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Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program - Midwest Region

May 9, 2019 Edition

angler with fish on line

Fish Lines is a bi-monthly publication that highlights the recent news and work conducted by USFWS Midwest Region Fisheries personnel and their partners and friends. For questions or for more information contact the editor by email


Female verteran holding trout at Neosho NFH

Derby Time!


Mid-March at the Neosho National Fish Hatchery (NFH) means Derby Time! At least if you’re a military veteran…or still in service. The first “Rainbows for Veterans” event was held in March 2012 and has been popular every year since. The 2019 edition was held on Saturday, March 16.

Depending on the weather, we generally see a happy gathering of 200 or more folks that register, dip their lines, catch their limit of trout and depart with a smile and their scaly quarry in hand. We provide the place and the equipment and the Veteran’s provide the fellowship and the fun. All we ask at the registration table is to see some proof of military service, and from there the Veterans receive a commemorative t-shirt and a prime spot around the pond at Neosho NFH. This year 158 participants signed our register – a bit down because of the 31°F temperature at the start of the morning. But things warmed up to 50°F by noon, (including the fishing…and catching). It proved to be a memorable day for everyone in attendance.

We thank the many volunteers that distributed fishing poles and bait, helped to land fish and remove hooks, and we even had a hearty few at the fish cleaning station helping to bag everyone’s catch for the ride home.

Hotdogs, chips, pop and cookies helped sustain the anglers, while they battled the chilly temps and the rainbow trout. As always the day was a great way to provide a meaningful show of support for our nation’s veterans. As hatchery manager Roderick May put it, “When you have someone say, ‘I wait on this all year,’ it will bring tears to your eyes” and make all the effort well worth it. Photo Credit: Bruce Hallman, USFWS

walleye hatching system at Genoa NFH

Walleye Egg Hatch Continues to Improve at Genoa NFH


Over the last few months, hatchery staff members have been finalizing additional renovations of the holding house from the 2018 walleye production season. Due to increased demand for more walleye eggs from state, tribal and federal partners, the hatchery had increased holding and hatching capacity for walleye eggs and fry in 2018. The modifications of hatching tanks and rearing space allowed the hatchery to collect nearly 70 million walleye and sauger eggs from the Upper Mississippi River for stocking in the spring of 2018.

Upgrades and renovations consisted of: A new aluminum head tank that was installed allowed for a larger available water volume to supply fish rearing tanks, increased particulate settling time and improved oxygenation. New oxygen lines had also been added to improve delivery of oxygen, create more working space, and allow for easier access to the oxygen supply tanks. Maintenance staff member, Jeff Lockington fabricated and installed egg incubation tanks and fry hatching tanks.

The new egg incubation setup allowed for incubation of over 60 million walleye eggs. Zach Kumlin, also a part of the Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) maintenance team, installed flow meters wired to a control box (PLC) to allow biologists to review and manipulate flows for walleye egg treatments. He also installed a peristaltic pump for chemical treatment of eggs to reduce loss of eggs from fungus.

In 2019, staff members are hard at work installing a larger pump to increase water volume and are incorporating a sand filter into the system to remove particulates such as iron, which bind to eggs and newly hatching fry. These new modifications for 2019 will help increase eye up percentages, resulting in better survival of eggs and newly hatched fry. This new setup will allow the hatchery to produce and stock more walleye for recovery and restoration efforts. Genoa NFH staff will be on the Upper Mississippi River this spring in an effort to collect enough walleye eggs to meet our partners’ requests.

Photo Credit: USFWS

the Alpena FWCO Deroit River Substation crew on their history and culture tour of Hamtramck, MI

A Tour of History and Cultural Diversity


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service vision is to become an inclusive organization that promotes diversity and thrives in a discrimination free environment. The Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) – Detroit River Substation employees spent a day experiencing and learning more about the diversity in the small town of Hamtramck, Michigan , a unique city within the Detroit city limits. Hamtramck underwent a dramatic transformation between 1910 and 1920 when the Dodge Brothers’ plant opened. In those ten years, the city’s population grew by over 1000%! Most of this growth was from Polish immigrants, who were working at the Dodge plant. Over the last 30 years, the city has diversified even more by becoming home to Yemini, Bangladeshi and other southeast European immigrants. Hamtramck has also claimed the title of the most internationally diverse city in Michigan, with their schoolchildren speaking over 20 languages. The city’s motto is even “A League of Nations”.

