Friends of the Upper Mississippi

Our Vision Statement

To work to protect, enhance and restore our Upper Mississippi River resources by serving as volunteers and partners with conservation organizations to provide education about these resources for our citizens, to advocate for government policies that will support these resources and to increase awareness of threats to the health of the Upper Mississippi River.

Genoa Fish Clinic

Genoa Fish Clinic – Genoa, WI

Mission of the Friends of the Upper Mississippi

  • Provide volunteer services to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other Conservation organizations for native species restoration and population monitoring.
  • Provide education programs for members and the general public on conservation issues and benefits
  • Provide grants for educational activities
  • Provide outdoor activities for children
  • Be a primary point of contact with local and national public officials in support of Mississippi River resources
  • Provide fundraising activities to support local conservation programs
  • Inform local groups and provide education on conservation issues

Lake Sturgeon Spawning Delayed but not Denied

Wisconsin DNR staff capture lake sturgeon for tagging, measuring and spawning. Credit: USFWS

Sturgeon spawning below the Shawano Dam on the Wolf River. Credit: US FWS

BY DOUG ALOISI, GENOA NFH

With the cold temperatures this spring, the crew at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) wondered if lake sturgeon spawning would ever commence. Our typical river
walleye brood stock collections start the first week of April when longer daylight hours and warmer river temperatures trigger the walleye to spawn. Lake sturgeon spawning tends to be more temperature dependent with water temperatures usually rising to above 52 degrees Fahrenheit before spawning activity is observed. This usually happens in mid to late April in smaller river systems such as the Wolf River in Wisconsin, and all the way into June for larger river systems connected to the cold waters of the Great Lakes such as the St. Lawrence River in New York and the St.
Clair River in Michigan. In our culture program, lake sturgeon spawning occurs throughout the months of April through late June. It is a frenetic but fun time, packing
and unpacking supplies and equipment, and travelling to such exotic places as Shawano Wisconsin, to Sarnia, Ontario and Massena, New York. The staff is worn down by the end of June, but hopefully feeling satisfied with a large number of lake sturgeon eggs and larvae to care for all summer.

This year’s egg take on the Wolf River will be part of a study to determine contaminant levels in adult and larval lake sturgeon from a number of Great Lakes
tributaries. The Genoa NFH will act as a control for the study, as our water comes from groundwater located 100 feet below our feet at the hatchery site. This groundwater has been warmed by the sun in our 1.5 acre solar pond to stimulate lake sturgeon growth in the summer months. By further enhancing our water supply by adding pure oxygen to our water, our rearing capacity for 6 inch lake sturgeon has expanded from 25,000 fingerlings per year to 48,000 fingerlings per year. Other studies planned for this year are examining growth rates at various temperatures to determine maximum growth of lake sturgeon fingerlings at given water temperatures. We will also soon have plenty of help in the sturgeon building, with our summer staff of two Pathways college student positions joining us and three Youth Conservation Corps high school students also added in to the mix. They will be plugged in to the sturgeon culture program and have an important role as “sturgeon whisperers” helping the larval fish grow and be healthy and fit for the wild come late September while our students will be safely back at school again. We are hopeful that through our efforts another strong year class of sturgeon will fully represent the wild population from which theyoriginated from, and survive well in the waters that they are being restored to.

Unveiling of the Great River Road Interpretive Center

Dignitaries Congressman Ron Kind, Wisconsin 3rd District (left), Tom Melius (center) USFWS Midwest Region Director and Sherry Quamme, Chair of Wisconsin Mississippi River Parkway Commission dedicate the interpretive center. Credit: Megan Bradley , USFWS

We at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are pleased to announce the opening of the Great River Road Interpretive Center in Genoa, Wisconsin. Regional Director Tom Melius joined Congressman Ron Kind and other dignitaries to mark the grand opening at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery on June 1, 2018. A large, eye-catching, yellow and white tent stood on the grounds of the hatchery as a crowd of staff, supporters, friends and local-area families gathered in anticipation of the celebration.

Nearly five years in the making, construction of the center began on August 21, 2013 with a commemorative groundbreaking ceremony on hatchery grounds. The project was partially funded by a National Scenic Byways grant, making Genoa the first national fish hatchery to be awarded Department of Transportation, Federal Highway – National Scenic Byways funds.

“This center represents an exciting achievement as it was made possible due to a first-of-its-kind grant to a national fish hatchery,” said Melius.

Those in attendance enjoyed a beautiful day as they gathered for the formal dedication ceremony near the new interpretive center. Credit: Megan Bradley, USFWS

As part of the celebration Congressman Ron Kind of Wisconsin’s 3rd District presented the hatchery with a framed statement for the Congressional Record in honor of the opening. “I am honored to be here in Genoa celebrating the opening of the Great River Road Interpretive Center, which honors a precious natural resource and economic engine in western Wisconsin – the Mississippi River,” said Kind.

