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

Expanding Asian Carp Telemetry on Mississippi River




Bailey Ketelsen offloads an acoustic receiver which revealed acoustically tagged Asian carp in Pool 16. Credit: Kyle Mosel, USFWS
During October, Tyler Harris, Katie Lieder, and Kyle Mosel traveled to Muscatine, Iowa to see if we could acoustically tag Asian carp on Pool 16 in the Mississippi River. Numerous efforts have been made to capture Asian carp above Lock & Dam 16 on several pools during 2015 but with no success. However, in recent weeks we located several tagged bighead and hybrid Asian carp in Pool 16 with the manual tracking gear and also on our stationary acoustic receivers. The next week we brought our surgery gear and a boat full of gill nets to see if we could capture Asian carp where three other fish have been located. After battling the cold and strong winds, six Asian carp were collected on Pool 16 which is the first time a state or federal agency has captured and reported Asian carp according to the Nonindigenous Aquatic Species website hosted by U.S. Geological Survey. Even though we would not like to see these fish advance up the Mississippi River, being able to follow these fish within the river will allow us to identify sites for future monitoring or control efforts.

fish2Kyle Mosel holds the first acoustically tagged and released silver carp on Pool 16. Credit: Bailey Ketelsen, USFWS

In total four silver carp and one hybrid Asian carp ranging in size from 15 to 25 pounds were implanted with Vemco transmitters and released in Pool 16. These “Judas” fish will be closely followed for the next seven years to see if they can help identify sites on Pool 16 to capture, monitor, and possibly control the spread of Asian carp in the future. So far we have learned a lot from the tagged fish on Pools 17, 18, and 19, so hopefully these new fish from Pool 16 can show us where they are residing throughout the year.

Milkweed and Monarchs in the Classroom!!!

Due to declines in monarch butterfly habitat the Genoa National Fish Hatchery has focused efforts on milkweed classroomconserving the monarch butterfly migration as part of Monarch Joint Venture in the form of habitat restoration. Last fall, staff at Genoa collected thousands of milkweed pods from around the hatchery grounds. Seeds were removed from the pods and later planted for restoration of milkweed on the hatcheries 75 acres of suitable habitat. As the summer nears to an end hatchery staff has observed noticeable increases in milkweed plants. With the increase of milkweed plants we have documented numerous eggs and larvae occupying and feeding on the leaves. With increase in larval numbers it’s no surprise that we have been seeing many adults flying around. As fall is near we have begun collecting milkweed pods for the next planting season in hope of further  nectar plants are critical for survival of adult butterflies. Accompanying a strong milkweed increasing milkweed abundance at the hatchery. The hatchery has taken steps to also engage others in monarch conservation.

girl with milkweed

Southern Bluffs Elementary school is partnering with the hatchery to make students aware of the threats that monarchs face and what they can do to help. Teachers are incorporating monarch butterfly lessons in their science curricula with the help of fish and wildlife employees from the hatchery through
teaching and engaging youth about monarch conservation. As the school has begun, hatchery
staff has taught students about milkweed restoration and how important milkweed in the Midwest is to monarch butterflies. Milkweed pods were brought into the classroom to give students a chance to identify plant structures as well as collect seeds for the hatchery to plant. This hands on learning gives students a vested interest in the project. Within the next month students will return to see the results of their work paying off during outdoor classrooms lessons at the hatchery. The fall lesson will consist of a hatchery tour and field surveys for milkweed, larval and adult monarch butterflies. According to monarch joint venture it is known that milkweed plants are essential for larval caterpillars and abundance with a nectar garden aids in the survival of both larvae and adults. For the past few years Genoa has been partnering with the Gardening Club of LaCrosse, WI to help plant native nectaring plants to support adult monarchs. These native nectar plants which bloom throughout the summer provide food for adult monarchs. Monarch conservation is well on its way at Genoa with the help of many partners and through teaching future generations the importance of monarch conservation.
By: Orey Eckes

