Fish Lines

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u s fish and wildlife service

Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program - Midwest Region

June 20, 2019

fish lines

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

FWS Midwest Region Acting RD and Partners at Groundbreaking

Acting Regional Director Charlie Wooley breaking ground with partners. Credit: Monica Blaser, USFWS

The Long Road Home to Ludington


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has delivered sea lamprey control for more than 60 years as an agent of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. Sea lamprey control is a critical component to fisheries management in the Great Lakes and was an integral part in the recovery of lake trout. We at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and our conservation partners are actively focused on continuing this success for the next 60 years. We achieved an important benchmark on May 13, 2019 by marking the groundbreaking for the new home of Ludington Biological Station.

In 2020 the Ludington Biological Station will return to its namesake Ludington, Michigan. The Commission finalized the purchase of land within the First Street Business Park Site in Pere Marquette Charter Township surrounding Ludington in April 2019. The biological station being funded by the Commission will have the capacity to accommodate all facets of an integrated Sea Lamprey Control Program delivered by the Service. The site will include offices, conference rooms, onsite storage facility, maintenance shop and labs.

Since 2017, Ludington sea lamprey control has operated out of Manistee, Michigan. The administration of sea lamprey control is no light task. The program implements sea lamprey control using a combination of methods including lampricides, barriers, traps and pheromones. The program also supports research to enhance effectiveness of sea lamprey control and public outreach. No single site in Manistee has the capacity to house all of the programs functions which has complicated program execution.

“Not only does a project like this provide a new home for the fishery commission, but it also promotes growth and investment in our community which is very important and it allows us to retain a great organization [U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service] as well as its employees,” said Pere Marquette Charter Township Supervisor Paul Keson. “We are looking forward to many more years of working towards improving and protecting our Great Lakes and waterways.”

Prior to their move to Manistee, Ludington Biological Station had been operating out of the same location in Ludington since 1956. Ludington has witnessed the program grow, watched research in action, cheered the success of the program and became home to a tight knit family of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees. How sweet it will be to return home. Learn more about the Sea Lamprey Control Program.

scanning a lake sturgeon for a coded wire tag

US Fish and Wildlife Service employees scanning lake sturgeon for previously implanted coded wire tags. Credit: Louise Mauldin, USFWS

One Step at a Time for White Earth Lake Sturgeon


Each year, staff from the La Crosse Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) travel to White Earth Indian Reservation. White Earth is the largest Indian reservation in Minnesota and has some of the most beautifully clear lakes in the country. The purpose of the crew’s trip is to conduct annual population assessments of reintroduced Lake Sturgeon in Round and White Earth lakes. This monitoring program was initiated in 2003 as part of the Red River Lake Sturgeon restoration program that aims to reconstruct a vibrant sturgeon fishery.

Historically, Lake Sturgeon roamed throughout the Red River watershed and grew to record sizes. Old harvest records indicate that the Roseau River, a tributary to the Red River that drains into Canada, boasts a 405 pound Lake Sturgeon captured in 1905. In addition, White Earth Lake has a respectable record from 1926 that weighed 176 pounds. Regrettably, Lake Sturgeon were slowly extirpated from the Red River and adjoining lakes due to overharvest, water pollution, and habitat damage from dam construction. The last capture from the remnant population was in 1948 from Lake Lida, weighing 102 pounds. In the mid 1990’s, after nearly 50 years without lake sturgeon, multiple private, state, and federal organizations began working to restore Lake Sturgeon to self-sustaining levels. In 2002 a cooperative management plan was implemented, and involved annual stocking of sturgeon at selected Red River basin sites. In zeal for recovery, 18,000 total fingerlings were stocked in 2001 into Round and White Earth Lakes. In reaction to sturgeon’s slow growth, harvest has been prohibited to encourage natural reproduction to occur around the time that females reach 24 to 26 years old.

Since the 2001 reintroduction, surveys conducted on White Earth and Round lakes from various years show that the population is taking hold very well. In the fall of 2018, a 50 pound, 57” sturgeon was collected in our annual survey. The average length in 2018 was 37”; that is two inches longer than the survey average in 2017 and eight inches longer than the 2012 survey average. Since the initiation of the monitoring program in 2003, White Earth Lake catch rate per gill net has been continuously increasing from three sturgeon per net to slightly more than seven sturgeon per net; Round Lake catch rate has increased to 14.9 sturgeon per net.

In 2018, surveys were conducted in correlation with a long term mark recapture population estimation. Current population sizes are high, and there is concern that the lakes may be reaching carrying capacity. The FWCO crew took pectoral spine cross cuts from these 2018 sturgeon in Round Lake to determine age distribution, growth rates, and mortality estimates. That growth rate can be compared with other lake sturgeon populations and densities to give insight into carrying capacity. Stocking will come to an end in one to three years, and after 17 years of stocking, some fish are nearing sexual maturity. Soon efforts will shift towards identifying reproduction and monitor recruitment. When sustainable reproduction occurs, the original 1998 management strategy will have hit its pinnacle!

chines biologist FWS biologist holding lake sturgeon captured from Detroit River, Michigan

Chinese scientists and staff from HQ and the Alpena FWCO – Detroit River Substation holding Lake sturgeon. Credit: Jennifer L. Johnson, USFWS

Chinese Sturgeon Scientists Visit Midwest Region


There are 27 sturgeon species found around the world, all of which face similar threats to survival. Whether it’s Lake Sturgeon in the Great Lakes or the Chinese Sturgeon in China, no species can escape habitat destruction, pollution, and other human disturbances that have caused sturgeon populations around the world to decline. In order to observe first-hand some of the restoration efforts taking place in the Great Lakes to restore Lake Sturgeon, scientists from the Chinese Academy of Fisheries Scientists visited the Service’s Midwest Region, including Detroit this spring.

