Salmon egg collections on Oahe proving difficult this year
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) -- Fisheries crews have had a tough time this fall collecting salmon eggs on Lake Oahe as the population of the fish in the Dakotas reservoir continues to rebound from flooding four years ago.
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - Fisheries crews have had a tough time this fall collecting salmon eggs on Lake Oahe as the population of the fish in the Dakotas reservoir continues to rebound from flooding four years ago.
South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks staff typically see more than 800 salmon at a spawning station at Whitlock Bay north of Pierre, but this year the number was about one-fourth of that.
"It has kind of caught us off guard," fisheries biologist Bob Hanten told the Capital Journal.
Wildlife crews have been electrofishing Oahe's back bays for salmon, temporarily stunning fish with electrical current to remove their eggs and try to make up some of the difference. Officials hope to collect 1 million eggs for hatcheries to raise, but that might be a lofty goal, Hanten said.
The Lake Oahe reservoir on the Missouri River stretches about 230 miles from Pierre to Bismarck, North Dakota. The salmon population is still rebuilding after the devastating 2011 Missouri River flood, which flushed millions of rainbow smelt baitfish through Lake Oahe dam. Anglers this year have been catching big salmon - including a state record 24 pound, 8 ounce whopper landed by Highmore angler Gordon Sampson in August - but not a lot of them.
South Dakota has asked for any extra salmon eggs collected in upstream Missouri River reservoirs this year, though salmon conditions in Fort Peck Reservoir in Montana and Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota are similar to those in Oahe, said Fisheries Program Administrator Will Sayler.
South Dakota hatcheries will have to work to improve survival rates for the eggs they have, he said. Only about one-third of the eggs that make it to hatcheries typically end up making it back into the lake as young salmon.