Fish Health Spring Hatchery Inspection

 Staff from the La Crosse Fish Health Center visited the hatchery as part of a bi-annual fish health inspection. The Fish Health Center provides fish health inspection and diagnostic services for six national fish hatcheries and numerous state and tribal hatcheries throughout the region. In the spring staff sample hatchery production fish for possible pathogens or diseases. The results of these inspections ensure quality fish being stocked in the fall each year. In addition to hatchery production samples, Genoa provides a variety of fish from the Mississippi River for the fish health center as part of ongoing national wild fish health survey. These sample collections and surveys allow fisheries managers to prevent and diagnose hatchery and wild populations of fish for pathogens or diseases. These results allow safe transport and stocking of healthy fish throughout the region. By: Orey Eckes


Genoa Partners with Wisconsin DNR to provide Northern Pikeand Walleye Eggs

Genoa National Fish Hatchery was contacted by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
with a request to supply Northern Pike and Walleye eggs for Lake Mills State Fish Hatchery, WI.
Northern Pike on the Mississippi River start spawning in early April just before ice out and for a few
weeks after the ice has cleared. Staff from the Genoa National Fish Hatchery set fyke nets in the
backwaters of the Mississippi River where the water is shallower and warmer during this time of year
to collect enough adults for spawning. Once enough adults were collected the eggs were fertilized
and WI DNR staff met GNFH staff to pick up the eggs and return them to Lake Mills Hatchery. Lake
Mills Fish Hatchery will rear these fish at the hatchery for stocking into state waterbodies in support of
sport fishing opportunities for anglers.

By: Orey Eckes


Hoop net in water and pike eggs being measured. Photo: USFWS










The Genoa mussel program is warming up for spring

If you’ve been reading the newsletter for a while, you’re aware of the cycle of the mussel propagation year. Winter is for managing data and making plans, while spring is for preparation, summer is busy with hands on work with the mussels on station or in the river, then fall is bringing in the animals we’ve raised and settling them in for the winter. We start by discussing plans and needs for the season with our various State and Federal partners, as well as the staff at the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque. Since we’ve already reviewed what was successful, or less so, last year we apply this information and begin to choose which systems we’ll use for which species and in what order we’ll do them. Some of our work includes digging through cages, preparing dive gear for another season and making sure the MARS trailer is ready. We’re still providing extensive care for several species of host fish and the many sub-adult mussels that are overwintering in the mussel building even as we finish construction on some new systems in the mussel building. By: Megan Bradley


Genoa Welcomes New Lead Biologist

Some exciting personnel shifts at the Genoa (WI) station occurred over the winter and as we approach our spring growing season. Orey Eckes was promoted to Assistant project leader leaving a vacancy in the lead biologist position. Nick Bloomfield, currently a fish biologist at the Genoa station since 2019, competed for and received a well deserved promotion to station lead biologist. Nick came to us from the Midwest Fisheries Center in LaCrosse (WI) where he was hired by now retired project leader Pam Thiel in 2011.
He worked for the LaCrosse Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office first as a biological technician, and then converting to fish biologist. Nick has demonstrated to work well within and beyond our agency, serving as the federal coordinator for such projects as the Red River MN lake sturgeon restoration efforts involving the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the White Earth and Red Lake tribes of Minnesota and the Rainy River First Nation Tribe of Ontario Canada. He has managed our pond program well these past 3 years, seeing an increase in the amount of walleye production going to both host fish for Endangered Freshwater Mussel Recovery and tribal and state conservation partners. His new responsibilities will include managing our Pathways internship enrollees and Youth Conservation Corps programs and being responsible for all pond production and management stockings, including distribution records and fish population management and growth records. Congratulations and welcome to the Jungle Nick!
By: Doug Aloisi

Nick collecting fish out of a pond. Photo: Erica Rasmussen/USFWS.

