Shedd Aquarium Nets Some Coaster Brook Trout for Native Fish Display


Photo Credit: USFWS

Since Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) is centrally located, many Midwestern aquariums periodically contact us for fish for their exhibits to engage the public with. Through these exhibits, our conservation message is also relayed to the public, which helps us to complete our mission to engage the public to conserve and protect our nation’s fish and wildlife resources for the continuing benefit of the nation’s populace. We were able to do this again this spring by making available a net full of nine to ten inch coaster brook trout for display at the world renowned Shedd aquarium at Chicago, Illinois.

These fish were available because of our ongoing cooperative restoration efforts that include the waters of the Grand Portage tribe on the northern shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota. The Fish and Wildlife Service has been working with the Isle Royale National Park staff and the tribe since the mid 1990’s to return this popular sportfish to its formal prominence in eastern Lake Superior. Reservation waters receive 10,000 yearling brook trout from Genoa NFH annually.

Through these efforts and strict harvest limits along the north shore that were implemented by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, fall coaster brook trout surveys have indicated an increase in numbers for the recent decade. Good news for the American people, this popular sport fish and a beautiful native fish historically abundant in Lake Superior.

FWCO Project Leader, Rebecca Neeley.

Our new FWCO Project Leader, Rebecca Neely, has been with the Service for almost 19 years and is excited about starting her new position at La Crosse . She has been the station lead of the Carterville FWCO Wilmington Substation for the last three and a half years where her work has been focused on Asian carp in the Illinois River. Prior to working for the Carterville FWCO, Rebecca worked for the Sea Lamprey Control Program, which is where her career with the Service began. She started as a seasonal employee and worked her way up to a team lead position, working in both Ludington and Marquette.  Rebecca holds a B.S. in Natural Resources Management from Grand Valley State University, and an M.S. in Fisheries from Michigan State University The most rewarding aspect of her job is the professional and personal relationships she has developed with staff and partners. Away from the office, Rebecca enjoys spending time with her husband and family, traveling, and working on her many craft projects.  Stop by the Lester Street office and welcome Rebecca to our Upper Miss.

Welcoming our new Environmental Educator at Genoa










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.

Lake Sturgeon Growth Project

Lake sturgeon. Credit: Ron Everhart

Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) has been committed since 1993 to the goal of restoring lake sturgeon to its native range. In order to do this in the most effective and economic manner, the hatchery initiated a multi-year study to examine differing water temperature regimes with respect to lake sturgeon growth and feed consumption. The over-arching goal of the study was to determine growth rates across a wide spectrum of water temperatures for lake sturgeon    in order to create population models to estimate final size at stocking.

By also researching growth and food consumption at four separate water temperatures, we are also constructing feeding tables across this range of temperatures in order to gauge feeding efficiency and be able to project feed ordering needs for the entire production season.

Biologists with Genoa NFH collect length data from study fish. Credit: USFWS

Our maintenance staff at the station constructed a culture system consisting of six research tanks that have the capability of maintaining two distinct temperature regimes at once using a mixing valve. The experiment was run over two rearing seasons to include four test temperatures.

Results are being written up this winter for submission into an aquaculture journal in order to further lake sturgeon aquaculture programs. Our hope is to allow sturgeon culturists to better plan their production year and measure growth and efficiencies.
Many thanks to the Genoa NFH staff for all of their efforts to collect and disseminate great data, and our maintenance staff for their creativity and talents in order to make this project possible.

Temperature tank setup with test fish. Credit: USFWS



Long Range Sturgeon Stocking Completed

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

Kids Ice Fishing Day at Genoa NFH Great Success


Thanks so much for all of your hard work in the preparation and execution of the Kids Ice Fishing Day at Genoa NFH on Sunday February 9th this year.  This year was extremely challenging to pull off, due to 2 postponements of the event, one from the government shutdown and one from the weather, and an actual day change to Sunday.  We had 525 attendees, volunteers, Friends and staff from the 3 LaCrosse area Fisheries Offices at the event, not bad at all considering the circumstances.  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 was 250 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!

Doug Aloisi

Genoa National Fish Hatchery
S 5631 State Highway 35
Genoa WI 54632
608-689-2644 fax


Genoa National Fish Hatchery site of Kids Ice Fishing Day

Kids Ice Fishing Day is back at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery. The event will be held Feb. 9 from 8:30 a.m. to noon.

 The event, which draws roughly 200 local area youth, ages 5 through 12, and their families, offers participants an opportunity to learn and perfect the skill of ice fishing on a hatchery pond stocked with 2,000 rainbow trout.
The Genoa National Fish Hatchery is located at S5631 State Hwy. 35, Genoa.

The event is hosted by Friends of the Upper Mississippi River Fisheries Services, Genoa National Fish Hatchery, La Crosse Fish Health Center, and La Crosse Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office.

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