The Roundup -

FWP Salmon Spawn on Fort Peck Reservoir has Begun


Fisheries crews began collecting adult Chinook salmon starting last week in hopes of collecting a large number of eggs, which will be raised to juveniles and released back into the reservoir in 2017. Crews are using electrofishing boats and targeting areas near the dam throughout October. Salmon do not naturally reproduce in Fort Peck Reservoir, making these efforts critical to the continuation of this fishery.

“Even though salmon have been observed in relatively shallow areas during the past few weeks, ideal spawning activity has yet to take place,” said Heath Headley, Fort Peck Reservoir biologist. “Similar to walleye, salmon spawning activity peaks when all the right conditions take place; primarily water temperatures and timing.”

Ideal spawning temperatures are when water temperatures reach 55 degrees, which typically occurs around mid-October. This is also when crews see both the most fish and best egg quality. Early-on egg quality isn’t as good due to warmer water temperatures, as Chinook salmon are a coldwater fish which require colder water for proper egg development. Water surface temperatures have been averaging 62 degrees over the last couple weeks.

Salmon were first introduced into Fort Peck Reservoir in 1983. Due to the abundance of their preferred forage fish, cisco, salmon have shown excellent growth, with males maturing in two to four years and females in three to four years. Crews are hoping for a good egg-collection year as salmon numbers, and size, caught by anglers have been quite good.

“Compared to last year, the salmon caught this year have been larger,” said Headley. “This is due to a large year class that is continuing to grow and mature. Anglers may recall a large number of smaller, mature males last season. Much of this has to do with males maturing at an earlier age than females, which is typical in most fish species.” Early indications suggest that there are larger fish with more females present, and most fish are averaging around 15 pounds.

Once the fish are collected, they are transferred to the Fort Peck Multispecies Fish Hatchery. Egg and milt are then extracted from females and males, respectively, and successfully fertilized offspring will be reared over the winter.

Please be aware of fisheries crews and their electrofishing efforts, as they may be near areas where angling activities are taking place. The salmon tend to congregate in areas where they were initially released. Snagging for salmon began on Saturday, Oct. 1. If there are any questions concerning the salmon spawning egg-take efforts, please call reservoir biologist Heath Headley at 526-3471.


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