The tour began at the Polish Art Center, where staff were able to learn about Polish history and the evolution of Polish traditions in America. The Polish Art Center was packed with traditional and unique Polish art objects including intricate jewelry, stone wear, and food. Staff heard about the history of traditional polish stone wear, and the legend behind Poland’s Flag. The Detroit River Staff even got to practice the art of egg decorating creating Pisanki Eggs, which involves taking a raw egg and creating different designs using a combination of wax and dyes.

Staff then moved onto the Hamtramck Historical Museum next door. The tour of the museum started by hearing about the history of immigration in the city of Hamtramck and viewing a 150 foot long multi panel mural that vividly depicts the different ethnic origin of Hamtramck including Native Americans, Germans, Polish, Albanians and more. The museum is home to many artifacts, photographs, and other historically significant memorabilia. One of the curators, Greg Kowalski, enthusiastically recanted stories about the rich history and diversity of the city of Hamtramck. Greg then led a walking tour of the town and made stops at the local churches, stores, restaurants, and murals while continuing his story. The tour ended at a small park with a mural depicting several aspects of Polish culture and a large statue of Pope John Paul II, the only Polish Pope to date.

After the tour concluded, staff enjoyed lunch at a Polish café while discussing all of the things that they learned or found surprising about the diversity and inclusion of the Hamtramck community. Staff found it inspiring that the residents of Hamtramck have figured out the secret to a peaceful and inclusive existence while being from varied cultural backgrounds. Photo Credit: Janine Lajavic, USFWS

Coaster Brook Trout from Genoa NFH

Shedd Aquarium Nets Some Coaster Brook Trout for Native Fish Display


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. Photo Credit: USFWS

Two staff from Ashland FWCO electrofishing Shacte Creek

Maintaining Headwater Streams at Iron River NFH


For any fish hatchery, maintaining a pristine water source is critical. The Iron River National Fish Hatchery (NFH) is no different, and the head waters of Schacte Creek provide the cold, clean water needed to produce the 1.5 million lake trout and 200,000 coaster brook trout for restoration efforts in the Great Lakes region. Typically, fish hatcheries have barriers or closed water systems to prevent fish from entering the hatchery’s water source. Fish free water sources are important since fish are in much more dense situations in a hatchery than compared to in the wild. Harmful pathogens harbored by wild fish can be shed onto the fish held in the hatchery and cause devastating disease outbreaks.

At the Iron River NFH, seasonal rains can cause flooding that allows fish to breach the hatchery’s fish barrier. In order to keep the hatchery’s headwater free from wild fish, the hatchery partners with the Ashland Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office to periodically check Schacte Creek above the hatchery’s fish barrier to keep the water source free from potential pathogen loaded fish. Ashland staff use electrofishing equipment to assess the stream and remove any wild fish that may be present.

This winter’s snow pack and resulting melt off has brought down quite a few dead trees, multiple log jams, and brush piles into Schacte Creek. In an effort to make the electrofishing more effective, hatchery staff cut out obstacles in the creek. This debris removal made it easier for the electrofishing crew to navigate the stream by allowing them to remain in the water channel the entire time and not have to get in and out of the creek to bushwhack through thick brush to get around log jams. The debris removal also allows the electrofishing to be more effective by eliminating hiding spots for the fish and allowing the electric current fields to be more efficient.

Fish that are removed during electrofishing are sent to LaCrosse Fish Health Center for pathogen screening. This is particularly important for the hatchery as we are currently battling a relatively new fish pathogen previously unknown to the region, Vagococcus salmoninarum. This pathogen is a lactic acid bacteria that causes cardiac problems, fluid buildup, and reproductive issues in spawning aged fish that lead to devastating losses within the infected group of fish. In 2019 over 300 (brook trout, brown trout and sculpin) fish were removed and sent to the fish health center for screening. Photo Credit: USFWS

"FOCUS on the FIELD"

Columbia FWCO staff employ assessment tool for Asian Carp

Credit: Emily Pherigo, USFWS

Rapid Assessment Tool for Asian Carp Demographics


The importance of science-based invasive carp management is growing throughout the Mississippi River basin as negative effects on native fish populations are prevalent. However, in the Illinois River, the necessity of preventing Silver Carp populations from migrating north into the Great Lakes is of utmost importance. In 2018, the Columbia Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO), Columbia, Missouri prepared and implemented a large-scale field study with the intention of describing Silver Carp population characteristics in the Illinois River to inform management decisions.

