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      doug_aloisi@fws.gov       www.fws.gov/midwest/genoa


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


Update on Great Lakes Programs at Genoa NFH

Staff from the Jordan River and Iron River National Fish Hatcheries (NFH) and Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) were out on Lake Huron, near the Les Cheneaux Islands collecting cisco (Coregonusartedi) eggs for current restoration initiatives taking place within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

After trawling, eggs are collected from ripe females

The eggs arrived on station in mid November and were incubated until hatching began in early January. The hatching of this species at Genoa NFH marks a historical event at the station as it is the first time these fish are being raised here, and the first time that they have been raised at a federal facility since the early 1900’s.

                                            Eyed up’ cisco eggs almost ready to hatch

As the eggs began to hatch an equal number of eggs from each pair of spawned adults were separated into distinct lots of fish that will makeup future broodstock to be used in helping to restore this species. The importance of this fish species lies primarily in its role as a native prey species for the Great Lakes systems. Restoring the numbers of native ciscos helps to balance the native food web structure and function.

Newly hatched cisco fry at Genoa   






Native prey species such as ciscos were hindered by the introduction of invasive species, habitat degradation, and commercial harvest. Once passing a series of three fish health certifications they will be transferred to Jordan River NFH in Michigan, once there they will serve as a captive broodstock for recovery efforts. In a continuing effort to reestablish native prey species in the Great Lakes system Genoa NFH will be partnering again with Jordan River NFH, Iron River NFH, Alpena FWCO,and the Green Bay FWCO to collect bloater chubs. Bloater chubs (Coregonus hoyi) are a member of the whitefish family and are also an important part of the prey fish community in the Great Lakes and serve an important role in many predator prey relationships.  Bloater chubs have experienced a decline in the Great Lakes due to commercial fishing, habitat degradation and an invasion of non native species such as invasive plankton, alewife, and zebra and quagga mussels. Because of these invasive species many of the native aquatic species in the Great Lakes are negatively affected.  These species like all invasive species tend to quickly establish themselves andsoon become a fierce competitor for food and niche space for native species. A top priority with Great Lakes managers has been to recover native species to provide a better balance in food web structure and function. The new quarantine systems at Genoa NFH will serve an extremely important role in developing future captive broodstocks for both of these native species. The station needs a safely contained area to develop these key species as well as provide opportunities to research and learn about these fish. The knowledge gained from the captive care of these fish will help the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service better manage and reach its goals of developing and maintaining Great Lakes fisheries from the bottom up. Keep watch for more updates on how the programs are progressing. By Aaron Von Eschen




Mussel Biologists Dazzled by 50,000 Juvenile Winged Mapleleaf Mussels



Displaying winged mapleleaf  Credit: Megan Bradley, USFWS

Each fall, hatchery biologists working with U.S. Park Service staff, Minnesota DNR mussel biologists and staff from other U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offices visit the St. Croix River as many as 15 times looking for the federally endangered Winged Mapleleaf that thrive in the clean, clear water. Females holding mussel larvae are brought back to Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH), the larvae (glochidia) are allowed to attach to channel  catfish and then the female mussels are returned to the St. Croix River.  In the wild the larval mussels remain attached to the catfish until late spring when the water begins to warm. Hatchery staff has worked hard to replicate this experience for the catfish and their mussel  riders in the lab but it has proven to be challenging. In late fall 2016 Genoa’s mussel biologists moved 38 channel catfish, just a small part of the 410 infested with winged mapleleaf more than a month before into an aquarium system where they are warmed up to replicate spring’s warming water temperatures.  By the week of Thanksgiving the first juvenile winged mapleleaf of 2016 were collected. The first vision of newly transformed juvenile mussels is more akin to stars in a very dark sky. Only by putting the dish on the  microscope do the tiny moving spots take on the shell and foot characteristic of their adult counterparts. Juvenile mussels are counted on the microscope by estimating the number in each square of the dish. Some days this takes ten minutes, other days it can take an hour. Every other day, juveniles are collected, counted and moved from their dish into the system where they’ll eat and grow. Winged mapleleaf are a challenging species to culture and are especially delicate when young, thus the reason for our excitement!

Viewing Juvenile winged mapleleaf under a microscope

Credit: Megan Bradley, USFWS

Kids Ice Fishing Clinic, Saturday, Feb 4, 2017

Sponsored by Friends of the Upper Mississippi River and

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

The following is the itinerary for our Annual Ice Fishing Day for children 5 to 12 years old, which will be held at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery, Genoa, WI on Saturday February 4, 2017. 

 Genoa National Fish Hatchery, S5631 State Hwy 35, Genoa, WI,   


8:30am to 9:00am Registration
9:00am to 9:15am Ice Safety & Ice Fishing Tips
9:15 a.m. to 12:00 Open Fishing
12:00 to 12:30 Lunch/Dismissal


A light lunch will be provided in a heated tent.  Fishing poles, bait and tackle will be provided by the Friends of the Upper Mississippi.

Open Fishing session will end at 12:00 noon and participants will be dismissed.

 The event is weather dependent.  We will announce the cancellation of this event on the Genoa National Fish Hatchery Facebook page and the following local radio stations WVRQ, 98.3 and Cow 97.1 by 8:00 a.m. the morning of the event.

 Due to the Chance of Introducing Fish Diseases,

No Outside Bait will be allowed on the premises.

A Warming Tent will be provided.  Due to spaces concerns no portable ice fishing tents are allowed for this event.

Children must be accompanied by an adult.


Darla Wenger, Administrative Officer, Genoa National Fish HatcheryS5631 State Hwy 35,

Genoa WI 54632  www.fws.gov/midwest/genoa/   Phone: (608) 689.2605   Fax:     (608) 689.2644

Email:  darla_wenger@fws.gov


Driftless area stream stocked mussels appear to be doing well

Farmers Creek is a small stream in eastern Iowa. It flows into the Makoqueta system that ultimately reaches the Mississippi River. Years ago the mussel population there was decimated by the breech of a manure holding pond during a rain event. Since 2007 Genoa NFH has been routinely stocking fatmucket and a few other assorted species in Farmers Creek. So far we have releasedover 5,000 sub adult fatmucket in Farmers Creek with either a glue dot or hallprint shellfish tags. Iowa DNR fisheries biologists have been watching these animals whenever possible to monitor survival and look for signs of recruitment. Recently a trip to the stream recovered three fatmucket shells that had likely been found first by raccoons. Other visits have shown that the older animals have reached maturity and are brooding larvae during the spawning season. The final step in this process is to document that the established population has begun to reproduce on their own. It will take lots of searching, but the ultimate goal of any restoration program is to show that the stocked mussels have survived and carried on the life cycle to the next generation.

By Nathan Eckert

Recent fresh dead fatmucket mussels. Photo Credit: Scott Gritters