Volunteers really come through for Genoa during sturgeon tagging season


tagging toolCoded wire tagging lake sturgeon

At Genoa National Fish Hatchery, the lake sturgeon program is one of the largest and most time intensive programs that take place. In recent years the station has more than doubled the annual production of lake sturgeon and with all the extra fish an extra set of hands is definitely needed. That extra set of hands is specifically needed when it comes times to tag all of the fish. Before leaving the hatchery each fish is marked with a coded wire tag which continues a unique identification number. This information is then recorded and used by biologists to monitor these fish once released into the wild. This year at the hatchery four different strains of lake sturgeon were collected. Between the four strains nearly 80,000 lake sturgeon were intensively reared. Once they reached the 5-6 inch range they were ready for tagging to begin. This is when volunteers play a crucial role to the hatchery and the lake sturgeon program. With so many fish to tag it would be feasible for hatchery staff alone to be able to tag all of these fish in preparation for stocking. The hatchery reached out to the friends groups of the hatchery and before long volunteers were beating down the doors to the hatchery. Over 20 people volunteered over 220 hours of sturgeon tagging this year. This task could not be accomplished without the help of friends groups and volunteers. The hatchery staff is appreciative for all of our wonderful volunteers. Thank You for your hard
work!!! By: Aaron Von Eschen

taggingTagging help from Bailey at the La Crosse FWCO and volunteer Don Schroeder

Hines Emerald Dragonfly Recovery Program at Genoa National Fish Hatchery


This summer, Genoa National Fish Hatchery became the first federal fish hatchery to house and propagate a federally endangered insect. Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly (HED) larvae arrived on station at Genoa National Fish Hatchery on June 2, 2015. This marks the beginning of the collaborative effort among the Genoa NFH, Chicago ES Office, Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge and University of South Dakota (USD) funded through the Cooperative Recovery Initiative. USD has been working with the dragonfly for several years and has studied their growth, tracked their genetics and has developed the first captive rearing techniques for the species. Genoa will take the methods and work with USD to adapt them to larger scale production and to tailor
them to the site specific variables. As a new species on station and new methods of culture are being developed, the decision was to use larvae from the more stable population of HED along the Wisconsin River. Once the methods are tested and the best ones determined, Genoa NFH will begin raising the more imperiled population from Chicago, IL. The larvae are placed in cages and are checked each week to ensure they are free of debris, the cages are undamaged and to spot check the larvae, opening one cage in
each grouping. Each month, the cages have been pulled, larvae placed in a holding container overnight to allow them to empty of food and the next day they are weighed and measured before being placed back into the water. Genoa staff worked with University of South Dakota to develop the initial rearing plan at the hatchery, placing larvae in deep and shallow water in both the wetland and one of the hatchery ponds, to determine the best conditions for the larvae. The first cage assessment was on June 30th, with staff from USD demonstrating proper handling techniques for the larvae, ensuring correct identification of the larvae and evaluating the food available in the cages. This first assessment brought both extremes of news, the great news of excellent growth of the larvae in the pond system, some growing 400% in just one month and the unfortunate news that in the wetland conditions in the last week before their check a large number of the larvae were lost. While it was initially thought the wetland would be the most ideal location for the larvae, the heavy rains leading to prolonged flooding conditions and deeper than normal levels in the wetland showed temperatures and oxygen levels could not be controlled as well as in the pond setting. Temperatures in the pond varied between 70 and 87 F throughout the month, daily temperatures only varying by 3 – 4 F. Temperatures in the wetland however, varied between 65 and 92 with daily temperatures varying by 10 – 15 F. The final check before the first assessment showed dissolved oxygen levels as low as 1.2 mg/L in some of the wetland locations. After the first assessment, it was decided to move the remaining larvae to the pond, shelving the wetland as a possible rearing location. USD has completed studies showing larvae can be reared together without cannibalism as long as they are approximately the same size, which was the logic behind attempting to raise 2 newly hatched fry together in one cage. During the assessment, it was found that both larvae survived in only few cages, most cages only had 1 surviving larva. The theory is that the growth on the smallest larvae was so great in the first month, one grew faster than the other and consumed it. After these adjustments to the rearing practices at the hatchery, the larvae continue to grow well and survival is on par or slightly better than the field locations. The larvae will remain in the pond until late fall, when a portion of them will be brought into the newly constructed trailer, where the colder winter pond water will allow them to go dormant for the winter. For the 2016 growing season, modifications will be made to the cages, newly hatched larvae will be kept alone in the cages. The hatchery is also looking forward to receiving their first batch of eggs to hatch on station and growing the larvae to place in next summer’s cages.
By: Angela Baran

