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Plans to stock Atlantic salmon in Lake Oahe delayed; egg deal with federal hatchery fizzles

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PIERRE, South Dakota — Anglers will have to wait a little longer for a chance to catch Atlantic salmon in Lake Oahe.

South Dakota wildlife officials had wanted to stock the first batch of the new species in the Missouri River reservoir in the Dakotas in the spring of 2016, but a deal to get eggs from a federal hatchery in New Hampshire has fallen through.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service facility in New Hampshire was working on a contract with an electric company that was restoring an Atlantic salmon population decimated by a hydroelectric dam, and that contract wasn't renewed, said Will Sayler, administrator of the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department's fisheries program.

"It was certainly a disappointment, but that's the way things go sometimes," Sayler told the Capital Journal (http://bit.ly/1N53kkZ ).

South Dakota is now negotiating for eggs with a private company in Chile. The state hopes to have eggs by next winter that can be raised to young fish in South Dakota hatcheries for release in Oahe. After they're introduced into the lake it will take about three years for them to grow to catchable size.

Chinook salmon have been stocked in Lake Oahe each year since the mid-1980s. Wildlife officials want to boost the salmon fishery with the new species, which can switch to other prey if rainbow smelt are low. Chinooks feed almost exclusively on smelt, a species prone to large population swings.

Chinook salmon also spend most of their time in deep water, making them harder to catch. Two public surveys last summer found strong support for introducing Atlantic salmon.

No Missouri River reservoirs currently have Atlantic salmon, but the species has had a fairly successful run in the Great Lakes.


Information from: Pierre Capital Journal, http://www.capjournal.com

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