Dragonfly Culture…A Continuing Education Species!


A Hine’s emerald dragonfly in the cage during a monthly health check. Credit: Angela Baran Dagendesh, USFWS

After working with the Hine’s emerald dragonfly for almost 20 years, both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and University of South Dakota are finding out there is still much to learn! At the beginning of the captive rearing program at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) in 2014, there were thought to be three “absolutes” regarding the species (later found to be assumptions!)

Number 1: After the eggs were deposited by the females in the wetlands, they would develop to the point of eye spots over the summer and fall and then hold off at that point until spring. Number 2: In March or April 95% of the eggs would complete development and then begin hatching right around April 1st for about 2-3 weeks total. Number 3: The larvae would grow and molt through several instars over the next 3-5 years before they were ready to emerge.

In the first year of working with the larvae at Genoa NFH, the Hine’s emerald dragonfly shattered assumption Number 3! By having a plentiful food source available to them in the hatchery ponds, the larvae went from newly hatched to their last instar during that summer, with some of them emerging the following spring. Early concerns were that the emerging dragonflies would be under-developed or not up to the normal adult size, possibly causing issues with reproduction. Measurements taken on the newly emerged adults laid those concerns to rest, the dragonflies were up to normal size and no issues with flight were seen as they were released. In following years, the Illinois Dragonfly Rearing Facility managed by University of South Dakota and the DuPage Forest Preserve District’s Urban Stream Research Center began to change their rearing techniques. They incorporated more natural water sources with a larger variety of zooplankton and experienced similar growth patterns. So it would seem the dragonfly larvae grow according to temperature, water availability and food availability, similar to most other aquatic species.

In the second year of the grant, the hatchery received eggs to hatch out, and the Hine’s emerald dragonfly decided to shatter assumption Number 2! That year, the eggs hatched over a three month span, it is thought perhaps they were placed in the cooler to go dormant over the winter too soon, throwing off development timeline. This pattern is still being studied and has repeated over the last couple years.

Dragonfly larva being weighed at the end of
the growing season. Credit: Angela Baran
Dagendesh, USFWS

During the summer months of 2017, the dragonfly shattered the final assumption remaining, that they would only hatch in the spring. Eggs collected early in the summer began hatching a couple of weeks after they were collected. Originally it was thought this was a survival technique, by holding off until spring, the resulting larvae would be hatching at a time when the water would be warming and food would be present. This pattern was seen again over the summer in 2018, but the early hatching larvae in 2017 still grew enough to have sufficient energy stored to survive the winter and continue growing the following spring. Perhaps the survival technique is still the reasoning, but on years when the weather supports it, they can start the process early.

This species continually challenges all partners working with it and with each passing year, a wealth of knowledge continues to be collected. This knowledge is applied to each facility in different ways for new methods of rearing and has made huge impacts to the recovery programs. To date, 2018 seems to be a successful year, 43 newly emerged adult dragonflies were released in Illinois, bringing the total released since 2016 up to 64 individuals. After working with fish and mussels, these numbers seem very small, but when you consider the Illinois population is estimated at 86-313 total adults each year it gives hope for the future of the species. This summer was also a good one for egg collections, with more than 3500 collected in Illinois and over 2000 eggs collected from the Wisconsin population. So early indications show there should be a strong year class in 2019. The hope and goal of the program is to stabilize the genetically diverse population in Illinois and then to increase the population and begin to restore historic habitats throughout their range.

A Long Journey Ahead: Eggs to Brood Stock



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.

Interpretive Center Open: Volunteers are vital to welcoming visitors

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

Posted in NFH

Keep Your Eye on the Prize: Continuing restoration of Higgins’Eye pearlymussel to the Chippewa River

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


Lake Sturgeon tagging nearly complete… Let the Stocking Begin !!!

