BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — Fishery crews have officially completed their annual salmon spawning operation on the Missouri River System, resulting in the collection of over 1.8 million eggs –roughly 500,000 of which were sent to South Dakota to help meet their own collection goals.

According to North Dakota Game and Fish, Chinook salmon populations began their spawning run in October. As these salmon aren’t able to naturally reproduce in North Dakota, Game and Fish Department personnel typically capture the fish and transport them to the Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery, where they are relieved of their eggs. Once the eggs hatch, these young salmon spend about 6 months in the hatchery before being stocked in Lake Sakakawea.

ND Game and Fish Department Missouri River System fisheries biologist Russ Kinzler states that this year, crews were able to collect enough eggs to stock 400,000 smolts planned for the lake in 2023. About 80% of the eggs this year were collected from Sakakawea, and the remainder from the Missouri River below Garrison Dam.

The average size of female salmon caught during the spawn was approximately five pounds — a 2.5-pound decrease from last year’s average. The largest salmon caught was collected in the Missouri River below Garrison Dam, and weighed a total of 21 pounds.

For more information on salmon spawning and this year’s operation, visit the Department of Game and Fish’s website.