Continued Efforts to Restore Historic Populations

By Orey Eckes, Genoa NFH

A close up view of fingerling lake sturgeon. Credit: USFWS

A cooperative effort among the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – New York Field Office (USFWS-NYFO), Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH), USFWS – New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe (SRMT), the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is leading to the restoration of lake sturgeon to the St. Lawrence River and its tributaries.

In June 2019 hatchery staff, Doug Aloisi and Orey Eckes, aided with the collection of lake sturgeon eggs from wild caught spawning fish below the NYPA dam in Massena, NY. After fertilization, eggs were transported to Genoa NFH and DEC Oneida Hatchery. Sturgeon were fed diets of brine shrimp, bloodworms and krill and were seven inches long by the beginning of October. All sturgeon from Genoa NFH were coded wire tagged, which gives them a batch identification number, allowing resource managers to assess future population growth and survival.

By mid-October sturgeon were ready to make their journey back east. In October 2019 hatchery staff ventured out east with approximately 18,000 tagged lake sturgeon. Upon arrival they were welcomed by local press representatives and staff from USFWS-NYFO, DEC, SMRT, NYPA and USGS. The sturgeon were released into the St. Lawrence River at Ogdensburg and below the NYPA dam in Massena, as well as several larger tributaries. With this cooperative effort among agencies, biologists are hopeful populations of lake sturgeon in the St. Lawrence River may one-day return to historic numbers. Since 2013 when the partnership began 87,500 juvenile lake sturgeon have been stocked. The Genoa NFH staff are looking forward to working with these partners for years to come to establish a growing tradition toward the restoration of lake sturgeon to the St. Lawrence River.

All Hands on Deck for Long Term Research and Monitoring Work

 

Anthony Rieth of the Greenbay FWCO separates Asian carp from native species after an electrofishing run on the Illinois River. Credit: Wes Bouska, USFWS

Prior to the 2019 field season, Region 3 Fish and Wildlife Conservation Offices (FWCO)  were asked to assist with Asian carp work being conducted within the Illinois River. Great Lakes crews from Alpena, Michigan, Ashland and Green Bay, Wisconsin, along with Large River crews from Columbia, Missouri and La Crosse, Wisconsin, all worked together to complete electrofishing, as well as, hoop and mini-fyke net surveys throughout the field season. The surveys followed the Long Term Research and Monitoring (LTRM) protocol that has been a successful model for collecting fish community data in large Midwestern rivers for nearly 30 years. This LTRM sampling effort is used to better understand the impacts of invasive species on native fish communities, to help inform hydroacoustic surveys, to evaluate contracted commercial harvest of Asian carp, and to detect young-of year Asian carp.

This unique opportunity brought together field staff that normally wouldn’t interact. New friendships were forged, new skills learned, and staff received a first-hand look at the conditions at “ground zero” in the battle to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. For many Great Lakes personnel, this was their first time actually seeing invasive Silver and Bighead Carp in the wild. Watching them jump behind the boat and boil from the water when electrofishing put the threat these fish pose to our Great Lakes into perspective, and galvanized our efforts to keep them from gaining a foothold in Lake Michigan and beyond. Crews traveled long distances and worked long days in the heat and humidity while dodging flying carp. Through the teamwork and the dedication of FWCO personnel, the sampling was completed safely, correctly, and on time. Thanks to all!

By Wes Bouska, La Crosse FWCO

Restoring an Ancient Legacy Continues

A close up of lake sturgeon. Photo by USFWS

In June 2019 hatchery staff, Doug Aloisi and Orey Eckes, aided with the collection of lake sturgeon eggs from wild caught spawning fish below the NYPA dam in Massena, NY. After fertilization, eggs were transported to GNFH and DEC Oneida Hatchery. Sturgeon were fed diets of brine shrimp, bloodworms and krill until they were 7 inches long by the beginning of October. All sturgeon from GNFH were coded wire tagged, which gives them a batch identification number, allowing resource managers to assess future population growth and survival. By mid-October sturgeon were ready to make their journey back east. In October 2019 hatchery staff ventured out east with approximately 18,000 tagged lake sturgeon. Upon arrival they were welcomed by local press representatives and staff from USFWS-NYFO, DEC, SMRT, NYPA and USGS. The sturgeon were released into the St. Lawrence River at Ogdensburg and below the NYPA dam in Massena, as well as several larger tributaries. With this cooperative effort among agencies, biologist are hopeful populations of lake sturgeon in the St. Lawrence River may one-day return to historic numbers. Since 2013 when the partnership began 87,500 juvenile lake sturgeon have been stocked. The Genoa staff are looking forward to working with these partners for years to come to establish a growing tradition toward the restoration of lake sturgeon to the St. Lawrence River. By: Orey Eckes

