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

Hot Time on a Cold Pond! Kids Ice Fishing Day Hits the Hard Water


The weather outside wasn’t quite frightful, but it was coolish for a Wisconsin winter this February 3rd for the Genoa WI) National Fish Hatchery’s annual Kids Ice Fishing Day. The event, sponsored by our shared Friends Group with the Midwest Fisheries Center (the Friends of the Upper Miss), has sponsored this event and our spring Kids Fishing Day for over a decade now. The event has grown from a small event of less than 100 people, to a much anticipated outdoor extravaganza with 648 people attending!

Three hundred and thirty children ages 5-12 participated in the fishing event, with the majority of them catching their 3 fish limit of rainbow trout. Lots of smiles were on hand, as some children caught their first fish through the ice. This is a great family event also, as parents and guardians are invited to help mentor their child as they learn to ice fish. A warming tent and plenty of hot chocolate was supplied to keep the participants comfortable, and after the fishing was done a light lunch was supplied to kids and adults alike. The food and drink was generously supplied and served by our Friends group. Genoa NFH and Midwest Fisheries Center staff were also on hand to supply bait and ice fishing gear and offer up some ice fishing safety tips and ice fishing techniques to help the kids be successful and safe.

Judging by the size of the smiles at the end of the day, it looked like we have some new ice fishing enthusiasts in the making, and may just have made a family memory or two that will be cherished and revisited in the upcoming years. Hopefully a seed for loving the outdoors and desiring to preserve it will grow and be passed along to this next generation of conservationists as well.

By Doug Aloisi




Thanks so much for all of your hard work in the preparation and execution of the Kids Ice Fishing Day at Genoa NFH on Saturday February 3 this year.

We had 648 attendees, volunteers, Friends and staff from the 3 La Crosse area Fisheries Offices at the event, the largest attendance so far. To top this off most of the promotion for the event was contained to social media or just word of mouth. Included in this number were 330 children, our targeted audience. Many smiles were witnessed and everyone that attended caught at least one fish.


Thanks again for all that you do for our Mississippi Basin fish and wildlife resources and for helping us put the love of the outdoors into the next generation through events like these!

Sincerely, doug

Doug Aloisi,Genoa National Fish Hatchery

Requests Pouring in for Fish


While winter settles in at Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) spring planning kicks into high gear. In many professions, the arrival of winter can bring about a slower pace but at the hatchery there is no time to slow down. Planning for the upcoming production cycle begins almost immediately after the previous fish go out the door. It is important for staff at Genoa NFH to prepare and plan to make sure all of the appropriate pieces are in place. This entails prepping culture buildings for incoming eggs, repairing nets for spawning activities, and compiling fish requests from tribal, federal, and state partners. Biologists at the hatchery send out fish request forms to all partners which compile their fish needs and report them back to the hatchery staff.

This allows the hatchery to determine pond space and rearing tanks needed to make sure these requests can be met. In the event that Genoa NFH does not raise the fish that partners sometimes need we can help coordinate partners with others to help find the fish they are after. The staff also attends various fish meetings where requests can be shared with one another. This process allows Genoa NFH to gain access to fish that are not normally raised on station.

Some good examples are the acquisition of Golden Shiners and Mudpuppies that are used for mussel propagation. All incoming or outgoing fish are passed through a rigorous series of fish health examinations to ensure that no possible pathogens are passed among stations and all partners are receiving certified healthy fish.

All this is going on during the time we are collecting and caring for eggs from our fall spawning species such as lake herring, brook and rainbow trout. These species hatch out in the winter months and will need special care and attention to ensure that they acclimate to commercial starter diets, and begin their cycle of life.

By Aaron Von Eschen

Coaster Brook Trout Spawning from Isle Royale

  In October of 2017 USFWS hatchery staff from Genoa National Fish Hatchery(OreyEckes) and Iron River National Fish Hatchery (Brandon Keesler) partnered with Ashland Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office staff  (Henry Quinlan and Evan Boone) to collect coaster brook trout eggs from Isle Royale (Tobin Harbor).


Fyke nets were set daily to collect adult spawning coaster brook trout from historical spawning locations. As the fish swim along the shore they are guided into the net. Nets are checked daily until the desired number of adult spawning pairs is collected.





Biological data is collected from all the coaster brook trout that are captured in the nets. This data helps fisheries managers better manage and assess the population.





Length and weight data is collected to understand growth rates in the wild and determine the age of the fish.





Each coaster brook trout was also PIT tagged.  These tags help track individual fish movement and growth. These tags give each fish an unique tag number making them easier to identify when recaptured.



Eggs were collected from 20 females and milt from 40 males to create a brood stock with 40 families. The eggs were transported back to the Genoa National Fish Hatchery for incubation.






Eggs were collected from 20 females and milt from 40 males to create a brood stock with 40 families. The eggs were transported back to the Genoa National Fish Hatchery for incubation.





Currently the eggs are over a month old and now have eye spots. They will remain at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery until they are about 10 inches before they are transferred to the Iron River National Fish Hatchery to be used as a future brood stock.

By Orey Eckes


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 species, 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.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.

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