This year’s chinook salmon spawning operation at Fort Peck Reservoir was successful after crews netted more female fish in the first couple of weeks than all of last fall. That meant a collection of more than 785,000 salmon eggs. The hatchery has a capacity to raise about 500,000 salmon for planting in Fort Peck. To collect the salmon, electro-fishing crews are dispatched to the lake at places like Duck Creek and near the marina. This is where the fish are planted, so they return to the same areas in an attempt to spawn. Since they can’t spawn successfully in the lake, the crews net fish and take them back to the hatchery where eggs are taken from female fish and milt from males to mix together for hatching. The fish are then given away free to the public. This year the biggest fish netted was 23 pounds. That’s pretty phenomenal growth for a fish that may live only three to four years. Catching the fish also provides data on their age, as the small bones in their heads, called otoliths, are removed to age them. The bones show growth rings like a tree. For more on the operation, including a photo gallery, check out my story at https://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/salmon-jammin-fort-peck-crews-net-milk-chinook-to-raise-fish-at-hatchery/article_bdfb9bbe-53e5-11ed-9cfa-b7d2e12ffc71.html.
Written by Brett French | Outdoors Editor for the Billings Gazette