|Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota, near Garrison Dam (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Fisheries crews have completed their annual salmon spawning operation on the Missouri River System after collecting roughly 1.3 million eggs.
Dave Fryda, North Dakota Game and Fish Department Missouri River System supervisor, said about two thirds of the eggs came from Lake Sakakawea and the remainder from the Missouri River below Garrison Dam.
The average size of Lake Sakakawea females was 8.5 pounds, almost 3 pounds larger than 2013 and among the highest weights documented since the inception of the salmon program. The Missouri River females, which are typically larger than the lake fish, averaged 10.4 pounds.
“The 2014 salmon spawning run was successful in obtaining enough eggs to meet next year’s stocking goals.” Fryda said. “However, contrary to recent years, we might not be able to provide excess eggs to Montana and South Dakota to meet their egg goals.”
Fryda said the number of salmon in the 2014 spawning run was greatly reduced throughout the Missouri River reservoirs due to the lingering effects of the 2011 flood. “Salmon stocked during the 2011 flood would have been a major component of this year’s spawning run,” he said. “Unfortunately, large numbers of juvenile and adult salmon were entrained through the dams during the record flows of 2011.”
Plans for 2015 are to stock Lake Sakakawea with 400,000 salmon, with none scheduled for the river below Garrison Dam, Fryda said.
Chinook salmon begin their spawning run in October. Since salmon cannot naturally reproduce in North Dakota, Game and Fish Department and Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery personnel collect eggs and transport them to the hatchery.
Once the eggs hatch, young salmon spend several months in the hatchery before being stocked in Lake Sakakawea.