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

La Crosse Garden Club and Summit Environmental School Celebrate Earth Day

garden club
Summit students and garden club members hard at work in the pollinator garden. Credit: USFWS
The La Crosse Wisconsin Garden Club and Summit Environmental School of La Crosse Wisconsin commemorated Earth Day this April 22nd by renovating the Genoa National Fish Hatchery’s pollinator garden for the coming season. For the last several years the Garden Club has been the driving force to ensure that the station has had not only an attractive garden display located by our entry sign, but also plants and species present that will attract and benefit pollinator species. This has become doubly important with the crash of Monarch butterfly populations nationwide. Another positive aspect of this project is including local Summit Environmental School children in the project as part of their Outdoor Classroom Curriculum at the hatchery, and to celebrate Earth Day by performing environmental volunteerism. The project hopes to lay a foundation for the children by demonstrating that people of all ages can make a positive impact in our daily lives, and we that all have a responsibility to be good conservation stewards. The project also fulfills the schools mission statement of providing students with a solid educational foundation in the core academic areas with an environmental focus integrated throughout the curriculum. Staff biologist Jorge Buening coordinated the project with the Garden Club and teachers from the school to make this a meaningful and significant Earth Day 2015. The hatchery hopes to include more cooperative conservation projects in the future whether it be in the field of fish and mussel conservation, or involving prairie and pollinator restoration on some of the hatchery’s acreage that was once considered borderline pastureland.

Reports of Lake Sturgeon Stocked by Genoa NFH and Partners… They’re Doing Well!


sturgeon map

Red River Lake sturgeon catches reported by (Minnesota DNR)
As spring progresses, lake sturgeon begin their migration from larger bodies of water to natal spawning grounds. In the months of April-June hatchery staff will begin collecting sturgeon eggs from natural spawning adults. Eggs will be collected from four river systems (Wolf River, Rainy River, Wisconsin River, and St. Lawrence River) for culture at Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH). Sturgeon will be reared at Genoa NFH for approximately four months before they are released in support of lake sturgeon restoration for federal, state, and tribal partners.

Prior to release, lake sturgeon are coded wire tagged for future assessment of survival, growth, and migration patterns. As part of the restoration goal it is essential to monitor the success of stocking efforts. For example, sturgeon stocked over the past 15 years from Genoa NFH and released within the Red River Basin have been monitored by US Fish and Wildlife Service, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and tribal partners. Fisheries reports by Minnesota DNR and anglers have revealed capture locations of lake sturgeon in lakes and streams within the Red River Basin. Fish stocked in 2007 are reported to be between 45-50 inches. Since female lake sturgeon sexual mature between 20-25 years of age and males between 12-15 years they should start reproducing in the near future. Reports of these large fish are encouraging to hear. It’s exciting to know that fish stocked from the Genoa NFH are surviving and doing well in the wild.

Kids Fishing Day held at the Genoa hatchery a great success!

Doug 2015 may fishing derby


Thanks very much for making Saturday’s Kids Fishing Day held at the Genoa hatchery a great success!

Over 328 people attended the event, including 28 volunteers and 159 children. A great turnout! They all got to enjoy a great outdoor activity in Southwest Wisconsin, and enjoy some family time making memories that will last a lifetime. Through your efforts, we have planted the seeds to ensure the next generation values the great outdoors and in turn will work to protect it.

Thanks again for your efforts and we hope to work with you all in the future to help preserve our outdoor heritage.

Doug Aloisi
Genoa National Fish Hatchery
S 5631 State Highway 35
Genoa WI 54632
608-689-2644 fax


The following is the itinerary for our Annual Fishing Clinic/Derby for children 5 to 12 years old, which will be held at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery on Saturday, May 9th, 2015.

Morning Session

Station 1          Station 2           Station 3     Station 4  

8:45 to 9:00 am       Registration Boating Safety Fish Health FHC Fish Behavior and ID Wetland Tour
9:00am to 9:15am    “      “   “     “         “     “          “      “
9:15am to 9:30am     “     “    “     “       “     “        “      “
9:30 am to9:45 am     “      “    “      “         “       “          “       “
9:45 am to 10:00 am     “      “     “      “         “       “          “       “

Event is limited to the first 250 children that register on the day of the event.