 

Visitors from Yellowstone are Making Themselves at Home

Eyed Lake Trout eggs incubating. Photo by Angela Baran-Dagendesh/USFWS.

 

 

The Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) have some visitors that are making themselves right at home. In fact, they like southwest Wisconsin so much that they don’t plan to leave for at least 16-18 months. That is if all goes as planned and they clear their 3 fish health exams and are able to visit other exotic places such as the Iron River (WI) National Fish Hatchery and Sullivan’s Creek (MI) National Fish Hatchery. There they will be incorporated into the Fish and Wildlife Service’s long range effort of restoring lake trout to the upper Great Lakes. The reason why we are so interested in having these visitors from Wyoming come stay with us is that many decades ago, lake trout from Lake Michigan were stocked into Lewis Lake in Yellowstone National Park. These fish, even though stocked generations ago still should maintain a cadre of genetics that was developed over time to survive in Lake Michigan. This genetic refugia is doubly valuable, as nearly all of the native lake
trout in Lake Michigan disappeared due to the effects of pollution, overharvest and the introduction of the parasitic sea lamprey into the Great Lakes. The Service has developed this Lewis Lake strain into a captive broodstock and egg source in order to use in their re-stocking efforts. Biologists from Iron River NFH and the Jordan River (MI) NFH with the Lander (WY) Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office captured adults from Lewis Lake and collected eggs from 150 pairs of adults and shipped them to Genoa’s quarantine facility. The eggs are being carefully cared for and equal numbers from each egg take will be used to make 2 lots of broodstock. The lots will be housed in Genoa’s quarantine facility until they clear 3 separate fish health inspections. Then they will be transported to the Service’s captive broodstock stations and the 2 lots will then be crossed with one
another. This is to reduce any chance of interbreeding with other closely related fish. Careful managementshould preserve the genetic diversity of the brood line and also ensure a fighting chance of survival once the yearling fish are released. Great progress has been seen in Lake Huron and Lake Superior in developing self sustaining lake trout populations, and with this native strain of lake trout available for stocking in, it is hoped that we may someday see the same results in Lake Michigan.
By: Doug Aloisi

The Great Exchange

Dragonfly larvae waiting to be transferred

Dragonfly eggs in a cup (above right). Photos by Angela Baran Dagendesh/USFWS. As the leaves begin to fall, the ponds at Genoa National Fish Hatchery begin to drain and the dragonfly larvae lose their summer home! During the summer months, the Hine’s emerald dragonfly larvae spend their time in cages in the hatchery ponds, eating all the zooplankton that swim by and are small enough for them to catch. As the temperatures cool, the station begins to drain the ponds to stock out the fish. This fall, hatchery staff met folks from the University of South Dakota just off the highway to transfer the larvae and in turn, received over 800 eggs. The larvae will be cooled down to go dormant over the winter and then next spring, USD staff will place them in cages near their future release sites to prepare for eventual emergence. Once back on station at the hatchery, the eggs were also chilled down and placed in the station’s large industrial cooler where fish feed is stored. The eggs will be monitored throughout the winter to check for any early hatches or fungus issues and water will be changed out periodically. By: Angela Baran Dagendesh

Dragonfly eggs in a cup

Outreach at Trempealeau with Friends of the Upper Mississippi

We were out at Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge with West Salem Middle School’s 7th graders sampling for invertebrates and found a couple vertebrates. Scroll through through to photos to see what we found. Thanks to Al Brinkman, Friends of the Upper Mississippi Vice President, for his help.

