Stocked Up: Interior Alaskan Lakes are ready for reeling
While posing for a picture with a fresh graying caught in a still Alaskan lake, many don't realize how the fish got to those isolated waters.
As of Friday, approximately 100 Interior lakes and ponds had been stocked by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's Ruth Burnett Sport Fish Hatchery.
Since its inception in 2012, the hatchery has raised several different kinds of fish, from eggs to fingerling and when they're ready, "you're out of the house and you get the boot," said Assistant Manager Megan Davis.
Hatchery manager Travis Hyer says there are three main reasons for stocking local lakes.
-Opportunity: "There are a lot of roadside accessible lakes that if we did not put fish in them, they wouldn't be capable of sustaining fish."
-Diversity: "There are a lot of natural resources out there and sometimes the diversity isn't easily accessible."
-Conservation: "By giving people an opportunity to catch and harvest a stock fishery, we can divert some of that pressure away from wild stocks and protect some of the more sensitive wild stock fisheries that are out there."
The hatchery currently raises and releases rainbow trout (their biggest program), arctic char, arctic grayling, Chinook salmon, coho salmon, and added this year, lake trout.
On a typical stock day, of which there were 68 this year, the hatchery goes into the day knowing where they will be stocking and how many fish to bring. After filling out the proper paper work, they gather the fish with a seine and weigh netfuls of fish within a bucket before dumping them back into the seine, getting an average weight for the population.
"We use a formula with the average weight and whatever water level changes [in the truck tank] we use displacement and can calculate how many fish we have put in the truck. This saves us a lot of time so we are not have hand-count fish, which would not be feasible for us to get the job done." said Davis.
Once the fish are in the truck, they are ready to reach their next destination. On Friday, the final day of stocking, the team's stops included North Pole Pond, Lost Lake, and Birch Lake. Unlike the viral stocking videos where thousands of fish slide down a tube as if it was a fish water park, but in typical Alaskan fashion, the waters are usually stocked by hand. Just a few netfuls of fish will suffice for the entire summer, depending on location, allowing anglers to cast freely without worry of overfishing.
"We're finally back to where we have a facility that can actually support and provide the fish that the area managers want to see in their lakes and that's reflective of public demand, public input, things like that," said Ruth Burnett Hatchery manager Travis Hyer.
The hatchery will top off certain popular lakes in August, before stocking for the winter ice fishing season.
The hatchery raises about 450,000 fish annually.
A complete list of stocked lakes can be found on the