SATURDAY, MAY 14, 2022
8:30 AM—12:00 PM
Genoa National Fish Hatchery
Join staff from the 3 La Crosse area U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Fisheries Offices and our Friends Group, the Friends of the Upper Mississippi for a day of fishing fun!
This popular annual event is for children 5-12 years old who are accompanied by a parent or guardian. The event begins with hands-on learning sessions about fishing techniques and conservation, then children are allowed to fish in a stocked hatchery pond.
Bait will be supplied, with no outside bait allowed due to biosecurity concerns.
Or call: 608-689-2605

Banner Year for Walleye Spawning

After spending a week out looking for Northern Pike, it was time to get back to our bread and butter: Walleye spawning. 2020 and 2021 were both strange years for different reasons. In 2020, we weren’t allowed to set nets due to ththis year, and Mother Nature did not disappoint. We set 62 hoop nets out on April 4th and got the season started. The first couple of days were slow, as expected, but spawning activity quickly picked up steam and resulted in several record breaking days during the week of the 11th. By the 15th, our entire egg battery of 108 jars were all full of eggs! Our season lasted less than two weeks but we were able to get all we needed for our requests and we will be able to hatch many extra to send back to the river.
By: Nick Bloomfield


net full of fish.



Walleye eggs in incubation jars

USFWS worker holding a walleye





Walleye eggs being poured into incubation jars

Diving into SCUBA Preparations at Genoa NFH ?


Have you ever wondered what it takes to get two biologists to the bottom of the Mississippi River looking for our native freshwater mussels? Each year our mussel biologists complete training, take their gear for servicing and then reassemble their kits to make sure they can safely dive for the season. Gear servicing involves ensuring that tanks that hold their air are safe and sealed, taking the regulators they breathe with to be cleaned, as the filters inside of them collect fine silt from the water and their occasional contact with the river bottom, and confirming that the vests they wear to be able to return to the surface are able to hold air. Most of a day is spent in the pool, proving that we can swim nearly a mile and refreshing a few basic SCUBA skills in a low-stress environment.   Thanks to all of the preparations divers will be ready to begin collecting native mussel broodstock as soon as air and water temperatures warm up.

Above: Divers share air before ascending to the surface. This is an important skill to practice for divers so that in case of an emergency the methods are ingrained. Credit: USFWS.


Sturgeon Spawning Season Approaches?


When March creeps into April and water temperatures begin warming up from the spring snow melts of low to mid 30’s F. to the high 40’s a bustle of activity occurs amongst sturgeon squeezers.  Annual spawning migrations occur during these times and spawning begins in earnest when water temperatures warm up to 52 F and beyond.  Genoa National Fish Hatchery takes sturgeon eggs from smaller river systems such as the Wolf River in Wisconsin, to the larger systems such as the St. Clair River system in Michigan and the St. Lawrence River system in New York.  These eggs from different river systems are used to grow and release 6-7 inch fingerling lake sturgeon in restoration programs from as far south as Tennessee and Georgia, to Missouri, Minnesota and New York.   Some more good news was received this past week from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.  The first lake sturgeon spawning activity was witnessed from an over 20 year multi-agency reintroduction!  It was the first lake sturgeon spawning in over 70 years in the state of Georgia.  These fish were more than likely progeny of eggs that were taken from the Wolf River and transferred from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and Georgia DNR hatcheries to rear fingerlings and release in Georgia.  A few short years ago Missouri also witnessed lake sturgeon spawning in the Mississippi River for the first time in many years as a result of a long term restoration program that Genoa has participated in since 2004.   We look forward every year to the spring egg collections as it gives us the unique opportunity to work with old friends and new in the conservation field in order to work on a fish that can leave a lasting legacy on the landscape.  The fish that we stock tomorrow could live up to 150 years into the future, hopefully creating many more offspring to replace themselves when it is their turn to leave their legacy to others.

Above: Lake sturgeon congregation during the spawning season. Credit: USFWS



2021-2022 Washboard Production at GNFH

Genoa NFH staff collected female washboard mussels last October in the Mississippi River near Prairie du Chien. The washboard population there had spawned several weeks prior to our collection visit, and we were able to collect female mussels who brooding mature larvae (glochidia) in their gills. Washboard females don’t hold their viable glochidia for a particularly long time, so the females were brought straight back to the lab and kept in clean, translucent, flow-through tanks so we could watch for the natural release of their glochidia.

Scuba diving in the UMR to collect gravid female mussels, including the washboard mussels that were used for juvenile production in early 2022. Photo credit: Erica Rasmussen/USFWS.









mucus-y cobwebs with embedded glochidia. Photo credit: Beth Glidewell/USFWS.








Within a few days of laboratory observation (and slightly warmer temperatures in the mussel building vs the Mississippi River in October), several females released wispy, cobweb-like mucus nets containing viable glochidia. In the river, these webs and strands drift up into the current from the female, ready to ‘catch’ unsuspecting fish. When a fish swims through the web, the glochidia in the mucus strands brush by the fish, and snap shut when they encounter fish tissue. Some of these glochidia will attach to the gills of the correct host fish (channel catfish, black bullhead, and green sunfish) and successfully transform into juvenile mussels, though many will fail to attach to any fish, and others will attach to a non-host and be sloughed as the fish’s immune system protects the fish.