Children will rotate every 15 minutes through the learning stations.

Lunch will be provided at noon for the children, volunteers and employees.

Fishing pole loaners can be made available by the Genoa National Fish Hatchery in cooperation with the Friends of the Upper Mississippi and the La Crosse National Wildlife and Fishery Conservation Office and the Upper Mississippi River National & Fish Refuge, Winona District.

Participants will be provided bait, NO outside bait will be allowed.

Due to safety concerns and space limitations, no artificial lures, fly fishing and/or treble hooks will be allowed at the event.

  Recreational Fishing Session

10:00 am to 12:00 pm Fishing at Hatchery Pond 5.

Everyone will be dismissed at approximately 1:00 pm.

 Saturday, May 9th, 2015

9:00 AM TO 1:00 PM

Ages 5 years to 12 years

Fishing poles available as needed.

Lunch will be provided.

For more information call:  689-2605

Children must attend the Fishing Clinic in the morning to attend the Fishing Session at Pond 5 at the Hatchery at 10 am.

Fish ID/Habitat, Fish Anatomy/Health, Boating Safety, and Wetland Tour will be part of the morning session.  Fishing in Pond 5 on the Hatchery will be part of the morning session.



S 5631 State Hwy 35, Genoa WI 54632

(608) 689-2605


Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly

Effects of Reed Canary Grass and Herbicide Application




Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly. Credit: USFWS
Invasive species are a global concern and their presence is often attributed to significant losses in biodiversity. Particularly concerning are the potential impacts of invasive species on endangered species, such as the Hine’s emerald dragonfly. Wetland habitats for this species are substantially fragmented and may be limited in-part by the presence of invasive grasses such as reed canarygrass and common reed (Phragmites australis). However, the effects of such invasive grasses on Hine’s emerald dragonfly are poorly understood. Herbicides have been developed to specifically control non-desirable grasses, but little data exist on their effectiveness on reed canary grass or unexpected impacts on native plant and animal communities. A partnership between the US Fish and Wildlife Service (Coastal Program-Great Lakes and Partners for Fish and Wildlife programs), University of South Dakota, and The Nature Conservancy set out to experimentally evaluate the effectiveness of Fusilade DX (fluazifop-p-butyl) on controlling reed canary grass and its potential impact on larval Hine’s emerald dragonfly populations and co-existing aquatic invertebrate and native plant communities. This was accomplished using a series of plots (3 treatments, 3 controls) in an area of Hine’s emerald dragonfly habitat currently being invaded by reed canarygrass. Variation in invasion intensity within and across plots demonstrated significant negative impacts of reed canarygrass on native plant and invertebrate communities. Fusilade application significantly reduced height, but did not significantly reduce reed canary grass aerial coverage over the course of the study. Herbicide treatments did not affect growth or survival of the dragonfly larvae, or the composition of native plant or invertebrate communities. Results from this study suggests that fusilade can be safely used in habitats where Hine’s emerald dragonfly larvae exist; however, it may not be effective for removing or controlling the spread of reed canary grass. For more information contact Dr. Daniel Soluk at 605-677-6172.

Read Outside and Relax


R.O.A.R. emblem designed by Vicki Walley with Friends of the Upper Mississippi. Credit: Submitted by Jorge Buening, USFWS

As our world continues to move at a faster and faster pace our youth become more and more fixated on instant gratification. They are becoming people that expect a control pad to instantly reward their repeated tapping with jumps, punches and fireballs or expect a return text on their phone as soon as they hit the send button. Our children are losing the ability to be an individual and think for themselves, to enjoy the warm sun on their faces, and simply notice what wonderful things are happening around them. It is for this reason that the Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) is working to create the R.O.A.R. program.

R.O.A.R is an incentive program that urges children to go outside and read. Through this process we hope the children will relax and see what is going on around them and learn about the environment and their community. The plan for this project is for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Friends of the Upper Mississippi, La Crosse Parks Department, and the La Crosse Public Libraries to come together and provide outdoor reading locations. Between the various offices and parks eight locations will be designated as R.O.A.R sites and participants must go to these places and read. While there they will be able to receive a mark on a passport or guide book stating that this achievement has been met. Upon completion of reading at all of the sites participants will receive a coupon thanks to a donation through Courtesy Corporation-McDonalds that awards them a free desert at an area restaurant.

