PIERRE, South Dakota — The chinook salmon population in Lake Oahe isn't back to levels seen on the Dakotas fishery before the 2011 Missouri River flood, but officials say it's getting a boost from a successful lake herring spawn.
The 2011 flood flushed rainbow smelt through Oahe Dam. The smelt are the main food source for salmon, but lake herring can take their place until they get too big.
Baitfish conditions now are almost ideal for growing big salmon, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Fisheries Biologist Bob Hanten told the Capital Journal (http://bit.ly/1hzum9N ). Last week, two children from Pierre narrowly missed a state record when they landed a chinook weighing nearly 23 pounds, 6 ounces.
Anglers also are catching more salmon on the Missouri River reservoir in northern South Dakota and southern North Dakota. Two years ago, wildlife officials tagged salmon to help with research on the fish, asking anglers to turn in the heads of tagged fish they caught.
"We've actually got more heads in the last few weeks than we did in each of the last two years," Hanten said.
Anglers have reported catching salmon in the 20-pound range and also in the 12-pound range, indicating that there are multiple age classes of fish in the lake, which is good news for anglers, according to Hanten.
"We really are getting back to where we want to be in terms of the salmon fishery," he said.
Anglers who turn in tagged salmon are eligible for one of 10 $100 rewards issued each calendar year.
Information from: Pierre Capital Journal, http://www.capjournal.com