The new facility offers visitors opportunities to learn about the natural resources of the Upper Mississippi River. Educational exhibits go beyond the story of the hatchery and feature significant histories of the area, including how native mussels were a part of the pearl button industry and the Battle of Bad Axe, the final battle of the Black Hawk War.

“We’re hoping that people get an appreciation of the region, not only the intrinsic value of the natural resources, but also the history,” said Genoa National Fish Hatchery Manager Doug Aloisi.

The center is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on weekends. There is no fee for entry.

Learn more about the Genoa National Fish Hatchery and plan your visit!

 

Discover the Great River Road

Great River Road Interpretive Center will be opening its doors for the first time on June 1, 2018. Credit: USFWS

Three miles south of the small village of Genoa, Wisconsin straddling either side of the Great River Road Scenic Byway, otherwise known as Wisconsin State Highway 35, sits the Genoa National Fish Hatchery. Founded in 1932, the hatchery has played a major role in restoring a variety of aquatic species from imperiled mussels, to lake sturgeon and even the rare Hine’s emerald dragonfly. They’ve also been focused on educating people about the value of the Mississippi River, which flows just west of the hatchery. No Genoa National Fish Hatchery is opening the doors of its new home to help visitors learn more about the importance of the river and the work of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Great River Road Interpretive Center’s grand opening is scheduled for June 1 at 10:00 a.m. at Genoa National Fish Hatchery. The project has been almost five years in the making and began in August 2013 with a groundbreaking ceremony on hatchery  grounds. The center focuses on the history and natural resources of the Upper Mississippi River, highlighting education of aquatic wildlife and the Battle of Bad Axe, the final battle of the Black Hawk War fought in 1832, which occurred just south of the hatchery.

The project is unique in that it was partially funded by a National Scenic Byways grant, which makes Genoa the first national fish hatchery to be awarded Department of Transportation, Federal Highway  National Scenic Byways funds. Annually, Genoa National Fish Hatchery hosts approximately 14,000 visitors and is open year round. It is one of six national fish hatcheries in the Midwest. Why not add Genoa National Fish Hatchery and the Great River Road Interpretive Center or one of our other national fish hatcheries to your list of places to visit on this summer’s family vacation?

BY MONICA BLASER, REGIONAL OFFICE – EXTERNAL AFFAIRS

Mudpuppies Ready for Service

Mudpuppy eggs laid on the under side of a piece of plywood. Credit: USFWS

A mudpuppy ready for use as a salamander mussel host. Credit: USFWS

    BY NATHAN ECKERT, GENOA NFH

The salamander mussel is the only North American freshwater mussel that uses something other than a fish as its larval host. The mudpuppy, a large salamander, is the known host of the salamander mussel, and they can be difficult to collect for use in mussel propagation. Through partnerships with the USGS we were able to acquire a population of adult mudpuppy to use as captive broodstock for propagation. In June 2016 we collected eggs from a successful spawn of our captive broodstock in one of the hatchery ponds. We then rolled the eggs in an egg jar as we do for walleye or trout until they hatched. From there the young continued to develop and were given a diet of brine shrimp until they were large enough to eat frozen bloodworms. Their diet has consisted solely of frozen bloodworms ever since, with the exception of a small batch of crayfish after pond harvest last fall.For the last year they have been held in a recirculating system in the mussel building at a constant temperature of 70° Fahrenheit. Over that time the animals have constantly gained about two grams of weight each per month. In fish culture we generally think of weight as the number of fish per pound, and using that metric our mudpuppies are currently at 10 per pound. The reason that we’ve raised this batch of mudpuppy is for them to serve as hosts for propagation of the salamander mussel at Genoa NFH. Salamander mussel glochidia attach to the gills and skin of the mudpuppy and transform from larvae to juveniles over the course of a few weeks in the spring. Last year we felt that the young mudpuppies were too small to serve as effective hosts, but this year they will be the focal point of our restoration efforts. It took a year to gather the broodstock and ultimately two additional years to grow the animals, but now we are ready to take our salamander mussel restoration efforts to the next level. Not all mussel restoration projects take this much planning and effort, but in unique cases it is good to know that we have the ability to solve an issue like access to the suitable host.

Hot Time on a Cold Pond! Kids Ice Fishing Day Hits the Hard Water

 

The weather outside wasn’t quite frightful, but it was coolish for a Wisconsin winter this February 3rd for the Genoa WI) National Fish Hatchery’s annual Kids Ice Fishing Day. The event, sponsored by our shared Friends Group with the Midwest Fisheries Center (the Friends of the Upper Miss), has sponsored this event and our spring Kids Fishing Day for over a decade now. The event has grown from a small event of less than 100 people, to a much anticipated outdoor extravaganza with 648 people attending!

