Whitlock Bay Salmon Spawning Station
Lake Oahe is one of few North American lakes where anglers can find Chinook salmon. This station plays a vital role in the existence of salmon in central South Dakota.
This facility is located along the shore of Lake Oahe at Whitlock Bay, 18 miles west of Gettysburg. It has a fish ladder, four concrete holding ponds, crowding raceways, a spawning building, and a water supply system. Water is pumped from the bay into the holding ponds and flows down the fish ladder back into the bay.
No suitable habitat exists in the lake for Chinook salmon to reproduce naturally. Whitlock Spawning Station allows for the completion of their life cycle and helps to ensure future populations of these fish. Because of these fish management efforts, Lake Oahe is the only place in South Dakota and one of the few sites in North America where you can hook and land Chinook salmon. The Whitlock facility is also sometimes used to spawn other fish species.
The station is open the month of October.
Guided tours are available 9a.m. - 11 a.m. most days during that time.
Inquiries may be directed to 605.765.9411 when the station is in operation and 605.223.7681 at other times.
Each fall, Chinook salmon migrate to Whitlock Bay to begin their spawning process. The fish swim up the ladders at the facility, and then enter the concrete holding ponds. They are later moved into the building, where artificial spawning occurs.
Spawning involves the collection of eggs and sperm. Fish that are ripe (ready to lay eggs) are euthanized. These salmon would soon die as part of their natural life and reproduction cycle.
Female salmon are injected with air to expel the eggs. Milt (sperm) is extracted from male salmon and added to the eggs for fertilization. The fertilized eggs are washed and placed into storage containers.
The fertilized eggs are taken to state fish hatcheries, where the resulting hatchery-raised fish are stocked back into Lake Oahe to grow and thrive in this large, deep, cold body of water.
Fish are also placed in containers, picked up by a fish processing company, and finally processed and sold for human consumption.
Between 250,000 and one million Chinook salmon eggs are collected, resulting in approximately 250,000 young salmon stocked into Lake Oahe the following year.