The Friends of the Upper Mississippi are also getting involved by equipping some of the R.O.A.R. sites with reading benches. Genoa NFH is looking at installing a few of these benches around the Sense of Wonder Wetland walking path to provide a place to read or simply sit and observe the outdoors. As another bonus the friends are also looking at potentially dedicating these benches to past friends members as a way of remembering their contributions to the organization.

This project is in conjunction with the USFWS’s Connecting People with Nature and the Department of Interior Engaging the Next Generation initiatives. Genoa NFH plans to incorporate outdoor reading into the outdoor classroom and sturgeon in the classroom programs as we strive to connect children with nature.

Encouraging results for a new mussel culture strategy at Genoa NFH

musselsRecent changes in how we run the mussel cage culture operation at Genoa NFH has dramatically increased the number of sub-adult mussels that need to be held in the lab over winter. Over the last two winters these sub-adult mussels have been placed in a flow through system that utilizes pond water from the hatchery. This system has been quite effective, yielding 90 – 95 % survival in animals from fall to spring distribution. The drawback to the system is that the animals will not grow in the cold winter temperatures, and the increase in numbers has us needing additional room. This winter we initiated a trial using our mucket buckets, a recirculating downweller system that is normally used for new juveniles, to grow some of our smaller sub-adults to larger sizes and spread out the culture load. Both fatmucket and Higgins’ eye were placed in a mucket bucket and both growth and survival were monitored. Seven hundred animals were stocked in the chambers (500 Higgins’ eye, 200 fatmucket). The 60 day experiment concluded at the end of February. For this initial trial sub-adult survival was acceptable, but lower than anticipated (Higgins’ eye 85.4%, fatmucket 76.0%). Growth of individuals is where results were particularly interesting. Higgins’ eye grew 51.1% while fatmucket grew 66.7%. This short term study indicates that below average size sub-adult mussels can be caught up to the larger individuals in their cohort by utilizing this method over winter. Additional trials are planned to determine optimal feed rates and temperatures in an effort to improve survival. By taking advantage of existing technology in new ways the mussel restoration program at Genoa NFH can continue to grow and expand. By: Nathan Eckert

Genoa NFH Mussel Biologist Wins Prestigious Science Award


Nathan Eckert, Mussel Propagation Biologist at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery was award-ed the 2014 Rachel Carson Award for Scientific Excellence from Service Director Dan Ashe. Considered one of the highest honorary awards in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the award recognized Nathan for pursuit of applied conservation science methods that has led to extraordinary results in fish and wildlife conservation. Nathan has dedicated his professional career to the conservation of freshwater mussels. The extraordinary results of his work include mussel culture techniques that allow for the mass production of young mussels. With Nathan’s help, Genoa National Fish Hatchery has produced 14.7 million mussels spanning 17 species. He has also successfully grown fawnsfoot and pistolgrip mussels, previously never cultured by the Service. Additionally, Nathan has published a host study for the cylindrical papershell, an Iowa state listed species, which identifies new hosts for future propagation efforts. His expertise is also being used by researchers at the Up-per Midwest Environmental Science Center who are looking for ways to kill invasive zebra mussels and Asian carp without harming native mussel populations. “The fact that I’ve been selected for an award named after Rachel Carson, a pioneer in this field, is very humbling,” said Eckert in response to receiving the award. “If anything, I feel like this recognition means that now I need to do exceptional work and prove that the accolades were deserved.” A champion for mussel research and recovery, Nathan’s work focuses on a commonly over-looked group of animals. Well hidden in rivers and streambeds, mussels are silently falling prey to pollution and invasive animals. More than half of the Midwest Region’s 78 mussel species are in danger of extinction. An example of the profound impact an individual can have on conservation efforts, his work has directly resulted in the release of more than 50,000 threatened or endangered mussels into waterways in the Upper Mississippi River Basin. Nathan’s enthusiasm for mussel research is matched by his commitment to working with partners. He commonly coordinates recovery efforts with federal, state and local partners. Considered an expert in his field when it comes to mussel identification, propagation biology and freshwater mussel life history, he serves as a valuable resource for his colleagues. The Genoa hatchery congratulates Nathan on his award and looks forward to the future scientific achievements of him and all of our staff! By: Doug Aloisi & Katie Steiger-Meister

