BY DOUG ALOISI, GENOA NATIONAL FISH HATCHERY
Kids and their parents from all over the tri-state area of Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota gathered at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery for our 19th annual Kids Fishing Day on May 14th this spring. The event, which is sponsored by the hatchery Friends Group, the Friends of the Upper Miss, and the Fish and Wildlife Service Fisheries field stations in the La Crosse area, was attended by over 175 people this year.
The children and their parents/guardians first walked through a set of four learning stations. Station 1 was on boating safety taught by the hatchery’s Maintenance Worker Zach Kumlin, at Station 2 mussel identification and conservation by the hatchery mussel biologist Megan Bradley, at Station 3 was fishery regulations by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service game warden Joshua Bauer of the Upper Mississippi River Wildlife and Fish Refuge Office in Savannah, Illinois and Station 4 offered fish identification and fishing techniques by hatchery lead 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 two hour open fishing event on a stocked hatchery pond. Most of the children went home with their five fish limits. The event is very popular with Friends Group members and local Volunteers alike, as they serve as mentors to the children and assist with fishing tips, gear and bait selections, and demonstrate casting. A light lunch was then provided by our Friends group.
This year’s event was also made possible by a donation in honorarium by the Bay family, in memory of Earl Bay. Patriarch Earl Bay was an avid fisherman, being especially fond of fishing with the classic cane pole. Through the family’s generous donation, gifts were distributed to every child that attended. These included the attendee’s choice of the classic cane pole, a fishing rod and reel combo, or a tackle box. Many thanks to the staff of the three La Crosse area FWS fisheries offices, sponsors, volunteers, and Friends of the Upper Miss for making this event possible. Making memories outdoors 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.
Above: This lucky angler shows off a “whopper” 14 inch rainbow trout that she landed at the Genoa NFH Kid’s Fishing Day. Credit: Erica Rasmussen/USFWS
BY BETH GLIDEWELL, GENOA NATIONAL FISH HATCHERY
The Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly (HED) eggs that were housed at Genoa National Fish Hatchery over the winter began hatching in late March and by late May, 445 eggs had successfully hatched. These eggs arrived on station last November and were kept at cool, stable temperatures all winter. Eggs are kept by female line in sample cups of clean water and are checked frequently for fungal growth or other problems. Water is exchanged every other week to maintain good dissolved oxygen levels.
As temperatures began to warm outside this spring, we warmed the egg chamber slowly over several weeks and then above the critical hatching temperature of 42-43 °F. Cups are checked daily during the warming period for newly hatched larvae. As larvae hatch, they are pi petted out of the egg cup into their own specimen cup filled with about 20 milliliters of clean water of the same temperature water.
These new juvenile cups are allowed to slowly warm to room temperature in the mussel building, where they are fed zooplankton two to three times per week. Pond water that is pumped into the mussel building for fish housing and mussel culture is also filtered through a series of mesh screens, and zooplankton that are between 55 to 300 microns are retained, concentrated, and ‘fed’ or pipetted into each juvenile cup. This mixture of rotifers, cladocerans, copepods and other naturalized pond zooplankton make great Hine’s Emerald larvae food, and also feeds young of the year fish cultured in the various ponds at the hatchery.
The juvenile dragonflies will be housed in these cups until early to mid-June when they’ve (hopefully) grown large enough to be moved to screened cages or ‘s-cages’ that can be kept in larger, flow-through tanks in the dragonfly trailer all summer. Stay tuned for pictures and updates from this next stage of HED culture!
Above: HED eggs stored at stable temperatures over winter. The eggs are housed at about 39 degrees Farenheit from November to March. Credit: Beth Glidewell/USFWS
BY MIDWEST REGION 3
Megan Bradley, a mussel propagation specialist at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Genoa, Wisconsin, received the Midwest Region recovery champion award for her work with endangered freshwater mussels in the Upper Mississippi River. Megan worked with other agencies, tribes and national and international partners to improve the status of several species of imperiled mussels through her efforts to map suitable habitat, create new populations, monitoring released mussels and planning and implementing programs to raise and release endangered species like the Higgins eye pearlymussel, the winged mapleleaf mussel and the spectaclecase mussel. Megan has been instrumental in establishing the cost of replacing mussels affected by environmental contaminants, enhancing the ability to recover damages and restore these species.
Above: Congratulations to Megan on receiving the Recovery Champion Award! Credit: USFWS
KIDS SPRING FISHING DAY
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.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Or call: 608-689-2605
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
BY MEGAN BRADLEY AND BETH GLIDEWELL, 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.
BY DOUG ALOISI, GENOA NATIONAL FISH HATCHERY
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
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
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
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.