Utilizing proven fisheries management assessment approaches, the study was designed to give an adequate representation of the Silver Carp population demographics (i.e., growth, age, sex) on each of the lower five pools of the Illinois River (Alton, LaGrange, Peoria, Starved Rock, and Marseilles). These pools are separated by lock and dam structures that can act as barriers to fish migration. The physical separation of pools allowed researchers to assess each pool as an individual population. Each pool was sampled with an innovative gear, the electrified dozer trawl, developed at the Columbia FWCO to provide standardized, efficient capture of available size classes of Silver Carp. The use of this new gear allowed researchers to conduct a thorough investigation of these populations along a nearly 300 mile stretch of river in less than five weeks for both spring and fall samples of 2018.

Approximately 2,800 Silver Carp were captured in 2018 sampling efforts. The data collected from each of the five Silver Carp populations helped provide researchers with the answers to a variety of important questions regarding Silver Carp management. These Silver Carp populations varied from the upper pools of the Illinois River (Starved Rock and Marseilles) compared to the lower pools (Alton, LaGrange, and Peoria). In the lower pools, the populations of Silver Carp appeared more abundant and also included young, small Silver Carp. Conversely, in the upper pools, Silver Carp appeared to be less abundant and did not contain any young, small Silver Carp.

These results can provide the necessary framework for management recommendations and evaluation of current management strategies, pertaining to Silver Carp populations in the Illinois River. This study also provides researchers with the capability to gather fisheries data over a broad spatial scale in a relatively short period of time. Management efforts can thus be evaluated quickly and new management efforts can be properly formulated in response to changes in populations. This study provides the baseline assessment for Silver Carp management in the Illinois River, but has the utility to be applied throughout the Mississippi River basin in attempt to address basin-wide invasive carp issues.

"Fish Tails"

Region 3 Watercraft Safety Team Meets - Honors Instructors


The Region 3 Watercraft Safety Team annually offers a variety of watercraft safety courses and trains a large number of Service boat operators each year. 119 regional U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees received training through 17 courses in 2018. Course offerings included the mandatory motorboat operator certification course (MOCC), along with the mandatory airboat course for airboat operators. In addition, specialized operational courses offered last year and annually as needed include shallow-drive motorboats, open-water Great Lakes ops, jet-drive motorboats, the popular non-motorized (paddling), MV Spencer F Baird, winter airboat, and refresher on the water practicals. There is no doubt that safety is a high priority in Region 3! These courses cannot be offered and completed without the dedication of a great group of instructors, support from the Regional Management Team, and the Safety, Fisheries, Refuges, Ecological Services, and Law Enforcement programs Managers and Staffs. In mid-March, 28 Program Instructors and three Regional Fisheries Regional Managers gathered in Green Bay, Wisconsin for the annual pre-field work season meeting. Topics discussed that day included safety updates, specialized course break-out sessions, new vessel updates, emergency response, instructor training, and FY2019 watercraft safety training course scheduling.

Iron River National Fish Hatchery at "Science Fest 2019"


In early April, Iron River National Fish Hatchery (NFH) participated at Science Fest 2018 in Superior, Wisconsin. Science Fest is an event held at the University of Wisconsin-Superior and is hosted by the Students of Science members.   The event includes over 50 exhibits in all realms of science for all ages. The Iron River NFH display included an aquarium with juvenile lake trout and brook trout, one mount of an adult lake trout, and a display showing the various activities at the hatchery.   Various brochures were available for visitors covering information about the hatchery and other information the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is involved with. Coloring and activity books were popular with the children visiting the exhibit. Despite the dreary weather, plenty of visitors came to see the various exhibits. The exhibit received numerous visitors throughout the event. This event is a great opportunity for people to learn about the hatchery and plan a future visit to out hatchery in the north woods of Wisconsin.

"Field Notes"

Is an online searchable database that showcases hundreds of employee-written summaries of field activities and accomplishments of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from across the nation.



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