Mussel Recovery: planning during uncertainty

If you’ve been reading the newsletter for a while, you’re aware of the cycle of the 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. So much of that has stayed the same with the ongoing pandemic and but the planning has gotten more interesting. Winter is still important for being prepared for the year. We start by reviewing what was successful last year before deciding what our priorities are for the next. Some of this work includes assessing the status of cages, preparing dive gear for another season, and coordinating plans with our partners. We’ve had discussions with our various State and Federal partners, as well as the staff at the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque, about plans for the coming season. 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

The new rearing pan system in the mussel building, with hoses delivering winter-temperature pond water and nutrients to the juvenile mussels that call these pans home from October-November until approximately June, when they’ll head to an outdoor culture system for the growing season. Photo: Megan Bradley/USFWS

Brook Trout Come Full Circle Back to Genoa

Orey displaying an adult brook trout that was part of the 2017 egg collection effort

The newest additions to Genoa National Fish Hatchery arrived on station in January. About 50,000 fertilized Brook Trout eggs were sent from our sister hatchery at Iron River. Hatching began almost immediately upon arrival in mid-January and all the fry were hatched out by the end of January. Staff have been busy caring for the eggs and fry ever since. These fish will live in the safety of the quarantine building until they have passed multiple fish health inspections. The treatment system in place in the Quarantine Building will keep the rest of the hatchery protected from any pathogens until we can ensure that there are none, at which point we can move them to a bigger rearing space. Once these fish are big enough to ensure a high survival rate in the wild, they will be stocked into the Lake Superior basin to help boost populations of Coaster Brook Trout.
The story behind the origin of these new arrivals begins in October of 2017. Eggs were collected from remnant populations of Coaster Brook Trout from the Isle Royal area and raised at Genoa NFH. This process was repeated the following year, and another batch grew up in the hallowed raceways of Genoa NFH. These fish weren’t destined for the wild, however. These two lots were destined for the FWS broodstock program and were sent back to Iron River NFH. Fast forward to 2021 and holding two distinct lots of broodstock that were becoming sexually mature, staff at Iron river NFH were able to cross them with minimal likelihood of relatedness between parents. These little guys will grow up in the same raceways their parents did, but they are destined to ultimately help grow the population along the shores of Lake Superior so Americans can enjoy them for generations to come.
By: Nick Bloomfield

A new season of Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly culture begins.

 

 

several hundred Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly eggs viewed through a dissection scope,

A few weeks before the New Year, a batch of Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly eggs arrived on station at Genoa NFH. This new cohort, approximately 1000 eggs collected from 6 females, are part of a collaborative captive rearing effort that Genoa has participated in since 2015, along with partners from the University of South Dakota, Illinois DNR, Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, IL, and the USFWS Chicago Field Office.

This season’s eggs are currently being kept in clean well water at a stable 4C, a temperature that delays hatching until conditions are more favorable in the spring. In late March- early April we’ll start warming the eggs and check daily for hatching juveniles. Until then, eggs are checked at least weekly, being monitored for early hatchlings and problems such as fungal growth.

So far there have only been a few early hatches. These new larvae are acclimated to pond water and slowly warmed to room temperature, 15-16C. The warmed pond water contains a variety of zooplankton that the dragonfly larvae- tiny but fierce predators- will utilize as food. The larvae will remain in individual culture cups for several months, protected from pests and growing larger size. When outside pond water has warmed to similar culture temperatures -May to June- the larvae will be placed in small mesh enclosures in rearing tanks in GNFH’s ‘dragonfly trailer’, and later into larger mesh cages in ponds at the hatchery for the 2021 growing season.

We also hope to culture Devil’s Crayfish on station this year. 2020 saw the addition of this species to the hatchery, as a culture trial to check the feasibility of culturing crayfish at GNFH. The animals on station did well, growing and successfully molting, so we hope this effort will continue in the coming years. Devils Crayfish are being studied and cultured in tandem with Hine’s Emerald Dragonflies as it has been observed that the crayfish make burrows and chimneys in wetland sediments that the Hine’s Emerald larvae utilize as habitat.