Since 2004, four artificial reefs and almost 15 acres of rock habitat have been constructed in the Detroit River to increase sturgeon spawning. The Service along with many partners annually monitor the success of the reefs and Lake Sturgeon in the river. On May 20, the Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office(FWCO) – Detroit River substation had the opportunity to share the reef restoration process and sampling methods with scientists from China in hopes of transferring science to improve fisheries management.

In an effort to restore Lake Sturgeon in the Lake Erie basin, the Service along with project partners have been stocking fall fingerlings in the Maumee River. On May 21, scientists had the opportunity to view the Maumee River Lake Sturgeon Rearing facility operated by the Toledo Zoo. Streamside rearing has been used to restore Lake Sturgeon around the Great Lakes since 2004 and the scientists were amazed at the scope and level of partnership needed to support this and other projects such as the Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System (GLATOS).  

For more information about these projects and a complete list of project partners please search St. Clair – Detroit River System Initiative, Maumee River Lake Sturgeon Restoration Program, and Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System.

publiic engaging at GB FWCO display at Earth Day Event

Jessica Collier with Green Bay FWCO answers questions from a group of interested visitors. Credit: Anthony Rieth, USFWS

Earth Day Event Draws Large Crowds


On a beautiful spring day, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff from the Green Bay Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office partnered with Learn 2 Fish with Us, a Wisconsin-based non-profit dedicated to educating and inspiring beginner and experienced anglers to teach fishing basics.

For several years, Discovery World, a museum in the heart of downtown Milwaukee, has partnered with the U.S. Forest Service to provide free admission in honor of Earth Day. This was the second year in a row the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service teamed up with Learn 2 Fish With Us to teach children and adults basic casting skills, knot tying, aquatic invasive species prevention, and about a variety of different types of live bait.

At the end of the day, over 2,000 (Yes! 2000) community members visited the outreach station. Door prizes, like new fishing poles and bait kits, were provided by Learn 2 Fish with Us and many new anglers were created. Watching kids march away with a smile on their face and a fish pole in their hand is all the thanks that is needed.

a view from the fish perspective showing the long line for casting pond

A 'Fish Eye" view of the patient visitors at the casting pond. Credit: Learn to Fish with US

IN FOCUS | Pendills Creek & Sullivan Creek NFH

little girl holding trout at PEC kids fishing day

Friends and Volunteers Host 11th Annual Kids Fishing Day


The Friends of the Pendills Creek Fish Hatchery (NFH) hosted the 11th Annual Youth Fishing Day Event on Saturday June 1 for 120 very excited children and their families. The 300 rainbow trout provided by the Genoa NFH crew cooperated, giving many kids their first successful fishing opportunity! Nineteen Friends volunteers donated a total of 226 hours to provide a wonderful day of fishing, lunch and prizes. A small fishing net was given to each participant with a free raffle held for four bicycles, a kayak and a variety of other items – anything that will encourage outside activities! Administrative Assistant Julie Timmer and Hatchery Manager Denise Johnston were on hand to assist anywhere they were needed. Overall, it was a beautiful day filled with smiles and excitement! Photo Credit: Julie Timmer, USFWS

lake trout brood stock in raceway

Michigan's UP National Fish Hatcheries


Pendills Creek NFH: More Change Coming Down the Pipeline

Since an Act of Congress established the Pendills Creek National Fish Hatchery (NFH) in 1949 for the production of lake trout, this facility has undergone a series of changes. The latest installment includes the replacement of the 67 year old water pipeline and renovation of the effluent treatment structures at both Pendills Creek and Sullivan Creek NFHs.

To replace the original 24” water intake pipeline without losing a year of lake trout production, the new pipeline will be constructed beside the old one this summer with final hookup to the water control structure in 2020 after the yearlings are distributed.

The effluent solid waste collectors at both facilities, built in 1985, will be transitioning from a single clarification system to a dual system, consisting of a clarifier and storage component for the effluent. Pendills effluent system will first break ground, and then Sullivan’s will be slated for completion if adequate funds are available. These improvements will allow the facility to continue to meet National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit regulations for another 30 years.

Sullivan Creek NFH: Maintaining our Genetic Diversity

Nestled deep in the woods of Michigan’s eastern Upper Peninsula, the Sullivan Creek NFH (formerly known as the Hiawatha Forest NFH) serves as a repository for two of the four strains of lake trout currently maintained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Seneca Lake strain was developed from wild fish in the finger lakes of New York in 1983 and account for almost 40% of lake trout egg requests for the Upper Great Lakes lake trout program. The Parry Sound strain comes from Georgian Bay and is the last strain to be developed and the only one in the federal hatchery system from Lake Huron. It accounts for an additional 30 % of the egg requests.

To maintain the diversity of these brood fish, wild eggs are collected every generation if possible and/or future brood are created in house by fertilizing one female’s eggs with the milt from one male of a different year class. Wild eggs are raised in isolation for 18 months and must pass three fish health inspections to prevent disease transmission to the captive population. If the wild lot passes the disease certification, the in-house lot can be retired and stocked out to create fishing opportunities throughout the state.

The last wild genetics brought into the hatchery system for the Seneca’s were in 2014 and 2015. The next foray into the finger lakes for eggs is planned for 2022. The original brood created in 2005-2007 were the only wild gametes collected for the Parry Sounds. Discussions are currently underway with Canada to return to Georgian Bay in 2020.

Total egg production for Sullivan Creek NFH fluctuates between 5-8 million eggs per year, depending on requests. Photo Credit: USFWS

Always MORE to the Story...

Project Leader Rod May with Neosho NFH and Kohlman a student he mentored creating Fishing Club

Rod May Project Leader at Neosho NFH helped to bring Kohlman Wilson's idea of a Fishing Club to Missouri. Credit: Bruce Hallman, USFWS

Fishing Club


If you care at all about the hatchery, then you probably enjoy spending some time out of doors. Whether you fancy fishing, hiking, gardening, hunting, picnics, boating or other such activities, this is a great part of the world to live in for such things. And you probably don’t need to be convinced that kids these days are spending more time staring at screens and less time outside.

This is not good news for parents and teachers since studies have shown that kids are happier and healthier when they interact with nature and they have fewer behavioral issues. Here in Neosho and the surrounding areas we don’t have the urban landscape that makes nature hard to find, yet screen time can rob young and old of its benefits. Just interacting with the air, water and land around us can inspire the creative juices and refresh our tired minds. Engaging our youth in nature and conservation is a vital role we all have to take seriously. Certainly our hatchery exists for those very reasons.

Fortunately, one local kid caught the outdoors bug. A lover of fishing, he has contacted hatchery manager Roderick May for help in reaching out to his peers. This junior high student from Seneca, Missouri, Kohlman Wilson, is the grandson of two official Friends of the hatchery, Charles and Ellen Arnce. Charles has lost a good deal of his mobility, but still loves to hunt and fish, and makes it to the hatchery’s fishing derbies for Veterans and seniors each year. Ellen has helps with a first aid station during our events, hoping her skills are not needed, but there just in case.

Kohlman wanted to start a fishing club for his peers in Seneca, but didn’t quite know what to do or how to help others learn more. Rod was quick to help out with this uncommon request. He went to the school to give a brief presentation about the importance of biosecurity and conservation rules. The security has to do with keeping aquatic life localized where it is found and not helping it travel to new waterways. This has been a huge problem with zebra mussels, Asian carp, and Eurasian water milfoil to name a few. These aquatic hitchhikers can cause headaches economically, environmentally and even harm human health. In addition, they negatively impact the quality of outdoor recreation experiences.

The rules are put in place for many reasons, including protection and proper resource stewardship. Over 1000 species of birds are protected from wanton hunting, helping limit our take to certain desirable species. Similar effects happen when we follow bag and creel limits for other hunting and fishing activities. There are estimates that by 2050, 30 percent of the world's species will be on a path to extinction, so it really behooves us all to know what to take and what to leave unharmed.

Fish Tales

Asian Carp Fighters Have a New Home


Since the spring of 2015, the Carterville Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) - Wilmington Substation has occupied a small corner of the U.S. Forest Service Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie (Midewin) in Wilmington, Illinois. When first opened, the substation housed five people and four boats. During the busy summer months, there are now typically 13-15 staff on board and the fleet of boats has grown to seven. As you can imagine, the office quickly ran out of space. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service signed an Inter-Agency Agreement with Midewin to build a new building that would house staff and boats as well as all of the fisheries gear. After years of planning, the Wilmington staff have a new home, at least for the boats and gear. Eventually the staff will also be housed in the building when completely built.

Detroit River Sturgeon Day


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently partnered with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Sea Grant, and the U.S. Geological Survey to host the Fifth Annual Detroit River Sturgeon Day. Nearly 300 individuals attended the event at Milliken State Park and Harbor along the Detroit River. Attendees had the chance to visit several different learning stations describing what is being done in the Detroit River and the Great Lakes to restore Lake Sturgeon. Several species native to the river, including a mudpuppy, log perch, rock bass, and crayfish, were on display. The highlight for most attendees, however, was an adult lake sturgeon in a 300-gallon touch tank operated by the Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) - Detroit River Substation. Many were surprised to see the 50 pound, adult male lake sturgeon when they walked up to the tank, and several of the kids had looks of shock and awe when they spotted him. While the public experienced a lot throughout the day, nothing beats an encounter with the one of the largest fish in the Great Lakes.