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Lake Sakakawea salmon spawn nets 1.3M eggs; may not be enough to share with other states

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BISMARCK, North Dakota — Fisheries crews collected 1.3 million eggs during their annual salmon spawning operation on Lake Sakakawea but the harvest may not be enough to share with other states, a North Dakota fisheries official said.

Dave Fryda, the Game and Fish Department's Missouri River system fisheries supervisor, said "the hangover" from 2011's massive floods had a big impact on the salmon run this year. Many of the 3-year-old salmon that would have spawned behind Garrison Dam were flushed through the structure due to high water three years ago.

"Huge flows through the dam caused a massive movement and compromised the run up and down the reservoir system," Fryda said.

PHOTO: This Oct. 24, 2014 photo provided by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department shows chinook salmon in a holding tank at the Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery in Riverdale, N.D., during the department’s annual salmon spawning operation with fish from Lake Sakakawea. Fisheries crews collected 1.3 million eggs during the spawning operation, but the harvest may not be enough to share with other states, a North Dakota fisheries official said. Dave Fryda, the Game and Fish Department's Missouri River system fisheries supervisor, said "the hangover" from 2011's massive floods had a big impact on the salmon run this year. (AP Photo/Courtesy of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department)
This Oct. 24, 2014 photo provided by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department shows chinook salmon in a holding tank at the Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery in Riverdale, N.D., during the department’s annual salmon spawning operation with fish from Lake Sakakawea. Fisheries crews collected 1.3 million eggs during the spawning operation, but the harvest may not be enough to share with other states, a North Dakota fisheries official said. Dave Fryda, the Game and Fish Department's Missouri River system fisheries supervisor, said "the hangover" from 2011's massive floods had a big impact on the salmon run this year. (AP Photo/Courtesy of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department)

Chinook salmon begin their spawning run in October. The fish cannot naturally reproduce in North Dakota, so state and federal officials collect eggs and transport them to the Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery. Once the eggs hatch, young salmon spend several months in the hatchery before being stocked in Lake Sakakawea, which has been done since the mid-1970s.

Biologists plan to stock Lake Sakakawea next year with 400,000 salmon, but none is slated to be released below Garrison Dam, Fryda said.

The agency surpassed its goal for North Dakota stocking purposes but there may not be enough eggs this year to share with either South Dakota or Montana, as has been done in past years, Fryda said. North Dakota fisheries crews collected about 2 million salmon eggs last year and gave South Dakota hatcheries about 800,000 of the eggs, Fryda said.

South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks fisheries administrator Will Sayler said about 662,000 salmon eggs were collected this year from the Missouri River in his state, a number that was better than expected. But biologists had hoped to collect 1 million eggs, with contributions from North Dakota, he said.

"We certainly would have liked to get 1 million, but it's not going to affect our program," Sayler said. "We'll be able to manage."

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