Fort Peck

May 3rd

Well, another walleye spawning season has come and gone in the upper Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. The walleye that were once cruising the shallow areas in an attempt to spawn have moved elsewhere to begin their normal routine. Trap net catches of walleye have dramatically decreased over the last couple of days and it doesn’t appear that this will change. Water surface temperatures have dropped to the low 50’s after a cold front pushed through the area. Prior to this, we were seeing water surface temperatures in the upper 50’s along with a few more ripe female walleye.

Although we’ve collected a few more ripe female walleye, there hasn’t been a strong push in numbers. One can definitely tell that the spawn is coming to an end with the limited number of green female walleyes that are collected. We have also collected a few female walleye that were spent (released their eggs). The slow, steady numbers of ripe female walleye along with a few ripe females from the holding pens have allowed us to hold small egg-takes on a daily basis and given us over 10 million more eggs since the last update. This brings the grand total to 47 million eggs for the 2012 season which was approximately half of what we were attempting to collect.

The good news is we are beginning to see really good hatching success on the walleye eggs collected this year which will compensate for the fewer eggs collected. The improved hatching success can be attributed to good egg quality as a result of excellent fish condition (LOTS of yellow perch and cisco to eat). Also, the rearing ponds at the Fort Peck and Miles City fish hatcheries have all been stocked with fry for fingerling production and almost 10 million fry have been released in Fort Peck Reservoir with more to follow.

On behalf of the reservoir and hatchery staff, I would like to thank all the volunteers who assisted in this year’s effort and look forward to seeing you again next year. Best of luck fishing in 2012!

Below is a photo of Ivan Roe with a green female walleye.

April 22nd

The walleye spawning operation continues to move along in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. Nothing fast and furious just a few walleyes here and there. However, we did collect a few more female walleye today in some of our trap nets as water temperatures have started to warm. As of today, we finally started to see water surface temperatures surpass the 50 degree mark.

The ripe females collected in our trap nets along with some that ripen up in our holding pens have given us enough fish to hold small egg-takes nearly every day. It’s really good to see improved numbers of ripe female walleye along with green females that won’t take long to ripen up. The number of eggs collected has been averaging between 2 and 3 million eggs. As a result, we are sitting at around 37 million total eggs.

Attached is a photo of John Kelley with a green female walleye.


April 13th

The walleye spawning activity has gradually picked up since the last update. Water surface temperatures have progressively warmed up to 49 degrees today in the upper stretch of the Big Dry Arm. We are seeing decent numbers of walleye but no big concentrations. Some of the better trap nets are collecting a dozen walleye (males and females combined). We are starting to see a few more ripe female walleyes but there are plenty of green females being collected.

The ripe female walleyes collected have given us smaller egg-takes nearly every day. We actually held our largest walleye spawn for 2012 yesterday (April 12th) which yielded 5 million eggs from 24 females. In addition, we held another egg-take today that will give us about 2.5 million more eggs to the total. This will put us in the neighborhood of 18 million total eggs.

Below is a picture of Ryan Lott collecting eggs from a ripe female walleye.


April 8, 2012

Things have literally cooled down since the last spawning update. A cold front passed through the area on Friday and dropped water surface temperatures in the far upper stretch of the Big Dry Arm from 50 degrees to 40 degrees. The area near Nelson Creek is still hovering around 47 degrees. As a result, we found fewer female walleye in our trap nets. The good news is we did have a enough female walleyes ripen up in the holding pens for a small egg take. This small egg take gave us around 3 million more eggs which should give us 6.8 million walleye eggs total.

We are still seeing fair numbers of green female northern pike along with a few ripe females. These ripe females have allowed us to have two more northern pike egg-takes since the last update. This should put us in the neighborhood of 1.5 million eggs total. It looks like we will need to collect another 500,000 to meet the statewide egg request.

Below are couple of photos of a 13.7 pound green female walleye with Grant and Greg Sundseth.

