Fisheries crews have completed their annual salmon spawning operation on Lake Sakakawea after surpassing their goal of 750,000 eggs.

Dave Fryda, North Dakota Game and Fish Department Missouri River System supervisor, said crews collected more than 1 million eggs, the majority from Lake Sakakawea and the remainder from the Missouri River below Garrison Dam. The average size of Lake Sakakawea females was less than 7 pounds, more than a pound lighter than in 2010. The Missouri River females, which are typically larger than the lake fish, were similar in size this year.

“The 2011 salmon spawning run was a success, largely due to the presence of good numbers of salmon throughout the spawning run,” Fryda said. “Even though smaller females meant fewer eggs per fish, we were able to capture enough fish to easily obtain our eggs goal.”

Plans for 2012 are to increase the Lake Sakakawea stocking to 250,000 salmon, with none scheduled for the river below Garrison Dam, Fryda said.

Chinook salmon begin their spawning run in October. Since salmon cannot naturally reproduce in North Dakota, Game and Fish Department and Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery personnel collect eggs and transport them to the hatchery.

Once the eggs hatch, young salmon spend several months in the hatchery before being stocked in Lake Sakakawea and the Missouri River.

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