Friends of the Upper Mississippi

Our Vision Statement

To work to protect, enhance and restore our Upper Mississippi River resources by serving as volunteers and partners with conservation organizations to provide education about these resources for our citizens, to advocate for government policies that will support these resources and to increase awareness of threats to the health of the Upper Mississippi River.

Genoa Fish Clinic

Genoa Fish Clinic – Genoa, WI

Mission of the Friends of the Upper Mississippi

  • Provide volunteer services to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other Conservation organizations for native species restoration and population monitoring.
  • Provide education programs for members and the general public on conservation issues and benefits
  • Provide grants for educational activities
  • Provide outdoor activities for children
  • Be a primary point of contact with local and national public officials in support of Mississippi River resources
  • Provide fundraising activities to support local conservation programs
  • Inform local groups and provide education on conservation issues

Genoa’s Commitment to the Recovery of Endangered Aquatic Species

The Genoa National Fish Hatchery’s mission at its inception in 1932 was to provide sport fish for area waters, but with the advent of the Endangered Species Act in 1975, our mission has shifted to include the recovery of endangered aquatic species. Genoa also collaborates with several state and federal hatcheries along with a commitment to providing support to federally recognized tribes to assist in their conservation and resource management programs. Genoa helps tribes to restore native species and to manage fish and mussel species. Currently Genoa is also working to recover 5 Federally listed mussel species including the Higgins eye, Winged Maple Leaf, Sheepnose, Snuffbox and Spectaclecase. Our mussel biologists propagate these species, in addition to other spe-cies, to be released back to their native habitat. We also occasionally work on NRDA (Natural Resources Damage Assessment) projects in assessing and mitigating damages done to mussel populations. With the help of our mussel biologists Genoa has produced 14.7 million mussels spanning 17 species. In addition to endangered mussels Genoa also aims to help in the recovery of the Lake Sturgeon, which is a listed species in several states, coaster brook trout, and lake trout. Genoa’s Lake Sturgeon program peaks in the summer months. Eggs are brought to the hatchery where they will hatch and grow to approximately 6 inches where they are then tagged with a coded wire and distributed to various locations.

Genoa’s 2017 Lake Sturgeon ready for distribution

Genoa’s 2017 Lake Sturgeon ready for distribution

Our longest trip for Lake Sturgeon distribution is the St. Lawrence River in New York. The coaster brook trout are raised for restoration purposes in the Grand Portage Tribal Reservation in Minnesota in Lake Superior tributaries. Last but not least the lake trout are raised in our quarantine facility where they live for 18 months until they are determined free of any fish pathogens, and then distributed to captive brood stock hatcheries to produce eggs for restoration programs in the Great Lakes. All our fish on station go through a rigorous series of health certifications. Genoa has also recently added a new endangered species to culture, the Hines Emerald Dragonfly.
Measuring a Hines Emerald Dragonfly larvae

In conjunction with researchers from University of South Dakota we are working to improve the survival of the Dragonfly in its larval state. Larvae are transferred to their natural habitat, specifically in the Des Plaines Illinois area, where they emerge and hopefully are able to live out their lives naturally. In addition to our commitment to the recovery of several species, Genoa also aims to educate the next generation by hosting various educational programs allowing area youth to enjoy the outdoors and get an up close and personal view of our target species.


By Erin Johnson

Research Precedes Offshore Cisco Stocking


Marking Cisco with a Coded wire tag. Credit: USFWS

The cisco (the fish formerly known as lake herring), is known for not only being a historically important commercial fish species, but also an important forage species in the Great Lakes. Many native species such as the lake trout depended heavily on this species in their diets. Throughout the Great Lakes cisco populations have been on the decline due to overfishing and competition with introduced species such as the alewife. Alewife introductions were harmful to Great Lakes cisco populations due to direct competition for food, and harmful to predator populations due to alewives carrying high levels of an enzyme called thiaminase in their bodies, which results in poor egg survival to fish that prey on them. Great Lakes fisheries scientists have placed a high priority on rebuilding cisco stocks due to its value as a prey species for many of the valuable sport and commercially exploited predator species in the lakes, and to possibly increase egg survival in apex predator species in the Great Lakes. In the fall of 2016, US Fish and Wildlife Service fisheries offices in Michigan and Wisconsin banded together to collect eggs from northern Lake Huron to begin pilot efforts to learn how to culture the species, and possibly develop a disease free future brood stock to use for a disease free egg source. Eggs were brought to the Genoa National Fish Hatchery quarantine facility, to be reared for 16-18 months and three fish health inspections to ensure that the fish can be transferred safely to other Service captive brood stock stations. The resulting fry soon outgrew their homes and with more than enough to begin the first brood line, 10,000 4.5 inch cisco became surplus.

