So go the salmon

RIVERDALE – The Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery received about 300,000 chinook salmon eggs last fall. The eggs were taken from spawning-age salmon collected by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department from the Missouri River and Lake Sakakawea.

Today those eggs have resulted in an estimated 218,000 young and rapidly growing salmon swimming in raceways at the hatchery’s Salmon Building. The initial goal was to collect enough eggs to raise 200,000 salmon for release into Lake Sakakawea as part of the state’s ongoing salmon program.

“Survival has been pretty much normal from hatch to this stage,” said Sean Henderson, Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery. “We shouldn’t see any more mortality prior to stocking out. Just a few, which is normal. They are doing well and growing well.”

The eggs that produced the young salmon were artificially spawned in early October 2012. Survival has been about 85 percent, considered normal for a hatchery environment. The hatchery rearing of salmon is essential to the existence of the strong fish in North Dakota. No natural hatching of salmon is known to occur in the state.

The hatchery salmon are averaging just over 3 inches in length. They are expected to grow to up to 6 inches long before their release into Lake Sakakawea later this year.

“We’ll stock them out the second week of June, I believe,” said Henderson.

Even in the rearing tanks the young salmon show characteristics common to their kind, the great schools of salmon that live in the ocean and then return later to spawn in fresh water rivers and streams. Despite their numbers, they often move in unison and show the powerful swimming action for which they are famous. Salmon reach maturity after three or four years and die following a single spawning season.