The Genoa hatchery staff is happy to announce that we are now able to staff the Great River Road Interpretive Center this November with former National Park Service Park Ranger Raena Parsons. Raena joins us as our new Environmental Education Specialist. Raena earned her Bachelor’s degree at Eastern Washington University in 2010, and promptly began her federal career as an intern with the Bureau of Land Management. She also interned with the National Park Service at San Juan Island National Historical Park, and became a full time biological technician at the Historical Park in the same year. She also continued her education, earning her Master’s degree in Environmental Education from Western Washington University. Raena, her husband and daughter made the trek east and arrived just before Thanksgiving. She enjoys family activities, outdoor sports such as rock climbing, running and just plain getting outside. You will find Raena in our new Interpretive Center getting acclimated to our ongoing programs and preparing to build upon a conservation legacy in the community and the Upper Mississippi River Region.
Tagged lake sturgeon ready for release. Credit: USFWS
Fish Biologist James Boase checks tag presence before stocking. Credit: USFWS
Every fall tens of thousands of lake sturgeon depart their temporary home at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) and begin their lives out in the wild, beginning the long process of maturing into 20 plus year old fish that are capable of reproducing on their own. Lake sturgeon populations have been severely reduced throughout their native range the past century due to human influenced effects such as over harvest, dam construction blocking spawning migrations, and degraded water quality. This year two far off restorations took hatchery crew over 500-1000 miles away in order to restore this intriguing species to two river systems within its native range. Genoa NFH was part of a cooperative effort to return lake sturgeon to the Maumee River, Ohio for the first time since they disappeared from the system in the mid 1900’s. This October, 2,400 fingerling lake sturgeon were transported the 9.5 hours to Toledo, Ohio where they were part of the first release ceremony in a cooperative release effort with the Toledo Zoo.
The fish were tagged with a PIT tag, or Passive Integrated Transponder tag, that transmits a unique tag number to an electronic reader when scanned, much the same as a tag that may be used to tag domestic house pets. They were then
released safely into the waters of the Maumee. The next week, over 12,000 fingerling lake sturgeon were transported over 1,000 miles away to assist the New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s sturgeon restoration efforts. This year the waters of New York benefited by having another year class of lake sturgeon to grow and thrive in the St. Lawrence River, New York and Lake Ontario watersheds. These multiple year restoration programs ensure that lake sturgeon population numbers and genetic diversity are at levels that can begin to rebuild populations naturally once these long lived species begin to multiply on their own again. In these instances, long range partnerships provide great dividends for natural resource conservation in two distant states.
By Doug Aloisi, Genoa NFH
BY: HENRY QUINLAN, EVAN BOONE, BRANDON KEESLER AND OREY ECKES
Fish biologist Henry Quinlan with the Ashland FWCO holds a 24 inch coaster brook
trout captured during the 2018 gamete collection in Tobin Harbor on Isle Royale
National Park. Credit: USFWS
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) annually stocks more than a million brook trout of different life stages across the country. In the Midwest region, Iron River National Fish Hatchery (NFH) maintains a captive line of Isle Royale strain coaster brook trout for stocking in Lake Superior waters in support of the Brook Trout rehabilitation plan.
To maintain genetic diversity within the brood stock, new brood lines are periodically developed. Every three to five years biologists from the USFWS Ashland Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, Iron River NFH and Genoa NFH travel to Isle Royale National Park to collect gametes from the self-sustaining coaster brook trout population in Tobin Harbor. Brook trout spawning occurs in October at Isle Royale National Park. In Tobin Harbor, fish spawn along the shoreline in a mixture of sand, gravel and cobble substrate.
Fish are collected throughout Tobin Harbor using fyke nets placed along the shoreline. Nets are monitored on a daily basis and length, weight, sex and reproductive condition data are collected from all brook trout captured. If the fish are releasing gametes, they are transferred to a temporary holding pen for spawning. Spawning commences once we collect enough ripe adults to meet our target number of families. Milt from males is collected in individual containers and checked under a microscope for sperm motility. This test determines if the milt is active and helps prevent failed fertilization. Approximately 600 eggs are collected from each female, roughly one-half to one quarter of the total produced. After milt and egg collection the fish are released back to the wild. Eggs collected from each female are evenly divided into two batches and each batch is fertilized with milt from one male creating two families per female.
Hatchery biologists from Iron River NFH and Genoa NFH collect eggs from a female
brook trout in Tobin Harbor during the 2018 gamete collection. Credit: USFWS
The fertilized eggs are then transported from Isle Royale National Park to an isolation rearing facility at Genoa NFH in Genoa, Wisconsin. There they are incubated and the newly hatched fish raised for 18 months during which time they undergo several fish health inspections by staff at the USFWS La Crosse Fish Health Laboratory in Onalaska, Wisconsin. If the brood class passes three fish health inspections and are confirmed healthy, they are transported to Iron River NFH in Iron River, Wisconsin where they are incorporated into the coaster brook trout brood program to produce offspring for restoration stocking by USFWS and partner fishery agencies in Lake Superior.
