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.




Thank you one and all for your support in executing another successful ice fishing outing this past Saturday for Kids and their families.

We had over 600 people on the ice counting staff and volunteers, with 315 children registered for the event.  There were a total of 564 attendees, counting children and their parents.  I am passing along a few pictures of the happy throng, with a couple of pics of kids with their catch.

Thanks again for all that you do and for growing kids up to appreciate their outdoor heritage.

Doug Aloisi, Genoa National Fish Hatchery , S 5631 State Highway 35, Genoa WI 54632

608-689-2605     608-689-2644 fax


A Bit of Local History is Unearthed at Genoa

One of the great things about being located in a small community (where everyone knows your name), is that good people are always interested in the programs and activities of the local community, including our station. One of the big interests currently is the Great River Road Interpretive Center that is being constructed this winter at the Genoa hatchery. Even though the project seems to be taking a long time to complete, many people still mention that they are very anxious to see the completed project. Others, hearing that there will be a local history exhibit in the building, have also volunteered sources and other historical items of local interest to be included in the project. Historians and local authors have also reached out to share their wealth of knowledge in order to interpret the breadth of history that we are blessed with in the local area. One such historian, William Burke, stopped in to check on how the building was coming along. He also passed along a very interesting piece of history that we were unaware of. In 1910, a paddle wheel steamboat that was used as a touring/excursion boat caught fire and sank just out-side the hatchery exterior dikes.

    J.S steamboat before engulfed in flames

The steamboat J.S. was returning from La Crosse to its destination of Lansing Iowa on June 25th,1910 with over 1000 passengers. The ship departed at 6 p.m. from La Crosse, and was almost directly adjacent to Bad Axe Island when fire broke out. This location is just south of the hatchery exterior dikes. After some quick thinking by the captain and crew, the boat made shore on Bad Axe Island to offload its passengers. Most made it off by the gangplank; however about 2-300 passengers had to jump in the river from the upper deck as the first deck was totally engulfed in flames. The evacuation resulted in at least one tragic death, a young married woman that was pregnant with the couple’s first child. The only other casualty was a male passenger that purportedly was under arrest for drunkenness in the hold, and may have allegedly been responsible for starting the blaze by careless smoking. Once the passengers disembarked, the captain and a skeleton crew directed the burning ship back into the channel to get it away from the passengers on the island and it floated directly downstream and sunk burning to the waterline.

                                                         Aftermath of the devastating fire

Passengers spent the better part of the night marooned on Bad Axe Island, being rescued by local boats that wrapped up the rescue mission by 3:30 a.m. that morning. We are looking forward to telling this story as part of local history very soon when the Interpretive Center makes its grand opening. By Doug Aloisi





                        Salvage crew working on the sunken J.S steamboat