Fort Peck and Canyon Ferry Spawning Report 2015




The 2015 walleye spawn is officially underway in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. However, Mother Nature isn’t sure what time of year it is. Two days ago water surface temperatures were approaching 55 degrees in the shallower areas were our trap nets are located. Today water temperatures dropped to 46 degrees due to the cold front that moved through. In fact, we actually experienced a few snowflakes while checking our trap nets. It’s hard to believe temperatures were in the upper 70’s a couple days ago and we were wearing t-shirts.

The warm and stable weather a few days ago managed to trigger a few walleye to start cruising the shorelines. As with the beginning of every walleye spawn, male walleye tend to be more abundant. That pattern holds true once again. A majority of the walleye captured in the trap nets were males, but we also captured a few green (not releasing eggs) females.

Photo: Jeff Brost with one of the first green female walleye of the season.

Water temperatures in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir are still cool but have remained stable since the last update. Water surface temperatures this morning were 43-44 degrees throughout our trap netting locations. Since water temperatures are cool and it's still early in the season, walleye spawning activity remains slow. Even though we haven't captured large numbers of walleye yet, we've been collecting enough green females over the last several days where their beginning to add up. We're currently holding 79 green females in our holding pens. We'll continue to hold and monitor these female walleye until they ripen (release eggs). Warmer weather is needed for them to ripen, but it looks like another cold front may be headed our way.

Photo: Some great help from Tim, Justin, and Carl Zabrocki. Thanks a bunch guys!

Brrrrrr….. The weather has taken a turn for the worse in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. The cold front I mentioned in the last update made its presence known today. As you can imagine, water temperatures haven't warmed up. Water surface temperatures were 42-44 degrees today while checking our trap nets. This continued cooling trend hasn't prompted much of an increase in walleye spawning activity.

Numbers of green female walleye captured in trap nets decreased from 36 on Sunday to 21 today. However, we were finally able to capture enough ripe female walleye in the trap nets (over the last few days) and a few ripes from the holding pens to hold the first egg-take of the season. We collected 3.2 million eggs from 26 females on Sunday. We're on the board for the year, but we still have a way to reach our goal of 50 million eggs.

Photo: Rich Hjort with a nice walleye on a chilly day

Weather conditions have improved in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir since the last update. The cold front that moved through the area wasn't as severe as it could’ve been. The snow has melted and water surface temperatures warmed to 43-45 degrees today while checking our trap nets. Walleye spawning activity also seems to be picking up slowly since the last update. Today we captured 12 green females compared to 9 green females on Tuesday. In addition, we are starting to see more ripe female walleye in the trap net and a few more ripen in our holding pens. The continued increase in ripe females allowed us to hold our second egg-take of the season. Approximately 8.5 million eggs were collected today from 43 large, egg-laden walleye. This brings the total to 11.8 million eggs for the season.

Photo: Matt Baxter striping eggs from a ripe female walleye.

The weather conditions continue to be favorable in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. However, the last two days have been a little bumpy in the boats when venturing out on the water. Water surface temperatures today were 47-49 degrees while checking our trap nets. This gradual warming trend has prompted an increase in walleye spawning activity over the last several days.

Numbers of green female walleye collected have increased up to 37 per day which is a good increase from the 12 we captured last Wednesday. In addition, numbers of ripe females captured in trap nets have steadily increased to around 20 per day. This is a definite sign that we're nearing the peak spawning period. We’ve also held three more egg-takes since the last update due to the increased numbers of ripe female walleye. These multiple egg-takes have allowed us to climb towards the 20 million mark as of today. Stay tuned for more up-to-date numbers on the egg total.

Photo: Ron Hunziker with a dandy walleye on a breezy day.

It was an enjoyable day to be on a boat in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. The winds finally subsided since the last update. In fact, we were unable to check our trap nets yesterday due to the high winds that gusted upwards of 40 miles per hour. Water surface temperatures today ranged from 48-51 degrees while checking our trap nets. These stable water temperatures continue to beneficial for walleye spawning activity.

Numbers of female walleye collected over the last few days are holding steady. Today we collected 30 green and 26 ripe females. It’s encouraging to still some green female being captured indicating the walleye spawn is still going. Egg collection efforts have been steady as well. We’ve managed to hold three additional egg-takes since the last update and each take has given us 4-5 million more eggs each time. This should put us somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 million eggs for the season.

Photo: Mallory Kelley and Daniel Kuske from Rocky Mountain College wrangling some Fort Peck walleye. Great job guys!