This first small lot of fish became a good pilot program to see if expected culture practices would be adaptable to large scale restoration efforts in existing facilities currently used as lake trout production facilities. Methods of mass marking were tried as well as long distance hauling and offshore release methods on this sensitive species of fish. The physiological effects of marking and transportation were also measured to determine whether these methods were suitable in large scale efforts. Results are being compared in order to make recommendations on hauling densities and how to reduce stress through the culture, marking and transportation cycle. Through these preliminary studies, it is hoped that methods used may be beneficial to our sister hatcheries as they begin large scale production efforts in the fall of 2017, for targeted restoration areas in Lake Huron.

You Can’t Release Just One: Higgins’ eye mussel release and new site surveys

August of 2017 saw the start of a long term project releasing Higgins’ eye mussels into the Chippewa River. Isn’t this just more of the same in mussel releases you ask? Hardly, because Higgins’ eye have been extirpated from this river for decades. The Chippewa is a great place to start a new population of Higgins’ eye mussels because it’s at a relatively low risk of invasion by zebra mussels and is occupied by other rare mussel species including the sheepnose and recently reintroduced winged mapleleaf. What does a mussel release look like? A bit like the crowd gathered around an invisible finish line. A grid 10 meters long and one meter tall was laid on the river bottom and used to keep the mussels at a steady abundance. Ten people, biologists, managers and volunteers wearing masks and snorkels, each placed four mussels in their square before flipping the grid over and over and over until all of the mussels were released. Every mussel was tagged with a small piece of plastic with a specific color and number in the weeks before so when they are found again they can be identified; 100 had passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags attached to their shells. Each of these tags will help us look at the success of starting the mussel population here. Looking forward from 2017, many more Higgins’ eye mussels will need to be released into the Chippewa River system in order to create a population there that can survive without regular addition of more mussels. To this end a team of biologists from Genoa Fish Hatchery, Region 3 Ecological Services Office, the Wisconsin Depart-ment of Natural Resources and the Midwest Fish-eries Center spent a day in the Chippewa looking for more sites with many different mussel species, young mussels and good numbers of species that use the same hosts as Higgins’ eye and were very successful. Four additional places were found and plans are already in the works for a 2018 release at the site closest to this year’s release. By Megan Bradley

Clockwise from top: Volunteers, U.S.FWS staff and WI DNR staff turning over the 1 meter grid for releasing Higgins’eye into the Chippewa River; Genoa National Fish Hatchery Staff and WI DNR staff scouting for new release locations for Higgins’eye in the Chippewa River; Hallprint and PIT tagged Higgins’eye mussels before release into the Chippewa, (notice the natural differences in color of their shells).

Serenading the Wild Waters – Celebrate the Upper Mississippi

The Friends of the Upper Mississippi celebrated the beauty of our river through concert with performances by local musicians  Mike Caucutt and Eddie Allen.  The event was held at Chad Erickson Park in La Crosse on July 26th.  Ryan Cornett from Senator Tammy Baldwin’s staff  updated us on legislation affecting the local resources and agency managers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife staff were on hand with exhibits and to provide information.  The goal of this event was to introduce people of all ages to the great outdoors, raise awareness of the environmental risks that face the Upper Mississippi every day, what people can do to aid the Friends’ efforts and to enjoy a night at one of La Crosse’s newest parks.

Admission to the event was free and  a meal was provided.




Moving the Needle Toward Recovery: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Honors Midwest Recovery Champs

Innovation, expertise and decades of effort on behalf of imperiled species highlight the accomplishments of two Midwest biologists named by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as 2016 Endangered Species Recovery Champions. The Midwest champions are among 31 individuals and teams across the United States named by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for their work with endangered and threatened species.

Recovery Champion Robert Dana, of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, is a renowned expert on butterflies. Credit: USFWS

Dr. Robert Dana, a biologist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, was honored for his more than 40 years of work and vast knowledge of butterflies, especially the threatened Dakota skipper and the endangered Poweshiek skipperling, two prairie butterflies.

“Dr. Dana has played a critical role in the effort to conserve these two butterfly species,” said Tom Melius, the Service’s Midwest Regional Director. “His expertise with prairie habitat and uncommon ability to identify species in the field, together with his insight on their life history and willingness to share his hard-earned knowledge, have been critical in finding a path to recovery for the Dakota skipper and the Poweshiek skipperling.”