Recovery/Assessment Begins After Train Derailment

DUBUQUE – A clean-up is slated to begin on Thursday (February 5) to recover ethanol on land and on the iced-covered surface of the Mississippi River following a train derailment that occurred Wednesday (February 4) north of Dubuque. There was a fire associated with the derailment on Wednesday, but it has burned out. There are three of the rail tankers in the water and a total of eight of the cars lost at least some ethanol. It is believed that one may have still have been leaking as of Thursday afternoon. Water sampling has also begun. The initial plan calls for the river to be sampled along the east side, the west side and in the middle, every 6,000 feet downstream from where the derailment occurred for approximately 10 miles.



Additional water samples will be taken from 1,000 feet upstream from the incident site, as well as sampling from Mud Lake on the Iowa side of the river and Sunfish Lake on the Wisconsin side of the river. The water will be sampled for dissolved oxygen, ethanol and for petroleum products. The primary concern associated with the spill is the threat to fish and other aquatic life. Ethanol in the water depletes oxygen. There are concerns about the potential impact to mussel beds along the river in the area where the spill occurred because mussels do not have the ability to easily move away when oxygen levels begin to sag. The segment of the river that has been impacted is within the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources plans to sample fish collected from fishermen to sample for any potential contaminants and ensure that fish caught from the river are safe to eat. Open water holes near the tips of wing dams and near the lock and dam will be monitored for signs of dead fish since significant portions of the river are currently iced over preventing fish mortality from being readily observed. Offloading what is left in the derailed tank cars was scheduled to begin Thursday afternoon. Once the remaining material can be offloaded and accounted for, estimates of how much ethanol may have reached the river can be made. There is approximately one-half of an acre of ethanol that pooled on the ground and froze on the land side of the track where the derailment occurred. It is estimated that approximately one acre of ice near the spill was covered. The plan is to use a stream sprayer to thaw the ethanol on the land side of the tracks and then vacuum the product into a tank. If the technique is successful, a similar attempt will be made on the ice to recover the ethanol there.

Assisting in response to the incident have been the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Dubuque County Conservation Board, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Sherrill Fire Department, the Dubuque Fire Department, the Dubuque County Sheriff’s Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

** This informational bulletin was released 5 Feb 2015 by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ Environmental Services Division.
Railroad Settles Upper Mississippi River Oil Spill Claim
IOWA CITY, IOWA (AP) — A railroad has agreed to pay $625,000 to settle allegations that it failed to adequately clean up a 2008 oil spill that damaged the shoreline and aquatic life in the Mississippi River between Iowa and Wisconsin. The Dakota Minnesota and Eastern Railroad, a subsidiary of Canadian Pacific, would make the payment without admitting wrongdoing to resolve a civil complaint filed Tuesday by the state of Iowa and the U.S. government. The settlement, known as a consent decree, would cover the cost of assessing damage and pay for restoration activities. It’s expected to go into effect after a 30-day public comment period.


The case stems from a derailment that happened July 9, 2008, when a boulder dislodged by heavy rains tore up a section of the track on the river near Guttenberg, Iowa. Four diesel locomotives crashed into the river and were submerged and leaked oil for several days. Two workers suffered minor injuries. The complaint alleges that those engines leaked 4,400 gallons of diesel oil and other petroleum products, causing floating slicks of oil and oil sheen along a 10-mile stretch. The area of the river, known as the Bluff Slough, is across from Cassville, Wisconsin.
Few birds or fish died, but other slower-moving aquatic life that lived in or near shore habitats were affected by the floating oil. The spill, which came as the river was at flood stage, resulted in the loss of mussels that are considered endangered and threatened species and damage to mayflies, a rare mudpuppy and a water snake, the complaint says. Much of the oil on the shoreline wasn’t cleaned up, while some of it stuck to sediments that flowed downstream in the high and turbulent waters, the complaint said. Iowa Department of Natural Resources spokesman Kevin Baskins said the restoration work will include re-establishing mussel beds

