What is fish stocking?? Each summer the Central Oregon Llama Association would coordinate with the Oregon Fish and Wildlife to use llamas to pack the juvenile brook trout to Doris and Blow Lake in the Cascade Wilderness. The survival rate of the fish was substantially higher if packed in with llamas as opposed to being dropped by helicopter. Yes, dropped by helicopter. Some lakes that are stocked are too remote even for the llamas and do need to be stocked with helicopters.
Llamas used for fish stocking need to be well-conditioned. The small load is 35 lbs and the large load is 50 lbs. This is the weight of the fish, water, and ice. It does not include the weight of the saddle which can add an additional 10 lbs to the llama’s load. Doris Lake is a 1.5 mile hike in and Blow Lake is a 3 mile hike in and it’s all uphill! Best for the fish if you hoof it in at a quick clip before the ice melts and their mini aquariums get too hot.
The llamas used for fish stocking also need to be fairly experienced packers. There’s been more than a few occasions where the Forest Service and/or their volunteers hadn’t gotten the trail cleared prior to fish stocking day. Lots of fallen trees to negotiate. Below is a recap of fish stocking in 2005.
Fish stocking 2005 started off early on Saturday July 9th. Most folks showed up well before the 9:00 am sharp!!! deadline imposed by COLA ‘s fish stocking coordinator, Jeri Welbourne. Of course, there were a couple of people who did go zipping by the Six Lakes Trailhead and had to do a U-turn a couple miles down the road. Had something to do with owning new, bigger, more powerful rigs and not yet accustomed to having to use the brakes. Several COLA members braved the elements and spent the prior night camping in the rain at Cultus Lake.
There were 26 llamas, 20 COLA members, and 10 volunteers from the general public on hand to pack approximately 4200 juvenile brook trout in to Doris and Blow Lake. At 9:30 am sharp!!! Ed Assony, who works for Oregon Fish and Wildlife and has been assisting in the annual fish stocking for the past eight years, began loading the appropriate amount of water and fish for each llama to carry to the lakes. A big thank you to Robert Albers who went to great lengths to ensure that every last juvenile trout made it out of the tank truck and into a llama’s load.
The weather was overcast with some showers which was an added help in keeping the fish cool during the trek in to the lakes. Unfortunately, the weather did not help with mosquitoes – only mosquito spray helped with that. Due to budget cuts, the trail had not been cleared and there were numerous log obstacle challenges to be overcome. Apparently the humans were much more concerned about these obstacles than the llamas. Despite these “hardships”, all the fish made it up to the lakes and everyone had a great time!