The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department has opened the Whitlock Bay Salmon Spawning Station for the 2012 season, but the flood of 2011 may make it a challenge to gather enough adult salmon for egg collection.
Fisherman caught fewer salmon this year, and GFP personnel expect fewer salmon than usual to show up at the spawning station.
“The low number of salmon in Lake Oahe is due to a loss of salmon during the 2011 flood,” said GFP fisheries biologist Robert Hanten. “The extremely high water release from Lake Oahe pulled salmon congregating near the face of the dam through intakes into Lake Sharpe. We did gain some North Dakota salmon, but fewer angler catches this year indicate low salmon numbers in Lake Oahe.”
Fisheries crews will electrofish on Lakes Oahe and Sharpe in an attempt to collect additional adult salmon for egg collection.
Chinook salmon do not naturally reproduce in Lake Oahe and would not exist there without GFP collecting eggs, raising young salmon and stocking them back into the lake for anglers.
Each year, juvenile Chinook salmon are stocked throughout Lake Oahe. They then disperse throughout the reservoir until becomiong sexually mature. Flowing water down the fish ladder attracts the mature fish to the station where GFP personnel collect, sort and spawn the salmon.
The Oahe salmon fishery is very popular with anglers. Surveys show a high percentage of salmon anglers travel more than 200 miles one way for the chance to catch the hard-fighting fish.
Whitlock Bay Salmon Station is 18 miles northwest of Gettysburg by West Whitlock Recreation Area. The station is open for tours from 9-11 a.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays during October; the fish ladder observation deck is open to the public at any time. Group tours can also be arranged by calling 605-223-7681.
Image courtesy South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks