Fish Lines

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Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program - Midwest Region

July 26, 2019

fish lines

Fish Lines


is a 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

Did You Know?

todd turner ard r3 fisheries holding walleye on ice covered lake

Todd Turner is Retiring After 30 years with the Service

Todd has served as the Midwest Region’s Assistant Regional Director (ARD) for Fisheries since 2012. From 2009 to 2012 Todd served as the Midwest Deputy Assistant Regional Director (DARD) of Fisheries. Prior to that position, he was the Midwest Region’s Hatchery Program Leader beginning in 2001.  He also served as Assistant Hatchery Manager in 1991 and eventually Hatchery Manager in 1995 at Genoa National Fish Hatchery.  Todd started his career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1989 at Sullivan Creek National Fish Hatchery, formerly Hiawatha Forest National Fish Hatchery. A Minnesota native, Todd is an alumnus of Bemidji State University.  Before working for the Service, he served in the U.S. Army Reserves for seven years and worked for the Leech Lake Reservation Department of Resource Management as a fisheries technician.  In retirement Todd plans to pursue his outdoor hobbies, including  hunting, fishing, making maple syrup and snowmobiling. Todd is close to his family and will surely be spending even more time with his wife Laurie, his two adult sons TJ and Travis and his parents. Congratulations to Todd on his impressive and meaningful career with the Service's Fisheries program in the Midwest region.

Feature 1

a happy family celbrates their catch at Genoa NFH

A family smiles with their catch at Kids Spring Fishing Day in May. Credit: Megan Bradley, USFWS

Spring Outreach Events Reach More than 3000 People


More than 3,000 people connected with Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) staff at outreach events and school trips this spring, including more than 1,900 kids! Staff traveled to nine outreach events at schools, museums, and nature centers conducting programs on mussels, fish, and other aquatic organisms. On station, staff hosted 21 school field trips ranging in age from pre-school to college. Students toured hatchery facilities, explored the Great River Road Interpretive Center, and some groups had the unique opportunity to view fish relocation operations.

A highlight from this season includes Kids Spring Fishing Day on May 18, 2019, where close to 250 people joined hatchery staff and volunteers for a day of fishing fun. 136 children first walked through a set of four learning stations. After an hour of learning more about fish and conservation, the kids were allowed to put their newfound knowledge to practical use with a two hour open fishing event on a stocked hatchery pond. Most children went home with their five fish limit. A light lunch was provided by our Friends group, and many door prizes were distributed thanks to local area vendors supporting the event. Many thanks to the staff, sponsors, volunteers, and Friends of the Upper Mississippi for making this event possible.

Are you interested in bringing your group to the hatchery? Contact the hatchery Environmental Education Specialist, Raena Parsons, for more information. or 608-689-2605.

Feature 2

participants enjoy the kids fishing event on the detroit river

Having a great the 2019 - 9th Annual Detroit River Kid's Fishing Day. Credit: USFWS

9th Annual Detroit River Kids Fishing Fest


On a warm Sunday afternoon, hundreds of children lined the River Walk of Milliken State Park in Detroit to fish with their families. This was the 9th Annual Detroit River Kids Fishing Fest that takes place every year over Michigan’s Free Fishing Weekend.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service started participating in this event back in 2011 when about 300 children participated. With over 700 children attending this year, it was the largest turnout the staff have seen! Staff from the Detroit River Substation and the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge helped kids and their families set up their fishing poles, cast, and identify their catches.

During the event, the participants captured numerous white perch, smallmouth bass, and rock bass. One young boy also caught a mudpuppy near the beginning of the event. The mudpuppy is an aquatic salamander that intrigued many attendees since most have not seen or heard of one before. This event is a great opportunity for the public of Metro Detroit to learn about fishing and connect with the outdoors.

attendees to fishing fest get a close look at smallmouth bass caught during the day

Many times fishing events are the first opportunities for kids to explore and be curious about nature and the outdoors. Credit: USFWS

Feature 3

huge crowd at sault ste marie engineers day

More than 8000 visitors were in attendance at the 2019 Soo Engineers Day. Credit: USACE

Soo Engineers Day


Pendills Creek, Sullivan Creek and Jordan River National Fish Hatchery (NFH) staff represented three National Fish Hatchery System facilities at the 2019 Soo Engineer’s Day on June 28, 2019. It’s the once-per-year event to explore behind the scenes at the Soo Locks. Engineer’s Day opens the gates for visitors to explore on their own self-guided tours across the Locks and into historically important structures such as the Davis Building and the Administration Building, used solely for the work of one of the world’s busiest lock systems. Denise and John Johnston and Julie Timmer highlighted the conservation efforts on behalf of lake trout, cisco and brook trout reared within the northern National Fish Hatchery facilities. These fish are stocked in Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron. Mounts of the three species were available for display for eye-candy to the 8,000+ visitors at the 2019 event.

display table with fish mounts and other items

Getting Ready to "reel um in"...Setting up the USFWS display at the 2019 Engineers Day. Credit: Julie Timmer, USFWS

Feature 4

biologists using a seine from a boat

Biological technician Jason Kaitchuck holds onto the deployed net making sure everything is set correctly. Credit: Janine Lajavic, USFWS

Trying Something New in the Hunt for Invasive Species


The search for new invasive species is a daunting task. As a crew, we use a wide variety of gear to accomplish this mission. We came to a realization that certain gear types were not as effective as others were. Enter the new seine that is deployed by boat that we have called the super seine.