April 4th

The 2012 spawning operation is officially underway on Fort Peck Reservoir. It’s hard to believe we had over a 100 inches of snow and 12+ inches of ice at this time last year. Because of these conditions, we weren’t able to start trap netting until April 19th. In contrast, we checked our first trap nets this year on March 27th. Despite this early ice off, it’s still early in the game based on the spawning condition of fish and relatively cool water temperatures.

Water surface temperatures have been gradually warming to upper 40’s throughout our trap net locations in the upper Big Dry Arm. We are collecting good numbers of northern pike but a majority of the females are green (not releasing eggs) so we know we are a bit early. We did have a few ripe females to hold two small northern pike egg-takes that yielded 1.2 million eggs. Another million eggs will be needed to reach the northern pike egg-take goal of 2 million.

We are seeing decent numbers of male walleye along with a few females that are still really green. However, we did have a small number of ripe females that allowed us to hold our first walleye egg-take of the year. This first spawn yielded 1.8 million eggs. Last year, we didn’t hold our first walleye egg-take until April 25th which was the latest walleye egg-take on record. That means we are three weeks earlier than last year and on the boards for the 2012 season. Let’s hope the weather cooperates a bit more this season and doesn’t throw to much of a wrench into the spawn.

Below is a photo of Bob Lipscomb and Bill Viste with two green female walleyes.



Canyon Ferry Reservoir Spring Netting Update – 5/1/2012

Well, spring walleye trapping on Canyon Ferry has officially come and gone for the 2012 season. Inclement weather pushed the traps to shore late last week and the current weather pattern has slowed spawning activity down significantly. So, the traps were pulled mid-day on April 30th. FWP crews finished the trapping season with over 420 newly tagged fish, 45% of which were greater than 15 inches in length, and we started seeing more females, in the 16 to 20 inch range, toward the end of April.

Thanks to each and every one of the volunteers who came out with us this year, your interest and ‘fishy’ enthusiasm is why we do what we do. If any of you are interested in joining us for a day in the field or just want to share a fishing story, please give me a call at the number below. Take care and we’ll see you on the water throughout the 2012 summer.

Photo: Volunteers Carl Bangerter and Bob Oldenburg each with smaller female captured during the 2012 walleye spawning survey on Canyon Ferry Reservoir.

Canyon Ferry Reservoir Spring Netting Results as of 4/20/2012

The walleye spawn on Canyon Ferry had been picking up nicely over the past week, but a cool and windy day yesterday likely caused a slow end to the week. As of today, FWP crews have captured 415 total walleye and approximately 45% of the catch continues to be greater than 15-inches. Ripe male walleye’s from 13 to 17-inches are dominating the catch, but that trend is typical for Canyon Ferry each spring. We’ve still only seen a handful of females thus far, but water temperatures remain slightly below the optimum range (48-52ºF) for spawning. A warm weather pattern is in the forecast, so look for things to possibly heat up again next week.

This year is playing out just like past years on Canyon Ferry as far as the spawn is concerned. The males typically show up early and remain near the spawning grounds until the larger females arrive. Males are actively pursuing females for as long as 45-60 days each spring, but females typically wait for optimal spawning conditions, move into the spawning grounds, spawn and leave. Sometime females are only on-site for hours or a couple days.

Photo caption: Volunteer Ryan Arntson shows off a nice 17-inch male walleye from the 2012 Canyon Ferry Reservoir spawning survey.


Canyon Ferry Reservoir Spring Netting Results as of 4/13/2012

Spring walleye spawning work is officially underway on the south end of Canyon Ferry. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks crews were able to set traps on April 2nd (almost two weeks earlier than in 2011) and we saw our first walleye in our nets on April 9th. Water temperatures have been on the rise throughout this past week to around 50°F by mid afternoon. However, a stormy weekend is in the forecast for April 14th & 15th, so expect to see water temperatures decrease. To date we have handled 152 walleye. Some smaller, immature females and one large female (29.1-inches, 10.25-pounds) have been sampled, but the catch has been predominantly ripe males thus far, which is typically the pattern. One interesting thing to note thus far is that 68 (45%) of the walleye sampled so far were greater than or equal to 15-inches in length. Stay posted for continued coverage of the 2012 walleye spawning survey on Canyon Ferry Reservoir.