The Genoa hatchery at long last opened our interpretive center this summer. This was due to the help of a cast of thousands as we like to say, as it really took the inspiration and creativity of thousands to make the dream of bringing this building to life. The building tells many different stories of the Region and its natural surroundings, but also includes the unique history and story of conservation of the Upper Mississippi Region. Helping us in this adventure was our Friends Group, and our local area volunteers. They have contributed to the telling of these stories by creating and staffing the gift store throughout the summer. The store features educational items on local history such as the Blackhawk War, and the rich history of the River Region.
The building also attracted some of our closest neighbors who volunteer their time to staff the building. Dave and Rosie Liggett, recently retired from the ministry and have an interest in the hatchery and the history of the Region. Their grandchildren consider feeding the trout one of the highlights of visiting the grandparents, and they make many trips over to our feeding station to do their part to make them grow! Dave and Rosie greet visitors with a smile and help guide them through the building and its exhibit rooms. They also keep and tidy ship, which also reflects their gift of stewardship. Many accolades and thanks to Dave and Rosie, and all of our Friends Group members and volunteers who make our mission of conservation and stewardship that much more achievable!
By: Doug Aloisi
One of the objectives at Genoa National Fish Hatchery is restoring species, whether that be to levels needed for recreation or to recover a species from endangerment. If you’ve taken a tour of the hatchery, walked through the new interpretive center or spent some time talking with or volunteering with our biologists you’ve probably heard of the Higgins’Eye pearlymussel. This is a mussel species that was one of the first listed as endangered in 1983, and the hatchery has been involved with its recovery for more than 15 years, rearing the species in cages, in the Mobile Aquatic Rearing System and in SUPSYs. But beginning in 2017, biologists from the hatchery partnered with other USFWS and WI DNR biologists to identify reaches of the Chippewa river (photo above on right) where the species can be restored, following many decades of absence. Many days were spent boating, snorkeling and diving looking for surrogate species that live in similar habitats and that use the same hosts to find the best places to start. 2017 saw the first reintroduction of the species into the Chippewa, when 3,000 tagged mussels (photo above on left) were carefully placed into the substrate of the river and August 2018 saw a similar release, expanding the species range in the river by more than 5 miles. Now, these 6,000 mussels may seem like a very small drop in the bucket of species recovery, but this new pop-ulation, free from the risk of zebra mussels, moves the species closer to the possibility of recovery, especially as three additional sites are targeted for its reintroduction over the next 5 years.
By: Megan Bradley
Volunteer Don Schroeder tagging lake sturgeon at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery.
Partners working together to place passive integrated transponder tags into lake sturgeon headed for stocking to the Saginaw and Maumee River.
This year Genoa National Fish Hatchery staff collected eggs from the Wolf, Wisconsin, Rainy, St. Clair and St. Lawrence Rivers. Throughout the summer hatchery biologists, pathways students and Youth Conservation Corp. enrollees have their hands full feeding and caring for lake sturgeon. During the summer months of intensive culture, sturgeon are fed a diet of brine shrimp, bloodworms and krill at least three times daily. Near the end of the summer with ideal water temperatures lake sturgeon average 6-8 inches in length. Once reaching this length all sturgeon are coded wire tagged, which gives them a batch identification number and allows resource managers to assess future population growth and survival.
Hatchery staff rely heavily on partnerships between Friends Groups, school groups and other volunteers to assist with tagging the many strains of sturgeon before they leave station. The mission of the Friends Groups coincides with the Fish and Wildlife Service mission of conserving and protecting America’s Fish and Wildlife resources and their habitat for the continuing benefit of people. This year the Friends of Pools 8 and 9, as well as many other volunteers assisted with tagging, sample counting and checking for tag retention. Once these fish are tagged they are ready for transport to many locations from Northern Minnesota to Southern Tennessee and west to South Dakota and east as far as New York in support of continued restoration efforts.
Lake sturgeon stocking has just begun at the hatchery with the stocking of 7,500 lake sturgeon to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Lake sturgeon are considered endangered in the state of Tennessee, therefore TWRA prioritizes the restoration of Lake Sturgeon to the upper Tennessee River system. This restoration program began in 1998 and its goal is to restore populations of lake sturgeon in the upper Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. This is one of the many lake sturgeon restoration efforts continuing at Genoa National Fish Hatchery. This year with the help of many volunteers and partners the hatchery tagged nearly 70,000 sturgeon with coded wire tags and 4,000 with passive integrated transponder tags. Once the remaining fish are tagged our stocking season will wrap up with an early October stocking trip to the Saginaw, Maumee and St. Lawrence Rivers. By: Orey Eckes