By: Beth Glidewell

a newly hatched larvae,

 

 

 

Sturgeon return to the Saginaw Bay Watershed


An exciting offshoot of the Genoa National Fish Hatchery (GNFH) role in the Maumee River (OH) Lake Sturgeon restoration work is to be able to contribute fish to Michigan’s Lake Huron basin restoration program in cooperation with the Michigan DNR. Lake sturgeon are broadcast spawners, meaning they literally release hundreds of thousands of eggs per female in order to achieve reproductive success. This is due to the many predators that wait for a meal of sturgeon eggs every spring. Due to this large number of eggs that are released, spawning crews generally take more eggs than needed from specific females in order to maintain strain specific restoration programs.
This has specifically paid benefits on the western shore of Lake Huron where the GNFH joins forces with many partners such as the Michigan DNR, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office and others to collect eggs annually from fish captured in the Upper St. Clair River. The fish are held and eggs collected at a local commercial fishery that graciously allows us to use their holding facilities to restore this species to the Great Lakes watershed. In the years 2017, 2018 and 2019 a total of 2,059 Lake Sturgeon fingerlings were stocked into tributaries which flow into the Saginaw Bay area in Lake Huron.
These efforts are already producing results with fish being captured and released in waters devoid of sturgeon for the last 100 years. This after only a stocking effort of 3 year classes and a little over 2,000 fingerlings! We hope to contribute many more year classes and their important genetic contribution in order to ensure both adequate numbers of fish are able to sustain the new population, and significant amount of genetic variation is available for the population to remain viable. However, it is heartening that although such a small number of fish were released, they are already being seen and documented in habitat that has been devoid of the species. We find hope that this is a sure sign that our efforts and the efforts of our partners have a hand in the return of this magnificent species.
By Doug Aloisi

An angler holds lake sturgeon caught in the Saginaw River. Fish was released

Partners from Canada assist National Fish Hatchery system with Lake Trout Future Broodstock

Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s Chatsworth and Normandale Fish Culture Stations staff(left) Riley Hotrum and (right) Steffi Krauseholding an adult lake trout. Riley is a technician with the Upper Great Lakes Management Unit, and Steffi isChatsworth Fish Culture Station’s Operations Coordinator. Photos provided byMatthew Brailey, Manager, Chatsworth Fish Culture Station and Normandale Fish Culture Station,OMNRF.

 

Genoa National Fish Hatchery received lake trout eggs from our partners in Ontario, Canada (Chatsworth and Normandale Fish Culture Stations). Staff from these facilities collected wild adult lake trout from Big Sound, Lake Huron. Eggs were incubated at their facilities until they were eyed and shipped by mail to Genoa National Fish Hatchery. Upon receiving eyed eggs, they were disinfected with iodine and incubated in heath trays at water temperatures between 7-8 °C in an insulated recirculating system in one of Genoa’s regional isolation buildings. Once these eggs hatch the fish will remain on station for a year and a half until they clear three fish health inspections by the La Crosse Fish Health Center (La Crosse, WI). Once all testing comes back clear, the fish will be transferred to their forever home at one of our broodstock facilities (Pendills and Sullivan Creek National Fish Hatcheries, MI) where eventually they will be used to produce eggs for the lake trout hatcheries to grow into yearlings for restoration stocking efforts in Lake Huron.

By: Orey Eckes

Moving on to Greener Pastures

Angela stocking fry into a hatchery pond.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angela Baran Dagendesh, Genoa (WI) National Fish Hatchery’s assistant project leader, has accepted a new position in the Washington office within our Refuge Branch. Angela will be a Facility Operations Specialist, assisting in the Refuge Quarters management and real property management. Angela came to Genoa way back in 2010, and is leaving quite a legacy and large shoes to fill. With her passion for the resource, she applied for and received a Cooperative Conservation grant for the hatchery that propelled us to begin rearing the Hines Emerald Dragonfly, the first federally endangered aquatic insect to be cultured in the federal hatchery system. This past year, she developed protocols for bringing Devils Crayfish on to the station, a species that assists the Hines Emerald Dragonfly to overwinter safely in their burrows. For her work with the dragonfly, Angela received the Midwest Region’s Endangered Species Recovery Champion award in 2016. She also was instrumental in running the station’s production program, with many new sturgeon restoration efforts beginning and thriving during her tenure. We will miss her competence and passion for the Resource in the years ahead. Best of luck Angela! Thank you for a great decade! By Doug Aloisi

Newly transformed terrestrial stage Hines Emerald Dragonfly. USFWS photos.

Settling In For Winter


As production season winds down, things start to slow down a bit at the hatchery. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t have fish on station. We hold on to several species for different reasons throughout the winter. We currently have four of our ponds set up to overwinter fish.
One of these ponds is dedicated to finish growing out the Rainbow Trout hatched last winter. These will be grown as much as possible until the end of April when they will be stocked out as catchable sized trout. Another pond is dedicated to keeping our “fishing day” fish, mainly Rainbow Trout with some fun surprises sprinkled in. There are some absolute monsters in there, partially due to the fishing day cancellations in 2020. The next fishing event will be epic, whenever that might be!
Another pond is dedicated to all the broodstock sportfish on station, including Yellow Perch, Bluegill, Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, and Black Crappie. They will be divided into their own ponds come spring. Finally, a pond is used by some of this years’ Walleye and Smallmouth Bass crops. These are destined to become host fish for the mussel program in 2021. More current and future mussel host fish can be found inside the buildings. Channel Catfish, Freshwater Drum, Walleye, Golden Shiner, and Flathead Catfish are all waiting their turn to carry around some baby mussels. Never a dull moment!
By: Nick Bloomfield

One of the broodstock ponds with the 20-21 season’s first dusting of snow. USFWS photo

Feeding the Rainbows- an automatic feeder distributes feed to hungry Rainbow Trout. USFWS photo.

 

End of Season Mussel Culture– Moving Back to the Hatchery

A very cold team effort to remove the pump and filter cage unit that supplies Blackhawk Slough/Mississippi River water to the trailer all season.

 

At  the end of the summer growing season, juvenile mussels that have been cultured in the MARS trailer all summer are counted, measured, and moved to the mussel building at GNFH for winter culture. The MARS trailer is also brought back to the hatchery, cleaned, needed repairs are made, and is winterized for storage until next spring.

The MARS trailer is installed at Blackhawk Park each year as soon as spring flood waters recede, with electricity to run air and water pumps, clean water to maintain the filtration system, and UV sterilization systems operating as biosecurity measures. These features make the MARS trailer a very productive culture system for many species of juvenile mussels, and also require a team effort to close-out the system at the end of the season. We were lucky to have low water levels and several balmy Wisconsin fall days to pack up the trailer, haul the water pump and its filter cage out of the slough, bring everything back to the hatchery, and power wash away a season’s worth of river mud, algae, bugs, and unwanted pests.
The juvenile mussels that spent the summer in the MARS trailer are now settled into their winter homes in rearing pans and baskets in the mussel building. This year, the mussel building is getting a major renovation: in addition to a re-design of the rearing pan system, the last picture below also shows insulated building walls and a new head tank for incoming pond water. We’ll feature these and many more upgrades to the building in an upcoming issue of Genoa News and Notes!
By: Beth Glidewell

Higgins Eye juveniles settle into their winter home in the mussel building.

Megan adjusts water flow to pans in the newly redesigned system. Photos by Beth Glidewell/USFWS.



Native American Heritage Month: Time to Reflect

The Fish and Wildlife Service celebrated November as Native American Heritage Month, a time the Service used to reflect on the rich history and cultures of Native Americans both past and present, and their importance to natural resource conservation in the future. The Genoa National Fish Hatchery, along with our Fish and Wildlife Conservation Offices work very closely with tribal conservation offices to assist in the conservation mission of the tribes on their tribal lands and waters. This is part of our nation’s tribal trust responsibilities, many spelled out in treaties signed by the U.S. government with the tribes sometimes many years ago. The Genoa (WI) National Fish Hatchery actively works with 12 Midwestern and Northeastern tribes to assist them in the Recovery of Threatened and Endangered Species, the Restoration of Native species of fish, and the creation of sport fisheries that are enjoyed by tribal members and non-members alike.
All of this happens over a large landscape of sovereign tribal lands and waters. Endangered species such as the freshwater mussels are supplied and propagated in tribal hatcheries. Lake sturgeon and Coaster brook trout are supplied to tribes through targeted restoration plans in order to assist in species recovery over their historic range. Also recreational fish species such as Walleye, Rainbow trout, Brook trout, Bluegill, Black crappie, and Largemouth bass are also supplied to tribes to meet their fisheries management objectives.
The Genoa staff always consider meeting our tribal commitments with a measure of respect and honor, and while November is specifically chosen as Native American Heritage Month, it is celebrated year-round through the cycle of life at the Genoa facility.
By Doug Aloisi

 

 


(Top) A Tribal biologist fin clips hatchery Coaster brook trout recaptured from a wild fish population survey. Photo Credit: FWS photo. (Below) A Tribal biologist holds hatchery lake sturgeon recapture. Photo Credit: Pat Brown