Photo: Volunteer Jeff Wahl with a nice 10.25-pound female walleye from the south end of Canyon Ferry Reservoir.

Fort Peck Hatchery

Several years ago warm water anglers from across the state of Montana banned together to promote the building of a Warm Water Multi-Species Fish Hatchery at Fort Peck and thanks to the hard work and persistence of these anglers the Fort Peck Multi-Species Fish Hatchery was built.

This hatchery has been and continues to be supported by sportsman’s groups, individuals and businesses all across Montana but it seems every year and every legislative session we have to confront Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) on the funding of the hatchery. This upcoming year will be no different but comes with some very different ideas on how to further fund the hatchery.

In the fall of 2007 MFWP asked legislators, individuals and sportsman’s groups from across the state to come together with MFWP to come up with and decide on funding proposals that would fund the Fort Peck Hatchery for all time. Three group meetings were held and proposals and needs were discussed and the proposals were narrowed down. MFWP decided on two proposals both of which would lift the restrictions on the species raised in the hatchery and in turn MFWP would start raising trout in the hatchery. In order for this to take place the current laws applying to the Fort Peck Hatchery would have to be changed by the legislature.

It is Walleyes Unlimited of Montana’s opinion that 8.5 Cold Water Hatcheries in Montana is enough and that the warm water anglers of Montana are entitled to at least one hatchery solely dedicated to raising warm water species and therefore we do not agree with MFWP’s proposals. The Fort Peck Hatchery by law can be funded by two sources the Warm Water Stamp and any type of Federal Funds available. Walleyes Unlimited will be asking the 2009 legislature to pass a bill forcing MFWP to give the Fort Peck Hatchery its fair share of Wallop/Bureaux federal funds to cover the additional funding needed for operation and maintenance.

The Fort Peck Hatchery is one of the most state of the art hatcheries on the Missouri River and WUM hopes that the following facts list will help to inform the people of Montana about the history and the current workings of the Fort Peck Hatchery and why it needs to stay a strictly Warm Water Multi Species Hatchery.

Release numbers from the first year of production at the Fort Peck Multi-Species Fish Hatchery.

27,050,000 walleye fry stocked out this spring

Fort Peck Lake 2,947,228 walleye fingerlings
Nelson Reservoir 201,197 walleye fingerlings
Fresno Reservoir 199,569 walleye fingerlings
Lake Frances 101,270 walleye fingerlings
Box Elder Reservoir 49,887 walleye fingerlings
Little Warm Res. 10,836 walleye fingerlings
Dry Fork Reservoir 5,225 walleye fingerlings
Cow Creek Reservoir 7,805 walleye fingerlings
Beaver Creek Res. 10,449 walleye fingerlings
Wadsworth Reservoir 5,476 walleye fingerlings

Total fingerlings stocked numbered 3,538,942. These fish averaged 758/lb and were 1.6" long. Average pond survival was 71.8%, well above the expected 50% mark.

Bear Paw Reservoir 5,112 advanced fingerlings
Beaver Creek Res. 6,350 advanced fingerlings
Nelson Dredge Trout Pond 500 advanced fingerlings
Box Elder Reservoir 1,000 advanced fingerlings
Nelson Reservoir 8,993 advanced fingerlings

Total advanced fingerlings stocked numbered 21,955. These fish averaged 100/lb and were 3.5" long. Average pond survival was 93.3%, again well above the 50% mark.

Chinook releases for 2006 are as follows:

175,217 released into Fort Peck Lake as 3” fish

4,988 released into Fort Peck Lake as 7” fish