Talking fish and mussels with the Secretary of the Interior and Congressman Kind

Sally Jewel
On August 14th Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell was in the La Crosse area
with Congressman Ron Kind. They gathered for an all employee meeting and
question and answer session for staff from both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
(USFWS) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The meeting was
held at the Upper Mississippi Environmental Sciences Center (UMESC) in La
Crosse, and was attended by both Tom Melius and Leon Carl, the respective
regional directors for the USFWS and USGS. After the all employee gathering
the group was given a full tour of UMESC with stops along the way highlighting
work done by federal employees in the area. One stop on the tour was held
at the UMESC fish hatchery. A display of freshwater mussel siphoning was
set up to demonstrate how mussels help clean our water. At that stop Genoa
NFH biologists Nathan Eckert and Aaron Von Eschen spoke to the group
about fish and freshwater mussel propagation at Genoa NFH and how their efforts
work along with the different projects at UMESC. While the stop only
took a few minutes the information was well received and both the Secretary
and Congressman Kind enjoyed their brief introduction into current happenings
and partnerships at the hatchery.
By: Nathan Eckert

The Great Sturgeon Migration Begins!




Scott Schlueter with USFWS New York Field
Office, offloads fingerling lake sturgeon from a
Genoa NFH stocking truck. Credit: Eric
Maxwell, NYDEC







Lake sturgeon fingerlings reared for two months at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) were returned to their native land of upper New York State (NY) this past month. Genoa NFH has participated in a cooperative restoration effort with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service New York Field Office (NYFO), and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation restoring sturgeon since 2012. Restoration efforts have been refined and the modest numbers of the first year have increased from 900 fall fingerlings returned to NY in 2012 to an estimated 20,000 scheduled for a return trip home in 2015.

The summer shipment of 10,000 four inch lake sturgeon fingerlings returned this past week was the first installment of fish to waters in the St. Lawrence River basin and Lake Ontario. Lake sturgeon are currently estimated to be at less than five percent of their historic numbers in the Great Lakes basin, and with their unique life history sturgeon populations are very slow to recover. Stocking for restoration reduces the amount of time when egg and fry predation is high, allowing for maximum juvenile recruitment. Sturgeon fry grow fast in their first year of life in order to avoid predation. In one growing season, an average lake sturgeon can approach eight to ten inches in length.

Sturgeon restoration is a long term proposition, in order to not only ensure there is enough genetic contribution in the stocked population to sustain itself, and to create many strong year classes to ensure mating success. A healthy lake sturgeon population may consist of 20 separate year classes with adults ranging from 20 to 75 years of age. Even though we are in the beginning stages of the project, it is encouraging to be able to see the fruits of another successful year class swimming back into the wild. The hatchery owes many thanks to Scott Schlueter of the Service’s NYFO, for his assistance in stocking this summer’s lot of lake sturgeon.

Learning on the Fly!

By: Aaron Von Eschen

fly fish                                                        A trout on the line


“Thanks to our instructors and to the hatchery for the out-standing fly fishing class! That was a great day! And, it was exactly what I need to get started back into a hobby that I left 50 some years ago. I’m pretty excited!” friends group member Lloyd Lorenz stated following the fly fishing clinic that was held in concordance with the 12th annual kids fishing day on May 9th. Members of the Friends of the Upper Mississippi (FUMS) participated in the event and were taught by instructors and fly fishing aficionados from within the group. The clinic taught fly tying, which flies were best to use in different situations and locations, how to properly land fish with fly fishing equipment, and most importantly how to properly cast a fly fishing rod. Each member was given a tutorial and overview and allowed to practice their newly found knowledge on the Genoa National Fish Hatchery’s trout pond. Rainbow trout were available for catch and re-lease and each member had success and caught and released multiple fish. The staff at the Genoa NFH is thrilled to be a part of such events and take pride in assisting people continue their passion for the outdoors and reestablish their kinship for the sport of fishing and the outdoors!

Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly Arrive on Station!

