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Lake Sakakawea salmon spawn surpasses goal

BISMARCK — Fisheries crews conducting an annual salmon spawning operation on Lake Sakakawea on the Missouri River in North Dakota say they found good numbers of fish throughout the run, enabling them to exceed their goal.

Crews collected 1.9 million eggs, easily surpassing the goal of 900,000 eggs, the state Game and Fish Department said.

“We were able to exceed our own egg collection goals early, which enabled us to provide assistance to South Dakota and Montana in meeting their egg needs for 2013,” said Russell Kinzler, the agency's Missouri River System biologist.

Chinook salmon can't naturally reproduce in North Dakota. State and federal wildlife officials collect eggs when the salmon begin their spawning run in October, raise the young salmon at the Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery near Riverdale and stock the fish. Officials plan to stock about 200,000 salmon in Lake Sakakawea next year.

The average size of Lake Sakakawea females this year was 5.7 pounds, about 1 pound smaller than 2012, according to Game and Fish. The Missouri River females, which are typically larger than the lake fish, averaged 7.5 pounds.