Winter Mussel Culture at GNFH

Mid-winter is typically the slowest culture season at the hatchery, but that’s also when the Mussel Culture Building is at its most full. During the summer and fall growing season, we’re busy producing and culturing juvenile mussels in the MARS trailer at Blackhawk Park, in collaboration with staff and volunteers with the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque, and in cages in GNFH ponds and other bodies of water. But at the end of the growing season, all of the newly produced mussels that weren’t large enough to be stocked into rivers are brought to the mussel building for winter culture. These juvenile and young ‘sub-adult’ mussels, which often number in the thousands, are kept in a flow-through system of rearing pans or in floating baskets in a raceway.

The mussel building in the winter. Photo: Beth Glidewell/USFWS.

Photo: Fully occupied Rearing Pan System, with flow-through pond water delivered to each pan. Photo credit: Beth Glidewell/USFWS.

Well water from other points at the hatchery still flows through ponds and culture buildings throughout the winter, providing the mussel building with ‘naturalized’ pond water at environmental temperatures (currently about 38-40°F). This pond water contains sufficient algal and bacterial nutrients to sustain mussels acclimated to winter temperatures. Maintaining these cultures through the winter involves weekly to bi-weekly cleaning of the pans, and daily checks that there is sufficient flow to each pan. With Wisconsin winter temperatures outside and a heated building, there is a balance of keeping the cold water flowing through the system—not freezing in the pipes or flow insufficient to keep the system from warming to inside room temperatures. It is a team effort to maintain this water supply, keep pumps operating, pipes unfrozen, and filter screens unclogged.

In addition to juvenile and sub-adult mussels, adult female mussels that were collected last fall to be used as next season’s broodstock are housed over winter in a raceway in the Mussel Building, too. Some mussel species are considered ‘long-term brooders’, where their natural reproductive pattern is to spawn in the late summer or fall and hold the eggs that develop into larvae the female’s marsupial gills until the spring when natural infestation of host fish would occur just as waters are warming. The Federally Endangered Higgin’s Eye Pearlymussel is one of a number of mussels that follow this pattern. For mussel production, we use this natural timing to collect gravid females in the fall when river conditions are conducive to SCUBA diving or snorkeling, house them over winter, and have viable glochidia at hand early in the spring, when it’s seasonally time to inoculate host fish, but river conditions (with variable spring thaw influences) are likely not as conducive to SCUBA as they were in the fall. Not all mussel species are long-term brooders, short term brooders such as the Federally Endangered Sheepnose and Winged Mapleleaf require temporally very specific collection efforts in mid-summer and early fall, respectively.
Maintenance of these winter cultures will continue through the winter and early spring, until growing season culture system can be set up in late May or June, when spring floodwaters begin to recede.
By: Beth Glidewell

Photo: Overwintering broodstock mussels in a raceway. Photo: Beth Glidewell/USFWS.

Rainbow Trout Arrive On Station

Rainbow Trout eggs arrived at the hatchery on January 19th. Our friends at Ennis National Fish Hatchery, a Rainbow Trout brood facility for the Service, shipped us over 100,000 eggs overnight. After confirming the count and a quick disinfection, the eggs were placed in flow-through egg jars to finish their development. On January 26th, we noticed a few fry that had hatched in the jars, meaning it was about go-time! The eggs were placed on screens in raceways and hatching began almost immediately. By January 28th, most of the eggs had hatched. The new fry will feed off their yolk sac for the next few weeks. Next, we will watch for the telltale sign of hungry fry swimming up in the water column looking for food, our cue to start feeding. The trout will live at Genoa until next Spring, when they will hopefully be approaching 12 inches and ready to put a bend in some lucky angler’s rod. These trout will be stocked at Fort McCoy, several tribal lakes, and several fishing ponds including ours used for fishing events. Now the work begins to fatten these guys up! By: Nick Bloomfield

Rainbow Trout eggs in jars




A raceway with wire mesh screens holding eggs and fry in the water. Photo credit: Beth Glidewell/USFWS.




