Pond Production Season Begins

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A smallmouth bass nest. Photo by Nick Bloomfield/USFWS.

Spring time means love is in the air at Genoa NFH. All of the brood fish we have on station, which includes Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Bluegill, Black Crappie, Yellow Perch, Fathead Minnow, and Golden Shiner, were moved into their own ponds in March. These species are all suited for spawning in lentic environments, where there is no flow. This is in contrast to the spawning habits of fish like Walleye and Lake Sturgeon, where we need to spawn the fish manually and puts the eggs in a jar that mimics the flowing lotic environment until hatch occurs. This is much more labor intensive than the natural spawning that occurs in the ponds. All that we need to do for these brood fish is maintain water quality until it comes time to do some harvesting. Hopefully, these brood fish haven’t heard all the talk about social distancing and the hatchery will be crawling with little fish destined for areas throughout the Midwest and as future hosts for our mussel program!

By: Nick Bloomfield

Visitors Learn Wisconsin Frog Calls

 

 

 

Attendees listen to Frog Monitoring Volunteer, Ben Johnston, as he describes the mnemonics of frog calls. Photo by USFWS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

36 people made their way to the interpretive center on Saturday, March 7 to learn about Wisconsin frog calls. Ben Johnston, volunteer frog monitor for Wisconsin DNR, taught audience members 11 frog calls and 1 toad call. Participants had an opportunity prior to and after the event to view living frogs, make a frog life cycle, or make a jumping frog. A huge thank you to Ben Johnston for providing such an interesting presentation! By Raena Parsons

Spring is Almost in the Air at Genoa National Fish Hatchery!

 

Walleye nets are hung on a fence in spring. Photo by USFWS.

The weather has not able to make up it’s mind this year at Genoa, we have warmed up several times and then received snowstorms right after! In between the snow and rain, hatchery staff have been busy getting the station ready for the spring field season. The buildings have been sprayed down, cleaned up, tanks are getting set up, spawning ponds were set up with air stones and screens and nets are getting prepped for the river. As soon as tanks were set up in the Sturgeon Building, we began draining our host fish pond after it finally warmed up enough to melt most of the ice on the pond, allowing us to harvest the fish. Every fall, Genoa National Fish Hatchery will harvest the production ponds, collecting enough fish first for the mussel program and then any fish beyond that will be used for fish requests or to help out our state partners. The host fish then will either be used immediately for mussels that brood in the fall or will hang out over the winter to be used in the spring or summer the following year. Because of space constraints at the hatchery, the fish will over winter either in the mussel building, sturgeon building or in one of the hatchery ponds. The most of the fish kept in the mussel building will be the ones inoculated in the fall with either Winged Mapleleaf or Washboard Mussels. Access to the colder pond water helps to keep the channel catfish closer to their normal temperatures, reducing stress on the fish and the growing mussels over the winter. The sturgeon building only has access to well water over the winter, so the golden shiners and largemouth bass will spend their time in in there. They are much better suited to the more constant water temperatures. The remaining channel catfish not used, smallmouth bass and walleyes will spend the winter in the pond. These species survive much better following the normal cooling down and warming up of the water outside, and the extra space reduces stress on the fish as well. By Angela Baran-Dagendesh

Volunteers show up to support mussels by building mussel cages

Every year the mussel program at Genoa places mussel cages in the waters of the Upper Mississippi River from the St. Croix River down to Dubuque, IA. Some of these cages will spend multiple summers in the river before they require repair, but the undeniable truth is that eventually the environment wins and the wire cages rust to the point they must be repaired. On February 26th,, March 4th and March 11th a total of 18 volunteers from the Friends of Pool 9 and Friends of the Upper Mississippi gathered in the shop at the hatchery to repair damaged mussel cages. A large pile of cages needed repair this year. Our first day was dedicated to preparing cage tops and bases for new wire and plywood. This meant that on days two and three the group quickly got to work riveting new wire onto empty cage top frames and plywood to bases. These volunteers have been repairing cages at Genoa NFH for over 10 years. When the dust had settled, over the 3 days, volunteers had stripped and repaired 34 tops and bases. For their efforts the volunteers were treated to a lunch of burgers and all the sides. A good time was had by all and the hatchery staff is very appreciative of all the many hours that were saved by this dedicated group of volunteers. Thank you! By Megan Bradley

 

 

Great River Road Center Opens New Exhibit

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Images of the construction of Lock & Dam No. 8 are now on display, such as the image above