West Salem Middle School students collecting aquatic animals for their nature journals.

 

 

 

 

West Salem Middle School students collecting aquatic animals for their nature journals.

 

Meet the Midwest Fisheries Center

Jeena Credico/USFWS

Figure 9: Jeena is a Fish and Wildlife Biologist at the La Crosse, Wisconsin, Midwest Fisheries Center. Her main responsibilities include providing technical and analytical Geographic Information System (GIS) support to facilitate aquatic species/habitat conservation work and to support the aquatic invasive species program for all Fisheries Programs in the Midwest Region. Jeena started as a Directorate Resource Assistant Fellow in 2014 for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, completing a water resource assessment project for Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. Originally from Ohio, Jeena completed her B.A. at Miami University in Zoology and her M.S. in Environmental Science. In her free time, she enjoys a variety of outdoor activities including searching for local reptiles and amphibians. Photo: Jeena Credico/USFWS.

 

Jenna and a smallmouth bass/USFWS

Jenna is a fish biologist at the La Crosse Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office. She began working with the Service as a student in 2010 and has worked as a technician and biologist since that time. Jenna works primarily on projects involving aquatic invasive species, particularly invasive carp and round goby. She is originally from Minnesota and earned a B.S. in Environmental Science and Ecology at Winona State University and a M.S. in Aquatic Science at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Outside of work, she enjoys fishing and pontooning on the Mississippi River, golfing, working on home improvement projects, and spending time with family. Photo: Jenna and a smallmouth bass/USFWS.

Jeni and a lake sturgeon in a river/USFWS.

Jeni grew up on the banks of the Missouri River climbing trees, hunting mushrooms, finding out where that great horned owl was sleeping and fixing up scratches, bruises and cuts for any wild kid or animal in the neighborhood. She studied biology and fish health at the University of South Dakota, then moved to the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in 2001 for work on a master’s in fish parasitology. She started work at the La Crosse Fish Health Center in October the same year. After experiences including lake trout restoration at Pendills Creek National Fish Hatchery and work on lake sturgeon, fresh water mussel and sportfish recovery at Genoa National Fish Hatchery, she moved back to the La Crosse Fish Health Center in 2012 to help build the new Whitney Genetics Lab and eDNA program. Today you will find her in the La Crosse Fish Health Center’s flow cytometry lab working on new technologies for invasive species and fish health management, performing fish health inspections at Federal and Tribal fish hatcheries, sampling fish for the National Wild Fish Health Survey, or serving as Region 3 Study Monitor for the National Investigational New Animal Drug Program. Developing new technologies for conservation management is an exciting challenge. Working with the Service’s many great partners to provide the healthiest fish and aquatic wildlife for conservation is the most rewarding part of the job.

Volunteer Banquet

 

If you have volunteered in the past three years, you should have received an invite to our FREE volunteer banquet fish fry, Friday, Nov. 1, at All Star Bowling, 4735 Mormon Coulee Rd, La Crosse, WI 54601, 5pm-8:30pm. If you have not yet RSVP’d yes, please do so at Gretchen_Newberry@fws.gov, 608-783-8455, as soon as possible!

Upcoming Volunteer Opportunities

 

If you would like to volunteer, please contact Midwest Fisheries Center volunteer coordinator Gretchen Newberry at Gretchen_Newberry@fws.gov.

Winter is pretty quiet for outreach, but we have the following opportunities coming up over the winter and in the new year:

• Digitization of data files

• Scanning in old slides

• Photography of the outdoors (with an aquatic theme) for our Facebook page

• Breaking in of a new motor (if you are MOCC-certified)

• 10/24-10/25/19 9am-2pm both days: Wetland Education Days at Myrick Park (outreach with a fish arts and crafts activity)

• 10/24/19 Norsekedalen’s Ghoulees in the Coulees event 5:30-8pm at Norsekedalen; Blood suckers table (lamprey, mussels, ticks, leeches, and goat suckers).

• 11/9/19 Waterfowl Observation Day, 10am-2pm, at the Brownsville Overlook, Info table about the ecosystem, fish, plants and birds.

