CANYON FERRY AND FORT PECK 2011

 

Fort Peck 2011

May 10, 2011

Well, itís been an interesting walleye spawning season this year on Fort Peck. Weather conditions have taken a turn for the worst and so has the walleye spawning activity. Water temperatures in the Nelson Creek area were in the low 50ís on Monday. It looks like cooler water temperatures will follow with the drop in air temperature and rain that covered much of the state. The unfavorable weather conditions and dwindling numbers of walleye have signaled us to pull our trap nets for the 2011 walleye spawning season.

Not only are there fewer numbers of walleyes collected in the trap nets, but a majority of females collected continue to be spent. Fortunately, a few female walleyes ripened up in the holding pens to hold two more small egg takes since the last update. On Friday, 2 million eggs were collected and an additional 2.5 million more were collected Monday. This should give us close to 40 million total eggs for the season. Obviously this was far short of our goal of 90 million eggs. So what does this mean?

The good news is we should have enough eggs that will eventually turn into fry to stock all the ponds at the Fort Peck and Miles City fish hatcheries for fingerling production. The bad news is we will likely have fewer walleye fry plants. Fort Peck Reservoir receives a large majority of the walleye fry stockings so it will be hit the hardest. However, it is possible that the high number of spent females captured this year spawned on their own which could compensate for the loss of fry plants. In addition, rising water levels have created a tremendous amount of new habitat which has also led to improved forage conditions. These factors can greatly aid in the survival of any naturally reproduced or stocked walleyes in Fort Peck.

On behalf of the reservoir and hatchery staff, I would like to thank all the volunteers who assisted in this yearís walleye spawning operation. We all look forward to seeing you again next year and best of luck fishing!

 

May 2, 2011

Weather conditions have improved since the last walleye spawning update. However, the number of walleyes captured throughout the trap net locations havenít. Water surface temperatures have dropped to 48 degrees in the upper stretches of the Big Dry Arm as result of the cold front that pushed through over the weekend. Only 22 female walleyes were captured today from the trap nets which is down from previous days when we were capturing over 80 females. Not only were there fewer numbers of female walleye captured in the trap nets, but the condition of them wasnít as promising as we would have hoped for. The 22 females collected consisted of 3 green, 6 ripe, and 13 spent.

Three walleye spawns have taken place since the last. The number of females spawned dropped from 34 on Friday to 12 today (Monday). Despite the large drop, an additional 10 million eggs were collected over the course of these three spawns. This will bring us to around 26 million total. It looks like from here on out things will slowly drag along as we continue to see fewer numbers of walleye.
 


May 5, 2011

The walleye spawning operation on Fort Peck is still slowly plugging along. Water surface temperatures have slowly climbed back up to the low 50ís in the upper Big Dry Arm. Iím afraid though that itís a little too late for things to turn around. The total number of female walleye collected today was 25 which wasnít much of an improvement since the last update. Again, half (13) of these fish collected were spent females. This is a sure sign that things are on the downhill slide when we see that proportion of spent females compared to the total number of females collected.

We are currently holding 28 green females which is a large drop from the 79 we were holding a week ago. Only seven females ripened up in the holding pen and 6 ripe females were collected from the trap nets today. This has resulted in 13 fish to spawn which has been similar to the previous two days. These small egg takes have averaged about 3 million eggs each day. This has brought the total to approximately 35 million eggs. By the looks of things, we will likely wrap things up within the next week and try to hold at least one more spawn.
 


April 30th

The cold front finally made its presence known on Fort Peck today. Cooler temperatures with wind gusts of 40 mph replaced the relatively calm and warm conditions we had earlier in the week. No trap nets were checked today because of the rough conditions. Instead we were only able to sort through females in the holding pens to see if any had ripened up. Checking the holding pens even proved to be a bit difficult due to the waves that rocked the barges back and forth. No spawning operation was held today because only eight females had ripened up out of the holding pens. The plan is to spawn tomorrow when will be able to get a few more ripe fish.
 


April 28th

The walleye spawning operation on Fort Peck has picked up a little since the last update. Water temperatures have continued to rise and so have the numbers of walleye captured in the trap nets. Surface temperatures throughout the trap net locations are ranging from 48 to 57 degrees. Some of the better trap nets are still collecting close 20 walleye. The good news is that we are starting build the number of green females being held in the pens. Numbers of green females have increased from 51 to 79 over the last two days. However, we have come across some spent (released their eggs) female walleye. It isnít completely surprising seeing how it is nearly the first of May.

Two walleye spawns have taken place over the last two days. Forty-five walleye were spawned yesterday (27th) and 26 were spawned today. This should give us close to 14 million eggs over the last two days and a grand total of 16 million total. It looks a like a cold front is headed our way this weekend. Letís hope it doesnít throw too much of a wrench into the spawning operation.
 