By: Angela Baran

hines fly                                                                  Weighing a HED

On June 2, 2015, staff from University of South Dakota arrived at Genoa with the dragonfly larvae. This marks the beginning of the collaborative effort among the Genoa NFH, Chicago ES Office, Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge and University of South Dakota (USD) funded through the Cooperative Recovery Initiative. USD has been working with the dragonfly for several years and has studied their growth, tracked their genetics and has developed the first captive rearing techniques for the species. The techniques developed work well for small groups in a lab setting but there is now the need for larger scale production. Genoa will take the methods and work with USD to adapt them to larger scale production and to tailor them to the site specific variables.
The 147 larvae were first weighed (those big enough to weigh!) and a picture was taken of each to measure their head width so their growth over the summer at the hatchery can be calculated. Last minute adjustments to their cages were also made that Tuesday to prepare for stocking them out on Wednesday. The first year on station, conditions will mimic those at the other summer sites for the larvae so a more accurate assessment of survival and growth can be determined for Genoa National Fish Hatchery. The larvae were placed in their cages on Wednesday, with half going into the wetland and half into a pond they will share with the mussels. Over the summer, temperatures, dissolved oxygen and water quality will be monitored weekly, the cages also being checked for debris and troubleshooting any issues. The larvae will also be removed each month to be weighed and measured, keeping an eye on their progress and allowing for course correcting along the way.
hines fly 2                                                Dragonfly cages placed in the wetland


Kids Fishing Day a Great Community Event for Southwest Wisconsin

. By: Doug Aloisi

Kids from all over the tri-state area of Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota gathered at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery for our 12th annual Kids Fishing Day on May 9th this spring. The event, which is sponsored by the Friends Group of 3 Fish and Wildlife Service Fisheries field stations in the La Crosse area, was attended by over 350 people this year. 159 children first walked through a set of 4 learning stations. One was on boating safety taught by the Corps of Engineers, a station on wetland conservation run by the hatchery biologist Orey Eckes, a station on fish health run by La Crosse Fish Health Center biologist Jenny Bailey, and a station on fish identification and behavior led by La Crosse Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office biologist Nick Bloomfield. After an hour of learning more about fish and conservation, the kids were allowed to put their newfound knowledge to practical use with a 2 hour open fishing event on a stocked hatchery pond. Most of the children went home with their four fish limit. A light lunch was provided by our Friends group, and many door prizes were then distributed thanks to local area vendors supporting the event. Many thanks to the staff of the three La Crosse area FWS fisheries offices, sponsors, volunteers and Friends of the Upper Mississippi for making this event possible. Making memories out-doors will reinforce the value of our natural resources to the future generation. It is also hoped that events such as these will build a sense of ownership into the outdoors, and plant the seeds of conservation stewardship to ensure that their children can enjoy all the outdoors has to offer

big fish                                                      The biggest fish of the day

Touch Tank Big Hit at Youth Outdoor Fest

touch tank
Hatchery volunteer Liz Hackner assists children diving into the touch tank at Youth Outdoor Fest. Credit: USFWS
La Crosse Wisconsin’s 7th annual Youth Outdoor Fest is a great community event that was sponsored by the La Crosse Park and Rec department, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Friends of the Upper Miss. Over 2000 kids and their parents showed up for this year’s event on July 11th, 2015. Many outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, canoeing, kayaking, archery, hatchet throwing, bird-watching, an electrofishing demonstration, fish dissections, fly fishing, fur identification, geocaching, Genoa’s touch tank, pontoon rides and storytelling were all on display. Many local vendors and conservation agencies also had booths at the event. One of the stars of Genoa National Fish Hatchery’s touch tank was a young of the year map turtle found on the hatchery grounds. Other inhabitants of the tank were a red-eared slider turtle, lake sturgeon, minnows and several species of freshwater mussels. The touch tank gave the children an opportunity to root through the bottom substrate, just like kids from all generations have to catch fishing bait, explore for mussels, and generally just have an all- around good time. In fact one little girl fell in love with our map turtle, and ended up camping out at our booth for the entire length of the event. The hatchery booth also included fish on a stick to help with fish identification and an aquarium with cold and coolwater species of fish. Many of the children came back for seconds on the touch tank, and the lake sturgeon was also a big star of the tank. This ancient fish amazed the kids with its camouflage and sharp scutes to protect itself against predators. Events such as Youth Outdoor Fest give children a fun day of activities in hope to pique their interest in the outdoors, and desire to protect it for future generations.