The collection of kokanee eggs has wrapped up with a very successful year at Lake Mary Ronan. Lake Mary Ronan is a popular fishing destination in Lake County, 7 miles west of Dayton, and is the major source for kokanee egg collection in northwest Montana. Biologists collect the eggs from kokanee females, then the eggs are fertilized by milt from male kokanee collected at the same time.

A total of 3.8 million fertilized eggs are now incubating at the FWP Rose Creek Hatchery site. About half of these will be moved to the Flathead Lake Salmon Hatchery. This is done because the capacity of both hatcheries is needed to accommodate the production of the fish from these eggs.

Fisheries staff and volunteers secured 2.5 million eggs for the State of Montana’s needs at Flathead Lake Salmon Hatchery in Somers and for lakes east of the divide, and Big Springs Trout Hatchery in Lewistown. The Rose Creek facility also retains a number of eggs for fish production. In addition, the states of Utah and Wyoming will be recipients of LMR eggs to bolster kokanee populations primarily in Flaming Gorge Reservoir, on the Green River.

Ultimately, the eggs hatch, are reared to two- or three-inch fingerlings, and released into waters with very little or no natural reproductive capability. Many lakes in Northwest Montana, Lake Kookanusa and Little Bitterroot Lake for example, have naturally reproducing populations of kokanee where stocking is unnecessary. Kokanee are a popular food and sport fish to a great many resident and non-residents alike.

Here are some statistics regarding the 2012 egg take:

  • Over 40,000 adult kokanee, male and female were handled during this operation.
  • At roughly 300 eggs per ounce, 792 pounds of eggs were fertilized, rinsed, picked, sterilized, enumerated and placed into incubators. That equals 95 gallons of eggs or nearly two 55-gallon drums of eggs.
  • Kokanee eggs will take over a month and a half to hatch in 50 degree water.
  • Kokanee eggs are shipped over-night when they reach the “eyed” stage. At the eyed stage, pigment in the eyes of embryonic kokanee can be seen through the egg shell. Properly packaged eyed eggs can withstand the typical rigors of the shipping process.

Hatchery Manager Mark Kornick would like to thank volunteers who helped in the egg take. Access to the fish collection site is graciously provided by Mountain Meadows Resort where kokanee historically congregate during the spawning season.

Logo courtesy Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

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