Fisheries crews have completed their annual salmon spawning operation on Lake Sakakawea after collecting 1.5 million eggs, easily surpassing their goal of 900,000.
Dave Fryda, North Dakota Game and Fish Department Missouri River System supervisor, said the majority of eggs came from Lake Sakakawea and the remainder from the Missouri River below Garrison Dam. The average size of Lake Sakakawea females was about 6.5 pounds, similar to 2011. The Missouri River females, which are typically larger than the lake fish, were smaller in size this year reflecting the decline in forage abundance in Lake Oahe.
“The 2012 salmon spawning run was a success with good numbers of fish available throughout the run,” Fryda said. “We were able to exceed our own egg collection goals early, which enabled us to provide assistance to South Dakota and possibly Montana in meeting their egg needs for 2013.”
Plans for 2013 are to stock Lake Sakakawea with 200,000 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.