Survey finds support for Atlantic salmon in Oahe
PIERRE (AP) — A survey by South Dakota wildlife officials has found that few anglers object to the addition of Atlantic salmon to Lake Oahe.
South Dakota's Game, Fish and Parks Department is considering adding the fish to the Missouri River reservoir in the Dakotas to boost its salmon fishery. Chinook salmon have been stocked in the lake each year since the mid-1980s.
Flooding in 2011 flushed many of the Chinook salmon 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.
The department in April asked for public comments on the idea. The agency said this week that 86 percent of the 2,311 people who responded either favored the plan or were neutral. Only 14 percent of respondents objected to the proposal, citing concerns including insufficient prey fish and hesitance about stocking a non-native species.
Wildlife officials will decide later whether to continue exploring the option. If they decide to go ahead with the plan, they would not release Atlantic Salmon into Lake Oahe until 2016, and anglers likely wouldn't catch any for about three years.
No Missouri River reservoirs currently have Atlantic salmon, but the species has had a fairly successful run in the Great Lakes — specifically in Lake Huron, where the fish have thrived for more than two decades.