that were disturbed when the company built a platform to remove the locomotives. A damaged parking lot also will be repaired. “We’re glad to have the opportunity to restore a sensitive area of the river,” he said. “Anytime we can make an effort to increase mussel survival and production, it’s something that’s real positive for the ecosystem as a whole.”
After the derailment, state officials worried that the railroad took too long to remove the engines from the river and to respond to the environmental threat they posed. Workers deployed booms to contain the discharged oil, used pads to absorb floating oil, removed oiled vegetation and eventually re-railed the locomotives and grain cars, the complaint said. However, the response “was not able to remediate the entire area affected by the discharge incident” and didn’t address oil that sank in the river. The complaint alleged a violation of the Oil Pollution Act. Canadian Pacific spokesman Andy Cummings called the derailment an “unusual incident,” saying the company is pleased to have the complaint resolved. The consent decree says the payment would avoid complicated litigation and expedite restoration work. Government lawyers can withdraw the settlement if public comments “disclose facts or considerations” that show it to be inadequate. Wally Taylor, a Cedar Rapids environmental attorney, said he will consider filing a comment on behalf of the Sierra Club. “It sounds like it’s not nearly enough,” he said of the settlement. “I suspect the company probably resisted pretty strongly but that the government didn’t want to really take them to court.?

*** Reprinted with permission of the Associated Press;
originally published 10 Dec 2014.
What Others Say …

Train derailment near Guttenberg, IA -July 2008

The lyrics of a song made popular in the 1960s by the Shirelles state ?There’ll be days like this.? However, after almost three decades with the Service and the last two spent at the La Crosse FWCO, I’d never had a day like 9 February 2015 before. Yes, I’d previously handled large volumes of river sediment … at times requiring chain-of custody protocols … but never in the form of frozen slabs requiring a fork lift to safely move them!
Recovered by vigilant Iowa Department of Natural Resources employees at a derailment site near Dubuque (page 4), five slabs of frozen river sediments containing mussels impacted (literally) by rail cars were brought to our heated garage where the dimensions of each icy slab were measured and recorded.
Days later, mussel biologist Nathan Eckert (Genoa National Fish Hatchery) led a team of biologists and railway agents who sieved and meticulously inspected the sediments like forensic scientists to identify/enumerate fresh-dead mussels and remnant shells. A total of 19 fresh-dead mussels (representing six species) were recovered in these efforts and 23 species were identified from relic shells. Based on these data, slab dimensions, and estimates of the mussel-bed area impacted by the rail cars and recovery operations, natural resource agencies are likely seek just compensation for the loss of these and other impacted trust resources.
Days like these we can do without; but we’re prepared for them.

By Mark Steingraeber

Passing Down the “ART” of Fish Culture one Mesh at a Time

By: Orey Eckes

As spring rapidly approaches the hatchery staff is busy putting final touches on maintenance of equipment and buildings to prepare for the spring spawning season. In the months of April and May the staff is on the Mississippi River daily collecting walleye eggs for a myriad of stocking requests. Walleye eggs collected for Genoa Fish Hatchery will be hatched and reared throughout the summer in grow out ponds until reaching 6-8 inches in length. These fish will eventually be used as hosts for freshwater mussel propagation, in an effort to enhance populations of black sandshell mussels. In addition, eggs and fry are shipped to federal, state and tribal partnerships for restoration. In preparation for walleye spawning nets must be cleaned and repaired for any damage that occurred the previous season. As a younger generation of biologists, it is essential to learn the “ART” of fish culture in addition to the biology. Over the years maintenance mechanic, Jeff Lockington has mastered the art of repairing hoop nets and is passing his experience to younger generations of fish biologists at Genoa. Having nets in proper working order is essential for maximizing walleye harvest during the spring spawning season. Passing this art down ensures that these essential techniques are taught to the next generation of biologist. As many of my colleagues can agree, fish culture is both an “Art” and a “Science.”


Aaron takes a turn patching nets