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Salmon Eggs Collection Underway At Fort Peck

FWP fisheries and hatchery staff will begin collecting adult Chinook salmon on Fort Peck Reservoir starting the first week of October. The annual collection effort lasts through much of October, with the goal of collecting as many eggs as possible. Salmon are then raised in the hatchery and will be released back into the reservoir in the spring of 2023. Collection efforts coincide with the salmon snagging season, which begins Saturday, Oct. 1, and runs through Nov. 30.

Chinook salmon cannot successfully spawn naturally in the reservoir, so staff must collect fish, harvest the eggs, and raise them in the hatchery. A total of 53,232 five-inch Chinook salmon were released in June of 2022 from last year’s spawning efforts.

During the collection, crews will target areas near the dam where salmon congregate, using electrofishing gear to collect the fish.

“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, which primarily are 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 the most fish, along with better egg quality.

Collecting large, egg-laden females looks promising, as there have been more females caught by anglers this year. Anglers may recall that there were a large number of smaller, mature males caught last season. Much of this has to do with males maturing at an earlier age then females which is typical in most fish species.

“Compared to last year, the salmon caught this summer have been larger, with more females present,” said Headley. “This is due to a big year class that is continuing to grow and mature. Hopefully, we will be able to collect some of these females for our stocking efforts.”

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

Salmon were first introduced into Ft. Peck Reservoir in 1983. Due to the abundance

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