2.5 Million Kokanee Eggs Collected from Lake Mary Ronan

By Beacon Staff

Fisheries staff and volunteers secured 2.5 million kokanee eggs at Lake Mary Ronan, a popular fishing destination in Lake County and major source of kokanees in Northwest Montana.

Biologists collect the eggs from kokanee females and the eggs are fertilized by milt from male kokanee collected at the same time. A total of 3.8 million fertilized eggs are now incubating at the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ Rose Creek Hatchery site in Bigfork. About half will be moved to the Flathead Lake Salmon Hatchery to accommodate the production of the fish.

The eggs are for future fisheries needs across the state. In addition Utah and Wyoming will be recipients of the eggs to bolster kokanee populations primarily in Flaming Gorge Reservoir on the Green River.

Ultimately the eggs hatch and are reared to two- or three-inch fingerlings and released into waters with very little or no natural reproductive capability. Many lakes in Northwest Montana, Lake Kookanusa and Little Bitterroot Lake for example, have naturally reproducing populations of kokanee where stocking is unnecessary. Kokanee are a popular food and sport fish to a great many residents and non-residents alike.

Here are some statistics from FWP regarding the 2012 egg collection:

— Over 40,000 adult kokanee, male and female, were handled during this operation.

— At roughly 300 eggs per ounce, 792 pounds of eggs were fertilized, rinsed, picked, sterilized, enumerated and placed into incubators. That equals 95 gallons of eggs or nearly two 55-gallon drums of eggs.

— Kokanee eggs will take over a month and a half to hatch in 50 degree water.

— Kokanee eggs are shipped over-night when they reach the “eyed” stage. At the eyed stage, pigment in the eyes of embryonic kokanee can be seen through the egg shell. Properly packaged eyed eggs can withstand the typical rigors of the shipping process.

Hatchery Manager Mark Kornick would like to thank volunteers who helped in the collection. Access to the fish collection site is provided by Mountain Meadows Resort where kokanee historically congregate during the spawning season.

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