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


Unveiling of the Great River Road Interpretive Center

Dignitaries Congressman Ron Kind, Wisconsin 3rd District (left), Tom Melius (center) USFWS Midwest Region Director and Sherry Quamme, Chair of Wisconsin Mississippi River Parkway Commission dedicate the interpretive center. Credit: Megan Bradley , USFWS

We at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are pleased to announce the opening of the Great River Road Interpretive Center in Genoa, Wisconsin. Regional Director Tom Melius joined Congressman Ron Kind and other dignitaries to mark the grand opening at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery on June 1, 2018. A large, eye-catching, yellow and white tent stood on the grounds of the hatchery as a crowd of staff, supporters, friends and local-area families gathered in anticipation of the celebration.

Nearly five years in the making, construction of the center began on August 21, 2013 with a commemorative groundbreaking ceremony on hatchery grounds. The project was partially funded by a National Scenic Byways grant, making Genoa the first national fish hatchery to be awarded Department of Transportation, Federal Highway – National Scenic Byways funds.

“This center represents an exciting achievement as it was made possible due to a first-of-its-kind grant to a national fish hatchery,” said Melius.

Those in attendance enjoyed a beautiful day as they gathered for the formal dedication ceremony near the new interpretive center. Credit: Megan Bradley, USFWS

As part of the celebration Congressman Ron Kind of Wisconsin’s 3rd District presented the hatchery with a framed statement for the Congressional Record in honor of the opening. “I am honored to be here in Genoa celebrating the opening of the Great River Road Interpretive Center, which honors a precious natural resource and economic engine in western Wisconsin – the Mississippi River,” said Kind.

The new facility offers visitors opportunities to learn about the natural resources of the Upper Mississippi River. Educational exhibits go beyond the story of the hatchery and feature significant histories of the area, including how native mussels were a part of the pearl button industry and the Battle of Bad Axe, the final battle of the Black Hawk War.

“We’re hoping that people get an appreciation of the region, not only the intrinsic value of the natural resources, but also the history,” said Genoa National Fish Hatchery Manager Doug Aloisi.

The center is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on weekends. There is no fee for entry.

Learn more about the Genoa National Fish Hatchery and plan your visit!


Mudpuppies Ready for Service

Mudpuppy eggs laid on the under side of a piece of plywood. Credit: USFWS

A mudpuppy ready for use as a salamander mussel host. Credit: USFWS


The salamander mussel is the only North American freshwater mussel that uses something other than a fish as its larval host. The mudpuppy, a large salamander, is the known host of the salamander mussel, and they can be difficult to collect for use in mussel propagation. Through partnerships with the USGS we were able to acquire a population of adult mudpuppy to use as captive broodstock for propagation. In June 2016 we collected eggs from a successful spawn of our captive broodstock in one of the hatchery ponds. We then rolled the eggs in an egg jar as we do for walleye or trout until they hatched. From there the young continued to develop and were given a diet of brine shrimp until they were large enough to eat frozen bloodworms. Their diet has consisted solely of frozen bloodworms ever since, with the exception of a small batch of crayfish after pond harvest last fall.For the last year they have been held in a recirculating system in the mussel building at a constant temperature of 70° Fahrenheit. Over that time the animals have constantly gained about two grams of weight each per month. In fish culture we generally think of weight as the number of fish per pound, and using that metric our mudpuppies are currently at 10 per pound. The reason that we’ve raised this batch of mudpuppy is for them to serve as hosts for propagation of the salamander mussel at Genoa NFH. Salamander mussel glochidia attach to the gills and skin of the mudpuppy and transform from larvae to juveniles over the course of a few weeks in the spring. Last year we felt that the young mudpuppies were too small to serve as effective hosts, but this year they will be the focal point of our restoration efforts. It took a year to gather the broodstock and ultimately two additional years to grow the animals, but now we are ready to take our salamander mussel restoration efforts to the next level. Not all mussel restoration projects take this much planning and effort, but in unique cases it is good to know that we have the ability to solve an issue like access to the suitable host.



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

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

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).