Dana is currently working with the Service, the Minnesota Zoo and The Nature Conservancy to reintroduce Dakota skippers in southwestern Minnesota. He is also working to prevent extinction of the Poweshiek skipperling, a highly imperiled species which may already be gone from Minnesota.Dana has played an integral role in establishing captive rearing programs for both species.

Angela Dagendesh, Assistant Project Leader at Genoa National Fish Hatchery, was recognized for her work with endangered Hine’s emerald dragonflies. Credit: USFWS


The Service also recognized Angela Dagendesh, assistant project leader at Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin, for her work to recover the Hine’s emerald dragonfly. These dragonflies overwinter in crayfish burrows during their life cycle; Dagendesh designed a system to rear Hine’s emerald dragonflies at the hatchery that mimics the living conditions found in the wild.  “Angela’s  work is moving the needle toward recovery for the Hine’s emerald dragonfly,” Melius said.  “Thanks in great part to her efforts, we have been able to improve our program and shorten the time it takes to produce adult dragonflies. This is very exciting for recovery of this species.” Dagendesh was noted for working closely with partners, including the Chicago Field Museum and the University of South Dakota, to share resources and technology and to reach out to the public about the Hine’s emerald dragonfly.

The Recovery Champion awards began in 2002 as a one-time recognition for Service staff members for their achievements in conserving listed species. However, in 2007, the program was expanded to honor Service partners as well, recognizing their essential role in the recovery of threatened and endangered species.

La Crosse FWCO Assists in Asian Carp Sampling on the Minnesota River



On June 4th, 2017, a bow angler harvested a nearly 62 pound bighead carp in a gravel pit pond on the Minnesota River floodplain near Redwood Falls, Minnesota (MN). This was concerning because not only was it the largest Asian carp recorded in Minnesota waters, but it was also captured approximately 80 miles upstream of New Ulm, MN, where a bighead carp was captured in 2016.


Blue sucker captured on the Minnesota River. Credit: Kyle Mosel, USFWS

In response to this new fish capture, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) coordinated sampling the area for additional carp. They requested the La Crosse Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) assist in this effort by collecting eDNA samples in the gravel pit and electrofishing in the Minnesota River. The La Crosse FWCO started the day by collecting eDNA samples in the gravel pit where the bighead carp was harvested, as well as two nearby gravel pits. At the time of sampling, these gravel pits were separate from the Minnesota River, but during high water periods they are connected to the river, which would allow Asian carp to enter. Sixty-six samples were collected and sent back to the Midwest Fisheries Center for processing. These samples will be analyzed by the Whitney Genetics Lab to test for the presence of Asian carp DNA in these pits. Next, the La Crosse FWCO crew switched gears and began electrofishing on the Minnesota River. We have observed that Asian carp are often found in river bends and seek cover in tree snags in our work on the Mississippi, so we targeted these areas on the Minnesota River. Although no Asian carp were observed or captured during sampling, a wide variety of native fishes were found, including smallmouth and bigmouth buffalo, shorthead redhorse, quillback, walleye, mooneye, longnose gar, and flathead catfish. Two unique finds were a blue sucker, which is a special concern species in Minnesota, and an awesome 29 inch walleye.  We were happy that we could assist the MN DNR in their rapid and thorough response to this bighead carp capture. The natural beauty we witnessed highlights the need to protect our native aquatic communities from the threat of invasive species.

Flooded gravel pit where the 62 pound bighead carp was captured and eDNA samples were collected. Credit: Katie Lieder, USFWS




Spring Walleye Spawning

By Aaron Von Eschen

As spring rolls around and temperatures increase male and female walleye begin spawning activities on the Mississippi River. In response Genoa National Fish Hatchery (GNFH) staff sets out 50 hoop nets each spring in an annual effort to collect walleye and sauger eggs for the upcoming production year.

Lifting walleye nets on Mississippi River



Female walleye ready to spawn. Generally the staff spawns walleye across an approximate three week period from early to mid April as female walleye begin to give up their eggs. Water levels were lower this spring which had a negative impact on the stations walleye spawning effort. Usually snow melt and spring rains raise river levels and heavy flows push the fish closer to shore where they encounter the nets, when water levels are lower fish are spread all over the channel making them difficult to capture. Walleye spawning for the station this year lasted 22 days and just over 150 females were spawned resulting in approximately 15 million eggs. Walleye eggs collected are shared with tribal, federal, and state partners in addition to some kept on station. The hatchery raises juvenile wall eye for stocking purposes and freshwater mussel (black sandshell) recovery efforts. Additionally a minimum of 10% of eggs collected are hatched and returned to the Mississippi River.







