Fort Peck walleye egg collection exceeds goal

Star Staff

Egg collection goals were exceeded this year during the annual walleye spawn egg-take at Fort Peck Reservoir.

According to a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks news release, the egg-take was completed at the end of April, and stocking efforts were completed in June.

A total of 2,261 walleye were captured in trap nets, with approximately 81 million eggs collected. 

“The condition of some of the larger walleye was very impressive this spring,” Fort Peck Reservoir Biologist Heath Headley said. “This is likely due to the high numbers of cisco, an important forage species, which we’ve had over the last couple of years. This abundance of food led to good growth and excellent egg production.”

Headley said one female walleye measured 29.8 inches, but weighed a whopping 14 pounds. Numerous mature walleyes in the 20-25 inch range were observed, he added.

About 45 million eggs remained at the Fort Peck Multi-Species Fish Hatchery, and another 36 million were sent to the Miles City Hatchery. The two hatcheries combined to place approximately 26 million fry back into the reservoir this spring, the news release noted. Plus, approximately 1.8 million fingerlings from the hatcheries were released into the reservoir recently.

However, fingerling production was down because of problems at the Fort Peck Hatchery. 

“The weather made it difficult to keep the water temperatures at a safe level for these young fish at the hatchery,” said Wade Geraets, the hatchery manager at the Fort Peck Multispecies Fish Hatchery. “Warm surface water temperatures, wind and difficulties with our current water system resulted in the loss of some fish.”

The hatchery uses water from the dredge cuts, which can heat up quickly in the spring. Geraets said officials have been looking at options to obtain cooler, more-consistent temperature water from other sources.

FWP staff and nearly 100 volunteers assisted in the egg-take. Headley said it couldn’t happen without the volunteers.

“We wouldn’t be able to set all the trap nets, collect fish, and spawn them on a daily basis unless we had help,” he explained. “Volunteers are the main reason this has been so successful over the years.”