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Scott Gangl, fisheries management section leader, said fall stocking in the big lake – largely brought on by low water levels – has been standard the past few years. "Historically, we’ve stocked salmon in spring," Gangl said. "But when the lake's water level dropped we lost a large portion of our cold water habitat, causing us to hold some fish in the hatchery to stock in fall to try to enhance their survival."
Also similar to recent years, fisheries personnel will use electrofishing to collect the salmon for the spawning operation. "We stopped using the salmon ladder a few years ago due to the low water levels, and in doing so discovered we can collect salmon just as easily by electrofishing," Gangl said. "Setting up and using the ladder was pretty labor intensive."
Plans are to start salmon spawning efforts in early October, with completion scheduled by the end of the month. Numbers aren’t finalized for next year, but Gangl said the department is planning a larger egg take compared to this year. "The high water level brought an increase in forage in the lake," he said. “We are planning a substantial increase in the number of salmon stocked next year.”
Chinook salmon begin their spawning run in early October. Since salmon cannot naturally reproduce in the lake, Game and Fish Department and Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery personnel collect eggs and transport them to the hatchery.
Once the eggs hatch, young salmon spend several months in the hatchery before they are stocked back into Lake Sakakawea, generally in spring.
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