Walleye eggs and milt


Walleye eggs at the hatchery

Thank you one and all for all of your assistance in making Kids Fishing Day a success in 2017.  Even with weather rivaling the worst that we have ever experienced for a spring Kids Fishing Event, 168 people braved the cold and rain to enjoy a truly memorable outdoor experience.  85 children were registered for the event, and only one of them did not catch their limit of 4 fish.  (she caught 3).


Thanks again for making outdoor memories possible for each of these children and their families, and passing on a legacy of outdoor recreation that will foster an ethic of conservation for the resources that we so value in the Upper Mississippi River basin.

Doug Aloisi

Genoa National Fish Hatchery











Saturday, May 20th, 2017,                     8:30 AM TO 12:15 PM               Ages 5 years to 12 years

Event is limited to the first 250 children that register on the day of the event.

Knot Tying, Boat Safety, Fish Behavior and ID, and Wetland Tour will be part of the morning session.  Recreational Fishing session for the children in Pond 5 will be scheduled from 10:00 am to Noon.

Children will rotate every 15 minutes through the learning stations.Lunch will be provided at noon for the children, volunteers and employees.

Fishing pole loaners are available by the Genoa National Fish Hatchery in cooperation with the Friends of the Upper Mississippi and the Midwest Fisheries Resource Center (La Crosse Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, the La Crosse Fish Health Center and the Whitney Genetics Laboratory).  Participants will be provided bait, NO outside bait will be allowed.

Due to safety concerns and space limitations, no artificial lures, fly fishing and/or treble hooks will be allowed at the event.

Recreational Fishing Session

10:00 am to 12:00 pm Fishing at Hatchery Pond 5

Everyone will be dismissed at approximately 12:15 pm.

Morning Session

Station 1          Station 2           Station 3     Station 4  

8:30 to 9:00 am       Registration Knot Tying Boat Safety Fish Behavior and ID Wetland Tour
9:00am to 9:15am    “      “   “     “         “     “          “      “
9:15am to 9:30am     “     “    “     “       “     “        “      “
9:30 am to9:45 am     “      “    “      “         “       “          “       “
9:45 am to 10:00 am     “      “     “      “         “       “          “       “

Children must attend the Fishing Clinic in the morning to attend the Fishing Session at Pond 5 at the Hatchery at 10 am.


S 5631 State Hwy 35, Genoa WI 54632

(608) 689-2605


Kalamazoo Trailer on site

Trying to operate and maintain a full blown culture system from an eight hour drive is a daunting task, but every year at about this time Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) begins packing the 8 foot by 24 foot work trailer that will be home to upwards of 1,500 young lake sturgeon for the summer. If all  goes well, and the egg collection efforts are successful, around 3,000 eggs from Michigan’s Allegan Dam spawning site on the Kalamazoo River will be disinfected and enter the trailer unit. In preparation for this, every year we have a training program. Originally the training was for our streamside trailer staff, but it has recently become training for other conservation partners that are beginning their own streamside rearing trailer efforts.  This year staff from the Toledo Zoo and our Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) in Michigan came out to learn more on lake sturgeon egg and larval fry care. The next day staff joined us from the Ashland FWCO in Wisconsin to learn about trailer systems operation, which involves heating and cooling culture water, filtering river water of impurities and ultraviolet disinfection of the incoming water supply. This ensures a healthy trailer sturgeon population that imprints on their natal or birth river water supply. When the fish are old enough to reproduce, they will come back to their birth river to increase their river specific population. This should ensure that they are the most suitable fish for the Kalamazoo River, and able to adapt and thrive to their home waters.








Inside one of the streamside rearing units that Genoa NFH ?maintenance staff designed and constructed. Credit: USFWS







 Fingerling lake sturgeon. Credit: USFWS

Due to wet conditions on the site, the trailer is waiting on the Michigan Department of Natural Resource’s maintenance site near the river, and will just have to wait for the day when it will be full of baby sturgeon later this spring. Many thanks to our tribal partners, the Gun Lake Tribe, for helping us set up the trailer and leading egg collection efforts.  In  April, we hope for the trailer’s full deployment at the trailer site, thereby fulfilling its role in Lake Michigan’s lake sturgeon restoration efforts.