FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Ballaine Lake came to life within a matter of minutes on a recent afternoon.
One minute the only movement on the lake were ripples caused by a slight breeze. The next minute rainbow trout were breaking the surface and slapping their tails on the water.
Somehow it made things seem right, for a lake isn't a lake without the occasional jump of a fish.
''I wish we had more places like this in town,'' biologist Cal Skaugstad said as he watched the fish acclimate to their new home.
Biologists stocked 1,000 catchable rainbow trout in the small lake off Farmer's Loop, one of only a few lakes or gravel pits in town stocked by Fish and Game. They used nets to transport the fish from a tank on a special fish-transporting truck that made the 400-mile drive from Anchorage.
Within a few minutes, three people were fishing. They tossed their lines into the small whirlpool created by the fish as they milled near shore.
''I had two people show up in my office today asking me when I was going to stock Ballaine Lake,'' Skaugstad said. ''This place will be packed in a few hours.''
This is the fourth year biologists have stocked the tiny lake and it has proved to be immensely popular.
''The first year we put 500 fish in on the first shot and people were calling us three weeks later saying they couldn't catch any fish,'' Skaugstad said. ''They had already caught them all.''
This summer, Ballaine Lake is scheduled to get 2,000 fish and chances are most of them will be caught and taken home to be put in a frying pan, Skaugstad said.
''Seventy-five percent of the fish that are harvested in the Tanana Valley are stocked fish,'' Skaugstad said. ''Everybody thinks wild fish is the big thing in Alaska but along the road system it's stocked fish.''
Wild fish populations can't handle the kind of fishing pressure that stocked lakes receive, evidenced by the fact that most Arctic grayling fisheries in the Tanana Valley are restricted catch and release.
Ballaine Lake was one of several local ponds and lakes stocked by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Wednesday in anticipation of Memorial Day weekend.
The fish, black with a red, green and blue stripe down the side, looked like brand new toys, fresh out of the wrapper, or hatchery in this case. Most of the fish were between 10 and 12 inches.
The fish were reared from eggs at state hatcheries at Fort Richardson and Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage. The state will stock more than 8 million fish in Alaska ponds, lakes, streams this year. Over 1 million of those fish will be stocked in more than 130 Interior lakes and ponds from Glennallen to Fairbanks.
Other lakes or ponds stocked by Fish and Game earlier this month included Bathing Beauty Pond off the Richardson Highway near Eielson Air Force Base; Hidden, Grayling and Moose lakes on Eielson Air Force Base; two ponds behind the weigh station on the Richardson Highway about five miles south of Fairbanks; and Little Harding Lake. Fish and Game stocked Piledriver Slough and ponds at Mile 30 and Mile 47 Chena Hot Springs Road last week.
It doesn't take long for word to get out, either. Skaugstad said he had three voice-mail messages waiting on his phone when he arrived at work Thursday morning.
''People saw the (hatchery) truck and were wondering what we were stocking,'' he said.
Fish and Game provides interested anglers with a list of lakes and ponds that have been stocked and that information is also available on the Internet by going to Fish and Game's Web site (www.state.ak.us/adfg).
Stocked lakes are probably a Fairbanks fisherman's best bet at this point, according to local fish gurus.
Rivers are running too high and muddy to be real productive for Arctic grayling fishing, said Howie Van Ness at the Alaska Fly Shop.
Anglers have reported the best luck at Quartz and Birch lakes, both of which are now ice free. The ice went out on both lakes last week.
''Fishing at Quartz Lake is just fabulous,'' reported Jim Masterson at J&L Sports.
Harding Lake is still frozen and isn't likely to be open for the weekend, a disappointment for anglers hoping to hook a big lake trout or Arctic char.
Anglers are reminded to check the regulations before wetting their lines for any changes they may not be aware of.
(Distributed by The Associated Press)
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