While glochidia in the wild have a relatively low likelihood of attaching to the correct fish type, this step of the mussel reproductive cycle is something we can greatly improve in the laboratory- collected glochidia are checked for viability and added to a tub of known host fish -channel catfish- greatly increasing successful attachment and transformation of the glochidia into juvenile mussels. Host fish that have glochidia encysted on the gills are kept in the mussel building over winter at natural surface water temperatures, these cold conditions keep the glochidia from developing too quickly so they remain encapsulated in the fish’s gills until the spring. As temperatures naturally warm, or the fish are moved to heated culture systems, the glochidia continue their metamorphosis into juvenile mussels. When fully developed, they break free from the fish’s gill and drop into the water, settling on the bottom of the culture tank where they can be collected and moved to juvenile mussel culture systems.

The first juvenile washboard produced from last October’s production were collected in February. As juveniles are collected, they’re placed in sediment trays for grow-out. These sediment trays- boxes with clean sediment, aerated well water, and an algae/diatom mussel food mixture- are monitored and fed daily to keep the juvenile mussels happy and healthy. Some of these produced juveniles have been sent to partner agencies for research uses, and others will be cultured this spring and summer (and beyond) for population augmentation in local rivers. By: Beth Glidewell

A juvenile washboard with visible shell growth along the ventral margin. Photo credit: Beth Glidewell/USFWS.

Megan adding glochidia to tubs of catfish, greatly increasing the likelihood of connection between an individual glochidium and a target host fish. Photo credit: Beth Glidewell/USFWS

Exploring and Creating

When your children have a day off school, come and join me at The Great River Road Interpretive Center! We can explore the facility, check out the freshwater aquariums and construct some fun art projects. Photo: Children holding up their fish mobiles and working on a fish puzzle. Photo credit: Volunteer at the hatchery. Photo: Children making bird feeders, looking at the fish and making turtle bookmarks. Photo credit: Ashley Eckes. By: Erica Rasmussen




Coaster Brook Trout Settle into Their New Quarters

As you may have seen in previous editions of Genoa News and Notes, the coldwater production building on the north end of the hatchery grounds (hence, Coldwater North) received a major makeover last year. What was once gravel and fiberglass is now manicured concrete, and a once sleepy artesian well can now double its output with the aid of a booster pump. What all this means is our Coaster Brook Trout program now has a new permanent home. We are now able to raise two year classes side by side in the same building and the fish can remain there throughout their time at the hatchery. We fully put the new setup to the test in March, cranking up the pump and moving nearly 13,000 7” trout into the raceways to go along with their 1” roommates currently living in circular tanks. Zach Kumlin has been busy at work reestablishing our alarm system and troubleshooting any bugs in the system. This building will help us achieve the Service’s goal of producing quality Coaster Brook Trout for Lake Superior and tribal waters for years to come.
By: Nick Bloomfield


Brook Trout in a net being weighed, concrete raceway, Photo: Erica Rasmussen/USFWS.



Fish Health Spring Hatchery Inspection

 Staff from the La Crosse Fish Health Center visited the hatchery as part of a bi-annual fish health inspection. The Fish Health Center provides fish health inspection and diagnostic services for six national fish hatcheries and numerous state and tribal hatcheries throughout the region. In the spring staff sample hatchery production fish for possible pathogens or diseases. The results of these inspections ensure quality fish being stocked in the fall each year. In addition to hatchery production samples, Genoa provides a variety of fish from the Mississippi River for the fish health center as part of ongoing national wild fish health survey. These sample collections and surveys allow fisheries managers to prevent and diagnose hatchery and wild populations of fish for pathogens or diseases. These results allow safe transport and stocking of healthy fish throughout the region. By: Orey Eckes


Genoa Partners with Wisconsin DNR to provide Northern Pikeand Walleye Eggs

Genoa National Fish Hatchery was contacted by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
with a request to supply Northern Pike and Walleye eggs for Lake Mills State Fish Hatchery, WI.
Northern Pike on the Mississippi River start spawning in early April just before ice out and for a few
weeks after the ice has cleared. Staff from the Genoa National Fish Hatchery set fyke nets in the
backwaters of the Mississippi River where the water is shallower and warmer during this time of year
to collect enough adults for spawning. Once enough adults were collected the eggs were fertilized
and WI DNR staff met GNFH staff to pick up the eggs and return them to Lake Mills Hatchery. Lake
Mills Fish Hatchery will rear these fish at the hatchery for stocking into state waterbodies in support of
sport fishing opportunities for anglers.

By: Orey Eckes


Hoop net in water and pike eggs being measured. Photo: USFWS










The Genoa mussel program is warming up for spring

If you’ve been reading the newsletter for a while, you’re aware of the cycle of the mussel propagation year. Winter is for managing data and making plans, while spring is for preparation, summer is busy with hands on work with the mussels on station or in the river, then fall is bringing in the animals we’ve raised and settling them in for the winter. We start by discussing plans and needs for the season with our various State and Federal partners, as well as the staff at the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque. Since we’ve already reviewed what was successful, or less so, last year we apply this information and begin to choose which systems we’ll use for which species and in what order we’ll do them. Some of our work includes digging through cages, preparing dive gear for another season and making sure the MARS trailer is ready. We’re still providing extensive care for several species of host fish and the many sub-adult mussels that are overwintering in the mussel building even as we finish construction on some new systems in the mussel building. By: Megan Bradley