Three hundred and thirty children ages 5-12 participated in the fishing event, with the majority of them catching their 3 fish limit of rainbow trout. Lots of smiles were on hand, as some children caught their first fish through the ice. This is a great family event also, as parents and guardians are invited to help mentor their child as they learn to ice fish. A warming tent and plenty of hot chocolate was supplied to keep the participants comfortable, and after the fishing was done a light lunch was supplied to kids and adults alike. The food and drink was generously supplied and served by our Friends group. Genoa NFH and Midwest Fisheries Center staff were also on hand to supply bait and ice fishing gear and offer up some ice fishing safety tips and ice fishing techniques to help the kids be successful and safe.

Judging by the size of the smiles at the end of the day, it looked like we have some new ice fishing enthusiasts in the making, and may just have made a family memory or two that will be cherished and revisited in the upcoming years. Hopefully a seed for loving the outdoors and desiring to preserve it will grow and be passed along to this next generation of conservationists as well.

By Doug Aloisi

 

KIDS FISHING DAY LARGEST EVER

All,

Thanks so much for all of your hard work in the preparation and execution of the Kids Ice Fishing Day at Genoa NFH on Saturday February 3 this year.


We had 648 attendees, volunteers, Friends and staff from the 3 La Crosse area Fisheries Offices at the event, the largest attendance so far. To top this off most of the promotion for the event was contained to social media or just word of mouth. Included in this number were 330 children, our targeted audience. Many smiles were witnessed and everyone that attended caught at least one fish.

 

Thanks again for all that you do for our Mississippi Basin fish and wildlife resources and for helping us put the love of the outdoors into the next generation through events like these!

Sincerely, doug

Doug Aloisi,Genoa National Fish Hatchery

Requests Pouring in for Fish

 

While winter settles in at Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) spring planning kicks into high gear. In many professions, the arrival of winter can bring about a slower pace but at the hatchery there is no time to slow down. Planning for the upcoming production cycle begins almost immediately after the previous fish go out the door. It is important for staff at Genoa NFH to prepare and plan to make sure all of the appropriate pieces are in place. This entails prepping culture buildings for incoming eggs, repairing nets for spawning activities, and compiling fish requests from tribal, federal, and state partners. Biologists at the hatchery send out fish request forms to all partners which compile their fish needs and report them back to the hatchery staff.

This allows the hatchery to determine pond space and rearing tanks needed to make sure these requests can be met. In the event that Genoa NFH does not raise the fish that partners sometimes need we can help coordinate partners with others to help find the fish they are after. The staff also attends various fish meetings where requests can be shared with one another. This process allows Genoa NFH to gain access to fish that are not normally raised on station.

Some good examples are the acquisition of Golden Shiners and Mudpuppies that are used for mussel propagation. All incoming or outgoing fish are passed through a rigorous series of fish health examinations to ensure that no possible pathogens are passed among stations and all partners are receiving certified healthy fish.

All this is going on during the time we are collecting and caring for eggs from our fall spawning species such as lake herring, brook and rainbow trout. These species hatch out in the winter months and will need special care and attention to ensure that they acclimate to commercial starter diets, and begin their cycle of life.

By Aaron Von Eschen

Coaster Brook Trout Spawning from Isle Royale

  In October of 2017 USFWS hatchery staff from Genoa National Fish Hatchery(OreyEckes) and Iron River National Fish Hatchery (Brandon Keesler) partnered with Ashland Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office staff  (Henry Quinlan and Evan Boone) to collect coaster brook trout eggs from Isle Royale (Tobin Harbor).

 

Fyke nets were set daily to collect adult spawning coaster brook trout from historical spawning locations. As the fish swim along the shore they are guided into the net. Nets are checked daily until the desired number of adult spawning pairs is collected.

 

 

 

 

Biological data is collected from all the coaster brook trout that are captured in the nets. This data helps fisheries managers better manage and assess the population.

 

 

 

 

Length and weight data is collected to understand growth rates in the wild and determine the age of the fish.

 

 

 

 

Each coaster brook trout was also PIT tagged.  These tags help track individual fish movement and growth. These tags give each fish an unique tag number making them easier to identify when recaptured.

 

 

Eggs were collected from 20 females and milt from 40 males to create a brood stock with 40 families. The eggs were transported back to the Genoa National Fish Hatchery for incubation.

 

 

 

 

 

Eggs were collected from 20 females and milt from 40 males to create a brood stock with 40 families. The eggs were transported back to the Genoa National Fish Hatchery for incubation.