April 26, 2011

Water temperatures are starting to warm in the upper Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck, but walleye numbers arenít improving as much as we would like to see. Water surface temperatures throughout the trap net locations are ranging from 46 to 54 degrees. Obviously this is a broad range, but there a total of 27 trap nets (plus a merwin) scattered out over a large area. One of the best trap nets checked today contained 17 walleye. This trap contained twelve males and five females (four greens and one ripe).

The good news is that the first batch of walleye eggs have been taken for the 2011 season. Fourteen females were spawned yesterday (25th) for a total of 2 million eggs. The numbers of walleye in the holding pens have gradually increased from 40 to 51 total. Weíre starting to making some progress, but we still have a lot of catching up to do because of the late ice and cooler water temperatures. Hopefully we will continue to see a few more fish show as the water temperatures continue warm.
 

April 22

The annual walleye spawning operation is officially underway after a long and cold winter. It didnít look like spring was ever going to arrive in northeastern Montana. That still seems to be the case with the cooler than normal water temperatures we are experiencing in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. In fact , the ice has just moved off from the face of the dam.

Water surface temperatures have been averaging in the low to mid 40ís throughout our trap net locations in the upper Big Dry Arm. Walleye spawning activity is slow at the moment with the cooler water temperatures but the northern pike are really enjoying it. Good numbers of ripe (releasing eggs) and green (not releasing eggs) females are being captured in the trap nets. Two northern pike egg-take days have taken place yielding approximately 1.5 million eggs. Another half million eggs will need to be collected to reach the northern pike egg-take goal of 2 million. The weather forecast looks promising over the next few days so hopefully we will see an increase in walleye spawning activity with the warmer water temperatures.

April 24th

Not much has changed since the last spawning update. The weather is slowly starting to warm up in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. Water surface temperatures were starting to rise in the upper 40ís by the end of the day.

Northern pike continue to be fairly abundant in the trap nets and the last of the northern pike eggs were collected today bringing the grand total to around 2 million. There hasnít been a big increase in numbers of walleyes collected in the trap nets. There are only about 40 green female walleyes in the holding pens. However, a few female walleye are starting to ripen up. Itís a small sign the walleye spawning activity is picking up, but we definitely need some better numbers to get things rolling. Letís hope the weather cooperates and continues to warm.
 


 

Canyon Ferry 2011

May 2nd - 6th

Not much to report from the past week of walleye sampling besides the continued cool and wet spring. Surface water temperatures continued to be unseasonably cool and the number of walleye cruising the shoreline is indicative of how things have gone this year. FWP crews have sampled 679 walleye and 811 rainbow trout as of 5/2/2011 and nearly all of the walleye sampled thus far have been ripe males and immature fish. Very few females have been captured this year due to the unseasonably cool surface water temperatures. The desired surface water temperatures for spawning walleye is 47-52įF, which we havenít seen much of this spring. FWP crews are planning to fish the Merwin traps throughout the remainder of the week. If numbers havenít picked up by the end of the week (5/5), traps will likely be pulled for the season. Night time lows are expected to stay above 40įF for the remainder of the week, so keep your fingers crossed that walleye numbers pick up soon!

Also, be careful out there launching your boats and navigating the south end of Canyon Ferry. With the snowpack projected at 140% of normal in the upper Missouri River drainage, continued reservoir draw-downs by the Bureau of Reclamation can be expected until runoff occurs. The reservoir is currently 17.0 feet below full pool (and dropping) and the mouth of Broadwater Bay is VERY shallow. Mind your prop!

 

April 25th

Considering the inconsistent weather patterns that have been wreaking havoc on spring-time in Montana, FWP crews continue to pick up a few fish in their Merwin traps. As of April 25, crews have captured 588 walleye and 622 rainbow trout. We still have not recorded a surface water temperature over 50įF, but a few large females have made their way into the traps. The largest female (see picture below) so far has been a 30.6-inch, 13.5-pounder. Look for trap catch rates to increase over the next week with nighttime lows forecasted at or near 40įF.
 

April 12th

The spring walleye spawning survey on Canyon Ferry Reservoir is officially underway. Ice, winds, and cool temperatures delayed net deployment until April 12th, but despite the late start and cool temperatures, walleye are cruising the shoreline in search of a mate. Low reservoir levels have the traps fishing in unseasonable shallow depths, but spawning persists. As of April 18th, FWP staff and volunteers have sampled 183 walleye in the traps and the first female walleye (26.6-inches, 5.25-pounds) of the season was captured on April 17th. Itís typical to see ripe males and immature fish arrive early in the spawning season and linger until the females arrive. Optimal spawning temperatures (47-52įF) have not been reached, but look for that trend to change over the next 10 days. The highest surface water temperature recorded by FWP staff thus far has been 45įF. One noticeable trend this year has been the increased presence of walleye in the 15-inch size class compared to 2010 survey data.