lakes?”

Another commenter proposed that the need for restocking could be due to whether or not the fish can naturally reproduce: “they mention that there are brook trout and tiger trout in their stocking program. Tiger trout are a hybrid between a brook trout and a lake trout and are sterile (like a mule). Brook trout are native to the north east and while they can and do reproduce in Western lakes, often times there isn't the proper spawning areas or nutrients to make it happen.” One user backed up this point regarding the brook trout, saying that they “may or may not be able to reproduce... depends on the health of the lake.”

Yet another NYT reader replied that the issue might not have to do with the lake temperature or the ability of fish to reproduce at all. “I could be mistaken, but my understanding is that historically it hasn't been so much an issue of fish being unable to reproduce, but rather the pressure of overfishing from droves of anglers who flock to the back country - who maybe don't abide by daily limits or mangle fish in the process of catch and release. At this point I can't imagine environmental factors not being at play too.” Simply put, the fish need to be restocked “because people hike in and catch them,” as one commenter said.

Long story short, we have lots of questions and not a lot of answers. Who is correct in the comments above? Are there multiple factors at play? Does the answer to our questions lie somewhere else entirely? Mr. Medina, thank you for writing a refreshing and interesting article to make us wonder, learn, and think. Now we have questions. Please write a follow up article to answer them.


Cana Yao


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