Partners in Conservation- No Other Path Forward

John Donne said “No man is an island, entire of itself’ and neither is a freshwater mussel culture or conservation program. Freshwater mussels are some of the most-endangered organisms in North America. 92 species are federally listed and about 2/3rds of the 297 species have state, federal, or provincial protections. With the connectivity of aquatic habitats and the downstream effects of change in aquatic systems, leverage of partnerships is required for conservation.

Photograph of a large snow and ice covered pond in panorama from the sunrise to the moon setting. A gradient of blue from darkest in the west (right) to pale pink in the east (left). Some brown grasses are visible in the foreground the image is framed by winter trees (hickory on the left and maple on the right). Photo credit: Megan Bradley/USFWS.





As freshwater mussel research has moved past the stage of collecting basic biological information for some species, expertise well-beyond propagation and culture are required. Whether that’s population analysis for our monitoring efforts of Higgins Eye reintroductions or restoration, or toxicological responses to mercury (Hg), Chloride, or PFA these areas require expertise or person hours beyond what is available at a hatchery but are joint projects that are in process or that will be completed over the next two years. Freshwater mussel conservation depends on the leveraging of time, expertise, data and money to meet the broadest recovery needs of these unique organisms, and the hatchery is at a nexus of these issues with experienced biologists, juvenile and subadult mussels and access to the extraordinary Upper Mississippi River.
By: Megan Bradley

Offspring of Brook Trout Broodstock Quarantined at Genoa Return Home

Fish biologist Henry Quinlan from the Ashland Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office holds a 24 inch Coaster Brook Trout captured during the 2018 gamete collection in Tobin Harbor on Isle Royale National Park. Photo: USFWS.In the Midwest region, Iron River National Fish Hatchery 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 broodstock, new brood lines are periodically developed. Every three to five years biologists from the USFWS Ashland Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, and Iron River and Genoa National Fish Hatcheries travel to Isle Royale National Park to collect gametes from the self-sustaining Coaster Brook Trout population in Tobin Harbor. 

Fish biologist Henry Quinlan from the Ashland Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office holds a 24 inch Coaster Brook Trout captured during the 2018 gamete collection in Tobin Harbor on Isle Royale National Park. Photo: USFWS.

The fertilized eggs are then transported from Isle Royale National Park to an isolation rearing facility at USFWS Genoa National Fish Hatchery 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 USFWS Iron River National Fish Hatchery 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. Recently eggs from brood stock from the 2017 and 2018 year classes were transferred from Iron River National Fish Hatchery back home to Genoa National Fish Hatchery to support Brook Trout rehabilitation in Lake Superior.
By: Orey Eckes, Henry Quinlan, Evan Boone, Brandon Keesler

Hatchery biologists Brandon Keesler and Orey Eckes from Iron River National Fish Hatchery and Genoa National Fish Hatchery collect eggs from a female Brook Trout in Tobin Harbor during the 2018 gamete collection. Photo credit: USFWS. Eggs




Lake Sturgeon Partners Move the Needle Towards State Delisting

Collaboration, teamwork, dedication, and setting goals are just some examples of what Genoa National Fish Hatchery has been doing as a part of the progress in Lake Sturgeon recovery. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that the Lake Sturgeon population in the Upper St. Lawrence River has met their goal for adult spawning and juvenile recruitment.  Lake Sturgeon have been on New York’s threatened species list since 1983 and with the support from DEC, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s New York Field Office, U.S. Geological Survey, Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, New York Power Authority and Cornell University that could change. A stocking program began in 1993 with four sites and has expanded to stocking ten sites in 2021 with a total of more than 275,000 Lake Sturgeon into New York waters. With these efforts we are now reaching population targets in four of the seven management units. The end goal is to reach six targets in the seven management units. This will lead towards removal of Lake Sturgeon from the threatened species list in New York. Thanks to all our partners, Friends group and volunteers who help us tag thousandths of Lake Sturgeon annually, your hard work, support and for modeling exemplary teamwork in reaching a common goal towards species recovery for future generations.
By: Doug Aloisi and Erica Rasmussen

A pod of adult Lake Sturgeon gathering to spawn. Photos by USFWS.