Fisheries crews have completed their annual salmon spawning operation on the Missouri River System, after collecting more than 2.1 million eggs. North Dakota Game and Fish Department Missouri River System fisheries biologist Russ Kinzler said crews easily collected enough eggs to stock the 400,000 smolts planned for Lake Sakakawea in 2021, as well as provide approximately 400,000 surplus […]

Fisheries crews have completed their annual salmon spawning operation on the Missouri River System, after collecting more than 2.1 million eggs.

North Dakota Game and Fish Department Missouri River System fisheries biologist Russ Kinzler said crews easily collected enough eggs to stock the 400,000 smolts planned for Lake Sakakawea in 2021, as well as provide approximately 400,000 surplus eggs to South Dakota. 

The majority of eggs were collected from Lake Sakakawea, with help from the Missouri River below Garrison Dam. Average size of female salmon was 8.3 pounds, which is almost two pounds heavier than last year.

'We've had good numbers of rainbow smelt, which is the primary forage for salmon in Lake Sakakawea,' Kinzler said. 'This year we are seeing that the average size of those smelt has increased and we are seeing that resulting in larger salmon.'

Chinook salmon begin their spawning run in October. Since salmon cannot naturally reproduce in North Dakota, Game and Fish personnel capture the fish and transport them to the Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery where they are relieved of their eggs.

Once the eggs hatch, young salmon spend 6 months in the hatchery before being stocked in Lake Sakakawea.