Restoring an Ancient Legacy, Lake Sturgeon Thriving in Big Stone Lake

Big Stone Lake, located on the South Dakota – Minnesota border was once home to abundant numbers of lake sturgeon. Many factors including over harvest and poor water quality led to an extirpated population of lake sturgeon by 1946. Currently South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and USFWS are partnering to restore historic populations. In 2014, Genoa National Fish Hatchery joined the restoration efforts by supplying fingerling lake sturgeon at approximately 8 inches of length for stocking in the fall. The fish are offspring of adult lake sturgeon from the Wisconsin River, collected by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The restoration plan calls for the stocking of up to 4,000 fish per year for 20 years. This year 4,005 sturgeon were stocked and to date a total of 41,518 lake sturgeon have been stocked into Big Stone Lake. Annual surveys by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources had captures of lake sturgeon in year 2023 exceeding 50 inches in length. It’s safe to say these fish are growing and thriving. With continued cooperation between agencies the goal of restoring a historic population of lake sturgeon to Big Stone Lake is becoming a reality. By: Orey Eckes

Lake Sturgeon being tagged, measured and released back into Big Stone Lake by MN DNR. Photo Credit: MN DNR
























Last summer, we were fortunate to get funding to replace the kettles in ponds 12 and 13. The kettle is the concrete structure at the low point of the pond. As a pond drains, the fish gather in the kettle where they can be netted out. The previous kettles were at the end of their life and had become a safety issue due to the crumbling concrete. I found that out the hard way one day when I went for an unexpected swim. Contractors got to work last summer removing the old kettles and installing the new ones. Former hatchery manager, Doug Aloisi helped design a new style that is much different than the ones we currently use. The new design creates an area of low current velocity for the fish to rest in prior to harvest. Our current kettles lack that “quiet” water, meaning fish must swim against the current coming through the kettle or risk being pinned against the screen. Another benefit of the new design is the increased screen surface area. This will lower current velocities going through the screen and reduce chances of algae and vegetation plugging the screen. Finally, the kettles have a dual drain design that will help us draw down the pond to the perfect level. We can open the first drain and sleep easy at night knowing the pond will be ready for harvest in the morning without constant monitoring or return trips to the hatchery in the evening to shut pond drains. Pond 12 work was completed this spring and will get its first test with a crop of yellow perch. We’re excited to see how these new kettles work and hopefully they help us produce more and healthier fish for years to come! By: Nick Bloomfield

Concrete kettle in a hatchery filled pond with an excavator on the road. Photo: Nick Bloomfield/USFWS.

Spring Walleye Spawning Preparation

As spring approaches, hatchery staff are hard at work fixing and fine tuning any equipment that will be needed, come field season. This ranges from resupplying spawning kits to bagging dip nets to hemming hoop nets. During early April, hatchery staff set 63 hoop nets in Pool 9 of the Upper Mississippi River to collect actively spawning adult Walleyes. Before staff can do this, hoop nets are pressure washed, dried, brushed clean and hand stitched to ensure no debris or holes remain from the previous season. Any mesh that appears weak is replaced with new twine and the nets are later tarred to ensure durability throughout the spawning season. Once tarred these nets are extremely rigid and durable allowing for successful Walleye collection. In 2023, hatchery staff were able to spawn 82 ripe females and 164 ripe males in a single day! Once collected, eggs and fry are shipped to different federal, state, and tribal partners for restoration and sport fishing, including stocking Pool 9 of the Mississippi River. Some fry are also kept on station to be raised for freshwater mussel culture as host fish for the Black Sandshell mussel. With the abnormally warm winter the hatchery staff are excited to get back in

Orey Eckes using a brush to remove debris from hoop nets. Jeff Lockington and Jadon Motquin mending/patching hoop nets. Photo: Erica Rasmussen/USFWS.