Weather conditions have remained stable in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir since the last update. However, the wind has been anything but stable… Water surface temperatures today were 48-50 while checking our trap nets. These stable temperatures have still been conducive for walleye spawning activity.

Decent numbers of female walleye continue to be collected, but they seem to be tapering off slightly since the last update. Today we managed to collect 20 green and 24 ripe female from our trap nets. However, we’ve also collected some spent (released eggs) female walleye over the last few days while checking our trap nets. This is an indication that we are on the downhill slide of the walleye spawn. It’s not surprising since the walleye spawning activity has been taking place for nearly three weeks now.

Egg-taking efforts have remained steady as well due to the numbers of ripe female walleye captured in the trap nets and from our holding pens. These efforts have given us approximately 5 million eggs each day over the last four days. This brings the grand total to 55 million eggs for the year. This means we’ve met our goal, but we’ll collect a few more over the next couple days just to be on the safe side.

Photo: Daryl Northup with a hefty female walleye.

The walleye egg-taking operation has concluded in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. With the dwindling number of walleye and surpassing our egg-take goal, we’ve pulled our trap nets for the 2015 season. Walleye spawning activity has wrapped up as indicated by the spent females and lack of green females collected. However, other species such as smallmouth buffalo are now cruising the shorelines indicating that other spawning activity will soon be taking place.

So what were the results from this year? Well, we managed to collect a few more eggs since the last update bringing the grand total to 64 million eggs for the season. This will give us plenty of eggs that will turn into fry to stock all the rearing ponds at the Fort Peck and Miles City fish hatcheries. These fry will then grown into fingerlings after approximately one month.

On behalf of the fisheries and hatchery staff, I would like to thank all the volunteers who contributed to a very successful season. It was great to see lots of new and familiar faces, talk about the Fort Peck fishery, and see some truly amazing fish. Best of luck to everyone who ventures out to wet a line this summer!

Photo: Jeff Brost with a smallmouth buffalo



It has been a very foul spring on Canyon Ferry Reservoir and our annual walleye spawning survey numbers are proof. We launched traps this year on March 30th, which is the earliest date in the last 6 years, but only the west shore trap has been active since the launch date and has produce very few walleye. The trap near Pond 1 has only fish 4 nights, due to foul weather and wind, and conditions simply haven’t provided even close to optimal spawning conditions for walleye. To date we’ve handled 51 walleye and 685 rainbow trout. However, the peak of the walleye spawn is typically around April 20th, so next week things might just pop!

FWP is in the initial phases of a radio telemetry project to monitor how walleye, northern pike, and brown trout move between the reservoir and river upstream. Our task is to surgically implant 16 walleye, 10 northern pike, and 10 brown trout with radios and track them over the next two years. So far we’ve been able to implant two walleye and three brown trout with radios and plan to get the remaining radios out this spring/early summer. We’ll be implanting fish in the reservoir during the spring spawning survey and electrofishing, or using other capture techniques, for fish in the river. The attached picture is from the first walleye implanted with a radio this spring!

If you’re interested in joining us for a day on the water this spring please contact Adam Strainer at 406-495-3263

It’s been a while since our last report, but that’s due to the fact there really isn’t all that much to report. The spawn has yet to materialize at our standard locations on the south end of Canyon Ferry Reservoir or mother nature hasn’t allow us to leave our traps out fishing. Recent springtime weather patterns simply haven’t produced optimal conditions and the lack of fish continue to tell the same story. Also, water levels in the reservoir are higher than normal for this time of year and effective sampling may potentially be a factor in 2015. To date we’ve sampled 105 walleye, primarily males, and almost 900 rainbow trout.

We’ll continue to run traps through the end of this week or potentially for the duration of the current warm weather pattern. Smaller walleye, fewer rainbow trout, and an increase in the number of suckers is what FWP staff is seeing right now in the reservoir and is typically an indicator that the spawning window is closing. But FWP staff will stay after it until other standardized sampling surveys begin to overlap.

Also, in the previous update I mentioned that we’re at the beginning of a radio telemetry project to monitor movements of walleye, northern pike, and brown trout between the reservoir and river upstream. To date we’ve surgically implanted 7 brown trout in the river, 5 walleye in the river and 4 walleye in the reservoir. Our goal is to implant 10 total brown trout, 10 total norther pike and 8 walleye each in the river and reservoir, respectively. So, we’re getting closer to meeting our objectives for brown trout and walleye. We have yet to sample a northern pike this spring in either the river or reservoir. We’ll remain steadfast.

Cheers and enjoy the pleasant weather!