Instead, the Fort Peck fisheries crew is electro fishing for the salmon, using electrical current to stun the fish long enough to net and boat them. In a little over a week of electro fishing in Marina Bay, FWP staff collected 18 female and more than 20 male salmon. Those fish are being held in raceways at the Fort Peck Hatchery, where their eggs and milt will be collected and incubated starting in the next week or so. The electro fishing will continue for the next several weeks, or until the number of fish in the bay taper off considerably.
“We’re still a little early in the run, but I’m encouraged that we have a few fish returning to Marina Bay as water temperatures begin to cool,” said Heath Headley, FWP’s Fort Peck Lake fisheries biologist. “Last year we didn’t go full-bore with our electro fishing effort until the first week of October.”
Fort Peck’s Chinook are landlocked relatives of ocean-going king salmon. The fish returning this year were released three years ago and have grown to 12 to 18 pounds. Just as their anadromous cousins return to the very gravel bars where they hatched, Fort Peck’s adult salmon return to Marina Bay, where they were released during the spring and fall as fingerlings.
Anglers started targeting the salmon off the face of Fort Peck Dam starting in August, and beginning Oct. 1 the snagging season kicks off in Marina Bay. Snaggers should be aware that FWP’s electro fishing boat will be working the shoreline of the bay mornings and evenings over the next several weeks.
In addition to about 36,000 fingerling salmon raised at the Fort Peck Hatchery and released into the lake in June, another 14,000 Chinook are being donated by North Dakota. Those salmon, averaging six inches, will be released into the lake towards the later part of October.