• 11/23/19 Family Fun Day, 10:30am-2pm, at Genoa National Fish Hatchery, Aquarium activity table in the interpretative center.

• February 2020, dates TBD, Ice fishing classes and cooking, at Midwest Fisheries Center, ice fishing site TBD

• 4/1/20 Environmental Day, West Salem, Time and Outreach activity TBD

• 5/16/20 World Fish Migration Day, Time, Location, and Outreach activity TBD

A Biologist Goes West!

Jones Hole National Fish Hatchery. Photo by Angela Baran-Dagendesh/USFWS.

This summer a call for help went out from Region 6 for the Jones Hole National Fish Hatchery in Vernal, Utah. The station had experienced a couple of retirements and their biological technician stepped up as a biologist at a new station, leaving Jones Hole with only a fish biologist, a term biological technician and seasonal fish technician for an extended period of time while they were waiting for positions to fill. During the summer months, they received help from a project leader out in Region 1 and I was able to fill in for 4 weeks. The detail provided experience at a new station, learning new species, new systems and tested troubleshooting skills! The remote station is located 40 miles, over 1 hour of driving time, from Vernal, Utah, 1 mile north of Dinosaur National Monument and less than a half mile from the Colorado border. The station is complicated not only by the remote location, but also by the maintenance workload they have, and the federal partners surrounding the hatchery, (National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management). Because of the location, the hatchery is responsible for all of the electrical service once it reaches the outskirts of the station, the transformers, the powerlines and poles. If there are any issues, they first have to figure out if it is with the station services or the electric company, sometimes requiring the repair crews of both the electric company and then a private high voltage company to determine the issue and how to resolve it. In addition to the power responsibilities, they maintain 13 miles of the road leading to the hatchery, guardrails, pavement and snow removal… which in the mountains in the winter can be a full time job for a crew just to open the road back up to get out. The time on station shifted from my comfortable fish and mussel rearing skill set to managing larger issues for contracting and station maintenance, where small issues like a door repair are further complicated by trying to find a company willing to drive an hour to complete a smaller job. The initial thought of being on station for 4 weeks seemed like a long time to be able to accomplish things so a list was developed working with the staff. By the end of the second week, that focus had to shift from adding to the list to prioritizing items that could be completed or set in motion before the end of the detail. It seemed as if I just blinked and the time was done! The whole experience was invaluable and I thoroughly enjoyed the time out west, but it was still good to return home to the staff, fish, mussels and dragonflies at Genoa. By Angela Baran Dagendesh

Pond Research Yields Bountiful Harvest

Mussel biologists with the bountiful harvest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crews diligently harvesting mussels from cages (above right).

 

 

 

As fall is upon us, the growing season for fish and mussels are quickly coming to a close. This is when ponds at Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) are drained and fish and mussel are either placed in their winter homes for continued grow out at the hatchery, or released into their wild habitats. This season the staff at Genoa were trying to determine the best water quality and fertilization schemes to rear both fish and freshwater mussels in 2 hatchery ponds. 24 hour monitoring equipment was acquired and 2 seasonal employees were tasked with taking daily and weekly water quality measurements. Our mussel biologists, Megan and Beth also pitched in and took measurements of food particles throughout the growing season. In early June largemouth bass with Fat Mucket (Lampsilis siliquoidia) mussel larvae attached to their gills were placed in propagation cages in two similar sized ponds. Ponds were fertilized weekly dependent on healthy water quality parameters. This week the ponds were harvested and cages were carefully checked for mussels. The three + month old mussels could be hard to find but with the help of the Prairie du Chien Advanced Placement High School Biology class, partners from the Iowa DNR and some of our trusted volunteers the harvest was bountiful. Over 35,400 juvenile Fat Muckets were removed from the cages and began to be distributed for further grow out this winter. This is exciting news for us as rearing mussels co-located in fish ponds would save us many hours of transportation. It would also save us the uncertainty of uncontrollable variables such as high water and cage siltation in the natural environment. We still have yet to try these methods on other species that may have more challenging culture and water quality requirements but are optimistic that results are repeatable with careful pond monitoring and course corrections throughout the growing season with other species and host fish requirements. By: Doug Aloisi