Fisheries crews completed their annual salmon spawning operation on Lake Sakakawea after collecting 1.9 million eggs, easily surpassing their goal of 900,000.
Russell Kinzler, North Dakota Game and Fish Department Missouri River System biologist, said 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 about 5.7 pounds, about 1 pound smaller than 2012. The Missouri River females, which are typically larger than the lake fish, averaged 7.5 pounds.
“The 2013 salmon spawning run was a success with good numbers of fish available throughout the run,” Kinzler said. “We were able to exceed our own egg collection goals early, which enabled us to provide assistance to South Dakota and Montana in meeting their egg needs for 2013.”
Plans for 2014 are to stock Lake Sakakawea with 200,000 salmon, with none scheduled for the river below Garrison Dam, Kinzler 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.