 

 

 

 

Currently the eggs are over a month old and now have eye spots. They will remain at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery until they are about 10 inches before they are transferred to the Iron River National Fish Hatchery to be used as a future brood stock.

By Orey Eckes

 

Genoa’s Commitment to the Recovery of Endangered Aquatic Species

The Genoa National Fish Hatchery’s mission at its inception in 1932 was to provide sport fish for area waters, but with the advent of the Endangered Species Act in 1975, our mission has shifted to include the recovery of endangered aquatic species. Genoa also collaborates with several state and federal hatcheries along with a commitment to providing support to federally recognized tribes to assist in their conservation and resource management programs. Genoa helps tribes to restore native species and to manage fish and mussel species. Currently Genoa is also working to recover 5 Federally listed mussel species including the Higgins eye, Winged Maple Leaf, Sheepnose, Snuffbox and Spectaclecase.   Our mussel biologists propagate these species, in addition to other species, to be released back to their native habitat. We also occasionally work on NRDA (Natural Resources Damage Assessment) projects in assessing and mitigating damages done to mussel populations. With the help of our mussel biologists Genoa has produced 14.7 million mussels spanning 17 species.

In addition to endangered mussels Genoa also aims to help in the recovery of the Lake Sturgeon, which is a listed species in several states, coaster brook trout, and lake trout. Genoa’s Lake Sturgeon program peaks in the summer months.

Eggs are brought to the hatchery where they will hatch and grow to approximately 6 inches where they are then tagged with a coded wire and distributed to various locations.Our longest trip for Lake Sturgeon distribution is the St. Lawrence River in New York.

The coaster brook trout are raised for restoration purposes in the Grand Portage Tribal Reservation in Minnesota in Lake Superior tributaries. Last but not least the lake trout are raised in our quarantine facility where they live for 18 months until they are determined free of any fish pathogens, and then distributed to captive brood stock hatcheries to produce eggs for restoration programs in the Great Lakes. All our fish on station go through a rigorous series of health certifications. Genoa has also recently added a new endangered species to culture, the Hines Emerald Dragonfly.

In conjunction with researchers from University of South Dakota we are working to improve the survival of the Dragonfly in its larval state. Larvae are transferred to their natural habitat, specifically in the Des Plaines Illinois area, where they emerge and hopefully are able to live out their lives naturally. In addition to our commitment to the recovery of several species, Genoa also aims to educate the next generation by hosting various educational programs allowing area youth to enjoy the outdoors and get an up close and personal view of our target species.

By Erin Johnson

Research Precedes Offshore Cisco Stocking

BY DOUG ALOISI, GENOA NFH

Marking Cisco with a Coded wire tag. Credit: USFWS

The cisco (the fish formerly known as lake herring), is known for not only being a historically important commercial fish species, but also an important forage species in the Great Lakes. Many native species such as the lake trout depended heavily on this species in their diets. Throughout the Great Lakes cisco populations have been on the decline due to overfishing and competition with introduced species such as the alewife. Alewife introductions were harmful to Great Lakes cisco populations due to direct competition for food, and harmful to predator populations due to alewives carrying high levels of an enzyme called thiaminase in their bodies, which results in poor egg survival to fish that prey on them. Great Lakes fisheries scientists have placed a high priority on rebuilding cisco stocks due to its value as a prey species for many of the valuable sport and commercially exploited predator species in the lakes, and to possibly increase egg survival in apex predator species in the Great Lakes. In the fall of 2016, US Fish and Wildlife Service fisheries offices in Michigan and Wisconsin banded together to collect eggs from northern Lake Huron to begin pilot efforts to learn how to culture the species, and possibly develop a disease free future brood stock to use for a disease free egg source. Eggs were brought to the Genoa National Fish Hatchery quarantine facility, to be reared for 16-18 months and three fish health inspections to ensure that the fish can be transferred safely to other Service captive brood stock stations. The resulting fry soon outgrew their homes and with more than enough to begin the first brood line, 10,000 4.5 inch cisco became surplus.

This first small lot of fish became a good pilot program to see if expected culture practices would be adaptable to large scale restoration efforts in existing facilities currently used as lake trout production facilities. Methods of mass marking were tried as well as long distance hauling and offshore release methods on this sensitive species of fish. The physiological effects of marking and transportation were also measured to determine whether these methods were suitable in large scale efforts. Results are being compared in order to make recommendations on hauling densities and how to reduce stress through the culture, marking and transportation cycle. Through these preliminary studies, it is hoped that methods used may be beneficial to our sister hatcheries as they begin large scale production efforts in the fall of 2017, for targeted restoration areas in Lake Huron.