April 20th 10-2pm Party for the Planet –celebrate Earth Day @National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium in Dubuque, IA

May 18th 8:30-12pm Kids Fishing Day Event @ Genoa NFH Youth 5-12 years old, take home 3 Rainbow Trout

June 8th 9-12pm 10th Annual Lions District 27-D2 FISHABILITY @ Genoa NFH. Open to any youth with a disability K-12 Register call Pat 608-279-2417

June 22nd 10-2pm 100th Anniversary Celebration Open House @ Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge La Crosse District Visitor Center

July 13th 10-2pm Youth Outdoor Fest @Pettibone Park

Please follow us on Facebook and check out our website for more details. If you are interested in volunteering please contact Erica Rasmussen (608)689-2605 or

Kids Ice Fishing Day for 2024 cancelled

Who knew we would be hoping for colder weather here in Wisconsin this time of the year, but due to unseasonably warm temperatures and an unfavorable forecast, Genoa National Fish Hatchery is reluctantly cancelling the Kids Ice Fishing Day for 2024. Please follow our FB Page for news and information on the other great events here at the hatchery

Thank you for your support!

Erica Rasmussen 

Environmental Education Specialist

Genoa National Fish Hatchery

S5631 State Hwy 35

Genoa WI, 54632


postponing the Annual Kids Ice Fishing Day.

Due to unseasonably warm temperatures and deteriorating ice conditions on the hatchery pond, Genoa National Fish Hatchery is reluctantly postponing the Annual Kids Ice Fishing Day. This event, which was schedule for this Saturday February 3rd, will be moved to Saturday February 24th from 8:30am to 12pm. Please follow our FB Page for news and information about this great event.

Please let me know if you are available to help on Feb. 24th

Thank you, 

Erica Rasmussen 
Environmental Education Specialist
Genoa National Fish Hatchery
S5631 State Hwy 35
Genoa WI, 54632

New Project Leader @ Genoa NFH


Please welcome our new Project Leader, Craig Bockholt, to the Genoa National Fish Hatchery! Craig is originally from the Midwest, born and raised in Northwest Iowa. Craig started his career with the USFWS after serving 4 years with the U.S. Marine Corps. He spent the early part of his career at Gavins Point NFH in Yankton, South Dakota. Then in 2016 he accepted the Project Leader position at White Sulphur Springs NFH in West Virginia.
Now he is coming back to the Midwest as the Project Leader at the GNFH! Craig has over 20 years of experience in the National Fish Hatchery system working with freshwater mussels, warm, cool and cold fish species propagation and broodstock management. When not working Craig is an avid outdoorsman and especially enjoys pheasant hunting, archery hunting, and fishing for catfish and walleye. We are very excited to welcome Craig to the GNFH staff!
By: Erica Rasmussen

Welcome Tyler to Genoa!

We’re excited to welcome a new mussel biologist to the hatchery. Tyler Weber joins us from USGS where he’s been raising fish and mussels for research at the Upper Midwest Environmental Science Center and is rejoining the hatchery staff after working with us during college. Tyler started at the hatchery in October, and has been working hard from day one, learning, caring for our fish, mussels and dragonflies and helping get ready for winter. He enjoys spending time outdoors, hunting and traveling. We’re looking forward to everything he will contribute to freshwater mussel and fish conservation, and how he develops in his conservation career. By: Megan Bradley

Tyler  sorting mussels into a tray. Photo credit: USFWS.

Fathead Minnow harvest

Our largest pond on station is a 33-acre pond used for rearing fathead minnows. During the summer months clover minnow traps are place around the pond to capture minnows. These minnows are released into other ponds on station containing other species such as Walleye, Largemouth bass, Smallmouth bass, and Yellow Perch allowing these fish to grow and later be stocked. This minnow pond allows the hatchery to maintain a cost effective and clean supply of minnows to use as a food source to raise other species. Juvenile piscivores on station love fathead minnows as a food source due to their lack of spines and small size. As winter approaches this pond is drained and a specialized seine is used to collect the fish and put them on trucks to be moved around the hatchery. Once minnows are on the truck they are stocked to overwinter ponds and brought into buildings to be sorted. Once in the building these minnows will be hand sorted, removing any other species and the adults will be set aside for the following year. These adult broodstock minnows will be released back into the 33-acre pond in the spring to begin the cycle again. If you’re interested in sorting minnows, please feel free to contact our Volunteer Coordinator Erica Rasmussen at (608) 689-2605.
By: Jadon Motquin

Genoa staff collect Fathead minnows to be put onto trucks and transported around the hatchery. Photo: USFWS.