Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks recently completed the annual walleye spawning operation on Fort Peck Reservoir, and even though late ice-off impacted the success of this year’s effort, FWP will maximize fingerling walleye production. Additionally, biologists are hopeful that higher than average spring runoff will result in some natural reproduction.
As they have done for nearly 20 years, FWP staff and volunteers trapped walleye and collected their eggs. Unfortunately, heavy snowpack and late ice-off on Fort Peck Reservoir created conditions where biologists were unable to collect walleye throughout the spawning period. The result was the Fort Peck egg take was not as successful as in previous years.
FWP considers walleye a very valuable resource for Montana and continues to manage the population for the enjoyment of resident and non-resident anglers. Fort Peck is the most popular warm water fishery in Montana with walleye as the centerpiece species.
Fort Peck Fish Hatchery staff and regional staff reached out to North Dakota and South Dakota game and fish agencies for help with eggs and fry, but spawning operations in those states were also deficient.
Evidence of natural walleye reproduction in Fort Peck leads biologists to believe that reliance on hatchery production may not be as important during years of high elevation and flow (such as 2018 and 2011) when natural recruitment may be more likely to occur.
The biggest impact of the meager egg take will impact fry stockings; however, fingerling stockings will also be down. Currently, fingerling production at Fort Peck and Miles City hatcheries is being maximized.