SPAWNING

2018 FORT PECK

April 24, 2018 

After what seemed to be a winter that would never end, things have finally decided to break loose on Fort Peck Reservoir. We managed to get holding pens, barges, and trap nets set over the weekend even though there was still ice cover on most of the main lake. Today was our second day of the season checking trap nets and collecting walleye. Water surface temperatures varied greatly from one location to another in the upper Big Dry Arm where our trap nets have been placed. In some of the shallower locations, we’ve observed water surface temperatures close to 55 degrees, but water surface temperatures towards the main lake are still in the low 40’s. As a result we’ve been seeing a combination of green (holding eggs), ripe (releasing eggs), and spent(released their eggs) female walleye. 

We’ve managed to hold two egg-takes since we’ve started due to a decent number of ripe female walleye collected. We collected approximately 3.2 million eggs on Monday and 2.7 million eggs on Tuesday giving us 5.9 million walleye eggs thus far. We also collected 1.1 million pike eggs that will be used to meet stocking requests for certain waterbodies in eastern Montana for 2018. 

Photo: Ripe female walleye waiting to be spawned
Photo: Ryan Lott collecting eggs from a ripe female walleye
Photo: Hank Poeschl, Mark Sigler, and Ed Dodge with a female walleye collected from a trap net

April 28, 2018 

The weather has cooperated for the most part over the last few days in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. Water surface temperatures today in our trap netting locations ranged from 55 degrees in the far upper portions to 44 degrees further down the reservoir. As a result, we continue to see a mixed bag in the condition of female walleye being collected with a combination of greens, ripe, and spent fish. 

Given the much later start and variable water temperatures throughout the reservoir, it’s not surprising we’re seeing spent female walleye along with ripes and greens in our trap net catches. The good news is we’ve still managed to capture enough ripe and have a few more green females ripen up so we can collect a few more eggs. Since the last update, we’ve managed to hold two more small egg-takes which will bring our total close to 12 million eggs. It looks like there might be a cold front moving our way, but we’ll continue to plug along and see what we can do. 

Photo: Sorting through a trap net full of fish
Photo: Sean Lott with a big green female walleye being transferred to a holding pen
Photo: Ron, Jacob, and AJ Hunziker with a female walleye

April 30th 2018 

The weather has cooled a bit from the warm temperatures we experienced over the weekend in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. It’s hard to believe air temperatures yesterday were in the 70’s, and today we only had a daytime high in the upper 40’s and bundled up! Water surface temperatures are ranging from 47 degrees to 56 degrees throughout our trap netting locations. We’re continuing to collect good numbers of walleye, but the condition of females captured hasn’t been conducive to collecting large amounts of eggs. 

Trap net catches continue to be comprised of either ripe or spent female walleye with very few greens. The lack of green females, which typically ripen up in the holding pens and contribute to our effort, have given us fewer fish to spawn this season. However, we did manage to hold another small egg-take since the last update due to the ripe females captured the past couple days. We managed to collect approximately 3.5 million eggs on Sunday which should put us a little over 15 million eggs thus far. It looks like the weather will start to warm up over the next few days so we’ll plug along and see what we can do. 

Photo: Jack Boonstra wrangling some wily walleye
Photo: Jack Boonstra with a huge smallmouth buffalo

May 4, 2018 

The weather has really warmed in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. Water surface temperatures throughout our trap netting locations have been ranging from 50 to 58 degrees. However, we haven’t seen much of an increase in walleye spawning activity and it’s likely things may be winding down based on what we’ve been finding in our trap nets. 

A majority of the female walleye captured in trap nets continue to be spent with very few greens. We’ve continued to capture ripe female walleye, but their numbers appear to be decreasing as well. Despite the decrease in numbers, the numbers of ripe females captured have given us a few more fish to spawn. 

The steady trickle of ripe females captured has allowed us to hold three small egg-takes since the last update. Each egg-take we’ve managed to collect roughly 1.5 to 2 million more eggs. This should bring our total to approximately 20 million eggs. We plan on continuing through the weekend in hopes to collect a few more eggs to add to the total. 

Photo: Richard Lockman with a healthy green female walleye
Photo: Sorting through a trap net full of fish

May 15, 2018 

Well, it’s been an interesting walleye spawning season this year on Fort Peck Reservoir. It seems like the weather went from winter straight into summer. Water surface temperatures in the upper Big Dry Arm have been ranging from 56 to 66 degrees throughout our trap netting locations. These warmer temperatures have led to a dwindling number of walleye, but other species have taken their place as temperatures are becoming favorable for their spawning. Based on this, we’ve decided to pulled our nets for the 2018 season. 

Not only have there been fewer numbers of walleyes collected in the trap nets, but a majority of females collected continue to be spent. Fortunately, we have managed to collect a handful of ripe female walleye to hold two more small egg takes since the last update. These two small egg collections have given us close to 2 million more eggs to add to our total. This should give us close to 22 million total eggs for the season which was half our goal of 50 million eggs. So what does this mean? 

It looks like there should be enough eggs, which will turn into fry, to stock the rearing ponds for fingerling production; however, there will likely be very few walleye fry plants. Fort Peck Reservoir receives a majority of the walleye fry stockings so it will be impacted the most. Even though fewer eggs were collected this year, 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. Increasing water levels have created more spawning and rearing habitat which should also lead to improved forage conditions. These factors can greatly aid in the survival of any naturally reproduced or stocked walleyes. 

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

Photo: Fish culturist Bob Braund with a large female walleye
Photo: Sean Uy with a BIG bigmouth buffalo
Photo: James Poitra with a channel catfish enjoying the warm water