Big mystery turns out to be just another fish story | AspenTimes.com

Big mystery turns out to be just another fish story

It had all the makings of a good spy thriller.

A mysterious airplane flew low over Ruedi Reservoir and dropped an unknown object into the water. One witness fishing the waters called 911 at about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday to report the strange happening. It was confirmed minutes later when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation guard at the dam also called in.

What could be happening? Could terrorists be striking in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, perhaps lacing the water with cyanide or, as one wag suggested, LSD? Maybe they figured out a way to weaken the dam and send a wall of water down the Fryingpan Valley and into Basalt.

Pitkin County’s finest were put on the case to investigate.

Alas, the mysterious doings turned out to be nothing more than a fish story ? and not even a big fish story.

The mystery plane belonged to the Colorado Division of Wildlife. And instead of dangerous chemical agents, it was dumping fish, Colorado cutthroat trout fingerlings, to be exact.

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“We are stocking high-altitude lakes and reservoirs now as we do every year,” said wildlife division spokesman Todd Malmsbury. The fingerlings, between one and two inches long, are taken from DOW hatcheries and dumped into high water sources.

The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office learned of the stocking program early in the investigation and allayed fears.

Stocking occurs in late summer because water levels are usually stable ? although Ruedi Reservoir will be supplying significantly more water than usual to the Western Slope this fall. The fingerlings also have a chance to grow up over the winter.

“The first thing you think is they’re going to die after you drop them. But survival rate is over 95 percent,” Malmsbury said. It falls from there because the small fish get gobbled by bigger fish.

Nevertheless, it ensures the good fishing in many of the high-altitude water sources.

Malmsbury said the wildlife division will be stocking various lakes and reservoirs in various parts of the state over the next few days. He was glad the Ruedi work didn’t cause a greater disruption.

“They didn’t send up any F-15s or anything after our fish guys? I’m glad to hear that,” he said.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com]

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