New salmon species being considered for Lake Oahe
PIERRE (AP) — Wildlife officials are considering adding another species of salmon to Lake Oahe to boost the success of anglers.
Flooding in 2011 flushed many of the Chinook salmon in the Missouri River reservoir through the Oahe Dam and downstream. Biologists have been working to restore the salmon population in the lake but have been hampered by low numbers of rainbow smelt, the Chinook's main source of food.
"Atlantic salmon have the ability to switch to other prey. They seem to be more adaptable," South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks fisheries biologist Bob Hanten told the Capital Journal.
Atlantic salmon also are known to be more tolerant of warm water, meaning they could feed higher in the water and be more accessible to anglers. They also live up to three years after spawning, while Chinook salmon die after breeding.
"From everything we've found, they're pretty vulnerable to angling," Hanten said of the Atlantic salmon.
Biologists will begin seeking public input on the program starting in the next few months. No fish would be released until at least 2016, and anglers likely wouldn't catch any until about 2019.
"We're letting people in on the ground floor for something that we think would have a good chance at improving the salmon fishery in Lake Oahe," Hanten said.
Stocking Atlantic salmon in a Missouri River reservoir would be a first, but the fish have had a fairly successful run in the Great Lakes, specifically Lake Huron. Lake Superior State University's Aquatic Research Center in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., has been raising and releasing Atlantic salmon into the lake for more than two decades.
"They are also a very sought-after fish," said Aquatic Research Laboratory manager Roger Greil. "We've had people come from all over the country to fish for them."