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 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
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
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
Logperch in a hatchery tank. Photo by Megan Bradley/USFWS.
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 the hatchery and Wisconsin DNR 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. By Megan Bradley
Hatchery biologist, Nick, and volunteer, Debbie, meticulously pick out stickleback minnows from fathead minnows. Photo by Orey Eckes/USFWS.
We were able to finish up harvest of the Fathead Minnow pond in December. We brought in over 2.6 million minnows! Many of these went into overwintering ponds to sustain broodstock and future mussel host fish over the winter. We also brought some inside to be used for feeding other fish on station. Not all of these minnows are destined to be a meal for a bigger fish, however. Using a grader, which separates bigger fish from smaller ones, we set aside tens of thousands of the biggest minnows we had. These lucky ones will go back out to the pond in the spring, their only goal being to produce millions more for next year. Unfortunately, there are some unwanted friends lurking within. Brook Sticklebacks frequently infiltrate the minnow pond and reproduce themselves. They are not as desirable a meal for fish as Fatheads, and the reason why is hidden in their name. This is where the volunteers come in. With their help, we are able to go through every minnow that will go back into the minnow pond and remove the sticklebacks. Hopefully that action combined with a good winterkill in the pond will result in a better food source for 2020. We couldn’t do it without the help of our volunteers! By Nick Bloomfield Genoa National Fish Hatchery’s mission is to recover, restore, maintain and enhance fish and aquatic resources on a basin-wide and national level by producing over 35 aquatic species of varying life stages, participating in active conservation efforts with our partners, and becoming a positive force in the community by educating future generations on the benefits of conservation stewardship. Interpretive Center Winter Hours Monday-Friday: 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. Saturday & Sunday: CLOSED
Due to unsafe ice conditions on our ice fishing pond, we are going to have to postpone and possibly cancel the Kids Ice Fishing Day. We were hoping colder temperatures this week would have created enough ice, but we still have open water on our pond as of today. We suspect the high groundwater levels this fall have also contributed to the open water by allowing groundwater to infiltrate the pond inhibiting the ice forming. Stay tuned for updates, possible makeup dates would be the remaining Saturdays in February if the weather permits enough safe ice to form.
Friends of the Upper Mississippi River and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (608) 689-2605
The following is the itinerary for our Annual Ice Fishing Day f or children 5 to 12 years old, which will be held at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery, Genoa, WI on Saturday February 1st, 2020.
This event will be held at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery, S5631 State Hwy 35, Genoa, WI
Schedule 8:30am to 9:00am Registration 9:00am to 9:15am Ice Safety & Ice Fishing Tips 9:15 a.m. to 12:00 Open Fishing 11:00 a.m. Registration Ends 11:00 to 12:00 Lunch/Dismissal
A light lunch will be provided for the children, parents, volunteers and employees in a heated tent. Fishing poles, bait and tackle will be provided by the USFWS in cooperation with the Friends of the Upper Mississippi River. Everyone will be dismissed at approximately 12:00 pm.
The event is weather dependent. We will announce the cancellation of this event on local radio stations WVRQ, 98.3 and Cow 97.1 by 8:00 a.m. the morning of the event if the weather turns extremely cold or unsafe driving conditions exist in our area.
Due to the Chance of Introducing Fish Diseases, No outside bait will be allowed on the premises.
A Warming Tent will be provided. Due to spaces concerns and other reasons, no portable ice fishing tents are allowed for this event. Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
A close up view of fingerling lake sturgeon. Credit: USFWS
A cooperative effort among the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – New York Field Office (USFWS-NYFO), Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH), USFWS – New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe (SRMT), the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is leading to the restoration of lake sturgeon to the St. Lawrence River and its tributaries.
In June 2019 hatchery staff, Doug Aloisi and Orey Eckes, aided with the collection of lake sturgeon eggs from wild caught spawning fish below the NYPA dam in Massena, NY. After fertilization, eggs were transported to Genoa NFH and DEC Oneida Hatchery. Sturgeon were fed diets of brine shrimp, bloodworms and krill and were seven inches long by the beginning of October. All sturgeon from Genoa NFH were coded wire tagged, which gives them a batch identification number, allowing resource managers to assess future population growth and survival.
By mid-October sturgeon were ready to make their journey back east. In October 2019 hatchery staff ventured out east with approximately 18,000 tagged lake sturgeon. Upon arrival they were welcomed by local press representatives and staff from USFWS-NYFO, DEC, SMRT, NYPA and USGS. The sturgeon were released into the St. Lawrence River at Ogdensburg and below the NYPA dam in Massena, as well as several larger tributaries. With this cooperative effort among agencies, biologists are hopeful populations of lake sturgeon in the St. Lawrence River may one-day return to historic numbers. Since 2013 when the partnership began 87,500 juvenile lake sturgeon have been stocked. The Genoa NFH staff are looking forward to working with these partners for years to come to establish a growing tradition toward the restoration of lake sturgeon to the St. Lawrence River.
Anthony Rieth of the Greenbay FWCO separates Asian carp from native species after an electrofishing run on the Illinois River. Credit: Wes Bouska, USFWS
Prior to the 2019 field season, Region 3 Fish and Wildlife Conservation Offices (FWCO) were asked to assist with Asian carp work being conducted within the Illinois River. Great Lakes crews from Alpena, Michigan, Ashland and Green Bay, Wisconsin, along with Large River crews from Columbia, Missouri and La Crosse, Wisconsin, all worked together to complete electrofishing, as well as, hoop and mini-fyke net surveys throughout the field season. The surveys followed the Long Term Research and Monitoring (LTRM) protocol that has been a successful model for collecting fish community data in large Midwestern rivers for nearly 30 years. This LTRM sampling effort is used to better understand the impacts of invasive species on native fish communities, to help inform hydroacoustic surveys, to evaluate contracted commercial harvest of Asian carp, and to detect young-of year Asian carp.
This unique opportunity brought together field staff that normally wouldn’t interact. New friendships were forged, new skills learned, and staff received a first-hand look at the conditions at “ground zero” in the battle to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. For many Great Lakes personnel, this was their first time actually seeing invasive Silver and Bighead Carp in the wild. Watching them jump behind the boat and boil from the water when electrofishing put the threat these fish pose to our Great Lakes into perspective, and galvanized our efforts to keep them from gaining a foothold in Lake Michigan and beyond. Crews traveled long distances and worked long days in the heat and humidity while dodging flying carp. Through the teamwork and the dedication of FWCO personnel, the sampling was completed safely, correctly, and on time. Thanks to all!