The Great River Road Interpretive Center has a new exhibit to call its own. We are proud to be able to display the history of the construction of Lock and Dam 8 on the Mississippi River built just up the road from the hatchery at the Genoa Wisconsin site. This pictorial history is being displayed in the local history room of the Center, and was compiled by local historian Anne Muirhead. Included is the method of diverting the mighty Mississippi to allow for construction, the construction of the retaining dike and spillway, the construction of the locks using historic steam shovels, and pictures of the local crews of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The WPA was a depression era work program initiated by the Roosevelt Administration to put people back to work on public works projects across the country. Also included in the pictures is an image of a steam powered paddleboat moving down the River, the historic mode of transportation at the time. Paddleboats were used due to their low draft, or profile in the River, that allowed them to move through shallow areas safely without running aground in the pre-lock and Dams reaches of the River. Once the navigation system was constructed and in use, a navigation channel of 9 foot depth is now maintained, allowing the current barges to transport their goods on the River. The dike at Genoa is over 3.3 miles long and the dam structure is 934 feet long. The lock can accommodate barges with lengths of over 500 feet long, and typically moves over 16 million tons of cargo down the River annually. The Great River Road Interpretive Center was built as a collaborative effort with the National Scenic Byways Program and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and its mission is to educate and inform Great River Road travelers on the unique geography, natural history and local history of the region, while instilling a conservation message to the public. For more information about the center, please see our Facebook site, or feel free to call the station at 608-689-2605. By Doug Aloisi

Logperch Roll into Genoa National Fish Hatchery

By Megan Bradley, Genoa National Fish Hatchery Freshwater mussels are host specific, not just any fish will do. Snuffbox, a federally endangered species of mussel, depend on Logperch, a large darter that can grow up to approximately six inches and is found across the Midwest to transform their larvae into juvenile mussels. This fall a biologist with the Columbia Environmental Research Center in Missouri let us know that he’d had a great year raising Logperch in his ponds and we were able to pick them up in November. Five hundred Logperch arrived on station and were moved into quarantine. Logperch are a favored fish species because they learn very quickly to associate food with people and are charming when they beg for their breakfast with their rostrums (noses) out of the water. The Logperch are here to act as hosts for Snuffbox collected from the Wolf river system in the late fall. The hatchery is hosting three female Snuffbox collected from the Wolf River for the winter. Biologists from Genoa National Fish Hatchery and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources plan to infest the Logperch in the spring and then drop off and grow the juveniles for a couple of years before reintroducing the species back into Wolf River streams where the species has been extirpated

The Great Backyard Bird Count a Success at Genoa NFH

By Raena Parsons, Genoa NFH





Photo: Many bald eagles were seen during the Great Backyard Bird Count and family hike at Genoa NFH. Credit: Janet Smigielski

On Saturday February 15 volunteers with the Coulee Region Audubon Society led a family-friendly bird walk at Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH). 14 people of various ages made the trek to the hatchery to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). The GBBC is a worldwide citizen science project that takes place over four days every February where participants collect data on wild birds and can see results in near real-time. Participants counted 25 Bald Eagles, 6 Common Mergansers, 6 Killdeer, 1 Wilson’s Snipe, and 1 Peregrine Falcon during a 45 minute walk at the hatchery. A huge thank you goes out to the Audubon Society volunteers, Dan and Roger. This event would not have been possible without you!

Winter Fun also Means Fixing Stuff at Genoa NFH

By Doug Aloisi, Genoa NFH

Winter is typically a time where the hatchery staff can begin to repair the damage to our buildings and equipment, as well as add improvements that our maintenance staff would not be able to do during the production season. This winter was no exception, with maintenance necessary to equipment crucial to the operation of our offsite mussel rearing trailer. Also included was the installation of a new iron filter for removing iron from culture water before it is used on our walleye egg incubation battery. This raises the capacity of our previous iron filter by over 300%, which will allow us to increase water flows within the system to reduce fungus growth and increase egg survival. Also included within the system is the installation of a three phase pump with a variable frequency drive, which should save on the hatchery’s electric bill this coming spring. The station’s mussel trailer is a good object lesson on how hard life can get in a trailer down by the River. It started its life as a converted tool trailer back in 2009. In 10 years the flooring was developing soft spots and one of the interior walls was harboring a fungi species. After its 10th season in the field, the floor was fixed, walls were purged of mold and fungi and painted and new waterproof LED lighting was installed. Culture and UV systems were also maintained and readied for the coming spring deployment. The trailer is deployed at a local Corps of Engineers Campground which is adjacent to the mighty Mississippi. The River is the trailer’s water source, bringing with it the tiny microscopic particles the young mussel larvae need to survive, and is crucial to the success of Genoa’s mussel program. Now the only thing needed is the changing of the season. Even with the snow cover, the days are growing longer, and the staff is growing more anxious to put their new and renewed equipment through its paces. Come on spring!

