Annual Fort Peck Reservoir walleye spawning operation gearing up
Last updated 3/23/2022 at 9:34am
from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
Warmer temperatures are forecast for the upcoming weeks, which means the walleye spawning operation on Fort Peck Reservoir will soon be underway.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks staff has been in the process of preparing spawning barges, holding pens, and trap nets so they ready to deploy once the ice is off the Big Dry Arm.
"The activities of fish are very dependent on water temperatures, and you never know what is going to happen with spring weather in eastern Montana," Fort Peck Reservoir biologist Heath Headley said.
Walleye spawning activity on Fort Peck Reservoir usually doesn't pick up until the second or third week of April, once the ice is gone and the water temperatures reach 40-50 degrees.
Once the spawning starts, Headley said, he is hoping to reach their goal of 60 million eggs, which takes a lot of work. After two years without volunteers, FWP is excited to announce the volunteer program will resume this spring. Volunteers, Headley said, are key to the spawning operation.
"We wouldn't be able to set all the trap nets, collect fish, and spawn them on a daily basis unless we had help," he said. "Volunteers are the main reason this has been so successful over the years."
Prospective volunteers who contact Headley at 406-526-3471, Ext. 206, will receive an information packet containing a self-addressed envelope and volunteer form, which must be completed and signed. Parents or guardians must sign the form for minors.
"Folks are asked to supply their preferred dates to volunteer, so they should list the dates they desire," Headley said. "We will call to confirm the dates, so it's important for volunteers to provide us with phone numbers where they can be reached both day and night. It should be noted that most weekends fill quickly."
Staff will try to accommodate as many folks as possible, but prospective volunteers should know that space is sometimes limited.
FWP will supply waders and raincoats, but volunteers should bring the following:
1. Warm clothing, preferably in layers
2. Food for cold lunches
3. Camera equipment if desired
Each day of the operation starts at 8 a.m. in the conference room at the Fort Peck Hatchery. FWP will provide transportation from the hatchery to the spawning sites and back.
For people not able to volunteer but who still want to keep up with the spawning activity, there is another avenue of outreach. Marc Kloker, Region 6 communication and education program manager, will be posting frequent updates from Headley about the walleye spawn to the Region 6 Facebook page. Updates will include current efforts and status, data on fish and eggs collected, and photos and videos.
"This is a wonderful way to keep the public updated on our walleye egg-collecting efforts on a weekly basis," Kloker said. "Providing photos and videos of the fish, volunteers, and the operation in general will give everyone a virtual first-hand experience. Please 'like' and 'follow' by going to the Region 6 Facebook page at http://facebook.com/MontanaFWP.R6 ."
FWP fisheries and hatchery staff, along with other department personnel, collected a total of 74 million eggs in 2021 thanks to favorable water temperatures and good numbers of healthy female walleye. A total of 21.1 million fry and 2.1 million fingerlings were stocked back into Fort Peck Reservoir. Other walleye waters in Montana were also stocked in 2021 because of this annual egg-taking effort.