Rainbows Depart for Warmer Pastures

 

You don’t see too many rainbows in Southwest Wisconsin in the middle of winter. That view is usually saved for thunderstorm season in the heat of the summer time. And if you were looking for a Rainbow this winter, you would find 8,000 less of them. That Rainbow, of course, is the Rainbow Trout, raised in Coulee Region of Southwest Wisconsin at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery. Due to some good quality eggs from the Ennis (MT) National Fish Hatchery, and good survival the hatchery was fortunate to have a surplus this year. It was fortuitous as our sister hatchery Neosho National Fish Hatchery in Missouri was limited in rearing space due to a construction project. The Neosho station found a weather window and sent two drivers up in December to pick up their new charges. 8,000 8 inch trout weighing a total of nearly 1800 pounds were loaded onto 2 trucks for the long 12 hour trek back to the Ozark Plateau of southern Missouri. Word back has it that they like southern Missouri just fine, and the 60 degree weather has sweetened their disposition and diet. They will be raised for roughly another 2 months and stocked as 11 inch fish in Lake Taneycomo, to mitigate for the federal water project of Table Rock Dam. The dam and its resulting deep cold water discharge eliminated a local smallmouth bass fishery below the water control structure. Rainbows like the cooler waters of the downstream Lake Taneycomo, and create a very popular fishery there. Plenty of Rainbows still remain in southwest Wisconsin, however. Plenty enough to brighten many fisherperson’s disposition and creels coming this spring for the trout season opener. Over 30,000 still await the spring trout season, when they should be 12 inch sticks of dynamite, just waiting to fight their way into a lucky creel. The trout will be used to create recreational fisheries on Midwestern tribal waters, in Fort McCoy Army base ponds, and also be used at Genoa’s kids fishing events, and limited accessibility fishing events. By Doug Aloisi

Tracking Lake Sturgeon Release in Maumee River

 

 

 

 

 

As part of a multi-agency effort (Toledo Zoo, USFWS, USGS, Ohio DNR, Michigan DNR, University of Toledo and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) lake sturgeon have been released for two consecutive years (as part of a 25-year stocking plan) into the Maumee River, a tributary of Lake Erie. A sturgeon trailer was deployed near the Toledo Zoo in 2018 to raise 1500 lake sturgeon on Maumee River water and for 1500 fish to be reared at Genoa National Fish Hatchery on hatchery supply water. To date 3,000 lake sturgeon have been stocked from the Genoa (WI) National Fish Hatchery. The project calls for paired releases of sturgeon from both locations for 25 years to reach a target self-sustaining population. Once fish are 6-8 inches at both locations, they are tagged with a PIT (passive integrated transponder) tag to monitor future growth, survival and adult returns during spawning. In addition, 40 fish from 2018 and 40 from 2019 were implanted with acoustic transmitters to track juvenile lake sturgeon movement, habitat use, and survival in the Maumee River and migration into Lake Erie. This data will be used to do address questions: 1) Do Lake Sturgeon reared in traditional or stream-side hatchery facilities show similar short-term survival rates after stocking? 2) Do juvenile Lake Sturgeon reared at traditional and stream-side facilities show similar post-release movement behaviors, and what type of habitat do juvenile Lake Sturgeon use after release? The acoustic transmitter project will go into 2020 to address these questions. To date sturgeon released in the Maumee River from both rearing locations (Toledo Zoo and Genoa) have made their way out to the western basin of Lake Erie. Also, an exciting bit of news just reached biologists this fall from a commercial fisherman operating in the western Lake Erie basin. He captured one of the stocked lake sturgeon from the 2018 year class. It had already reached a size of 18+ inches and after checking its PIT tag number, its origin was found to be from the Genoa facility. Pretty exciting news: a lake sturgeon travelled as egg from the east coast of Michigan (St. Clair River, to Wisconsin’s beautiful west coast as a larvae/fingerling (Genoa NFH) to juvenile release in the Maumee River, now traversing as a sub adult in the western basin of Lake Erie. One of our babies is growing up fast and making a name for itself! By: Orey Eckes