This seine is eight feet tall and 150 feet long. The bag on the seine has weights sewn in to help keep fish trapped. So far, this gear has been successful at catching a wide variety of species.

Deployment of the seine starts out by throwing one of the ends overboard. The boat is reversed to stretch out the net into a parenthesis shape. Once the end is reached, we attach 50 feet of rope to help us reach the other end without putting a lot of pressure on the boat. Once to the other end we grab both poles and hold them in the boat while going in reverse to help close up the net. Afterwards two people in the front pull in the net by hand.

The success of using new gear to enhance our sampling efforts for invasive species has been a pleasant surprise. We have started to use this gear in waters that have a high turbidity where electrofishing would not be ideal.

two biologists in a boat pulling in siene

Biological technician Jason Kaitchuck and biologist Greg Wright pulling in the "Super Seine". Credit: Janine Lajavic, USFWS

Feature 5

students sturgeon artwork

Gallery of sturgeon pen pal postcards at the Midwest Fisheries Center. Credit: Gretchen Newberry, USFWS.

Sturgeon Pen Pals: Connecting Wisconsin Students with their Lake sturgeon


It started with a question: How many students along the Mississippi River would be able to recognize a lake sturgeon? In the Driftless Area of southwestern Wisconsin, kids are often exposed to the outdoors. It’s a rolling landscape of streams, wetlands, bluffs, prairies and caves, and many students fish with their parents and grandparents, sometimes from their own backyard. But, what about the fish that don’t end up on their hook? How much do they know about fish that are less common?

The Midwest Fisheries Center has a long history with lake sturgeon conservation. Since the 1990s, the center’s biologists have worked with tribes on restoring and monitoring lake sturgeon populations. Helping young people become more knowledgeable about lake sturgeon conservation increases public awareness promotes the value of this work.

Taking the lake sturgeon into the classroom and telling their story to the students could only help. At West Salem Elementary School’s Environmental Day this last spring, I asked the students if they thought lake sturgeon lived in Wisconsin. Among six classrooms of 20 children, only half of the students were certain lake sturgeon could be found in the state, and only a couple students could identify the sturgeon in our tank.

The students were led through a series of questions to introduce them to this charismatic fish: How many of you have ever wanted to see an animal that has lived alongside a dinosaur? How big do you think a lake sturgeon can grow? How long can they live? Rather than presenting the facts, asking questions engages students and gives them ownership of their own educational process. We talked about the 19th Century caviar craze that led to near extirpation for the lake sturgeon in Wisconsin, and how we, the Wisconsin people, brought their fish back from the brink. We talked about the cultural importance of lake sturgeon for First Nations people and how spawning sturgeon was a gift at the end of a hard Wisconsin winter long before there were grocery stores to help us all survive. They witnessed the Menominee Tribe’s fish dance via a video provided by the Wisconsin First Nations. We talked about the bumpy scutes that help young vulnerable sturgeon survive, their cartilaginous skeletons, and the importance of fish passage. All of these details helped the students flesh out the story of lake sturgeon and their own place in its history.

Al Brinkman, Midwest Fisheries Center and Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) volunteer, and member of the Friends of the Upper Mississippi, talked to the students about his work coded wire tagging thousands of sturgeon at Genoa NFH last summer. It was important the students understood that sturgeon persist in this state and others due to civic engagement from the Wisconsin people.

The session ended by asking the students to help me out. I wanted to wish the sturgeon a good journey as they migrate our waterways and as they travel to other states to be released by our hatcheries. I asked the students to write postcards to the sturgeon as they contemplated what these young sturgeon need to survive.

Field Focus | Genoa National Fish Hatchery

dragonfly larvae size comparison

Hines Emerald Dragonfly larvae have been growing rapidly on station. May 30 arrival (left) and (right) just 23 days later. Credit: Angela Baran Dagandesh, USFWS

They Grow up so Fast!


Summer is here and the Hine’s emerald dragonfly larvae arrived on station May 30th, hand delivered by the University of South Dakota (USD) staff and students attending the Captive Rearing and Augmentation Work Group meeting at Genoa National Fish Hatchery, (NFH). Genoa NFH began working with the dragonflies in 2015 after receiving funds through the Cooperative Recovery Initiative Grant, allowing the station to purchase equipment, build a mobile rearing unit and hire temporary staff. Over the last four years, the program has grown to include the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, Brookfield Zoo and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. This working group has established restored habitat in some of the Forest Preserves as well as creating new captive rearing locations, allowing increased production. Through the collaborative process, all parties are beginning to share information about new rearing techniques or how they have handled any complications so the program as a whole is growing and the larvae are receiving the best care possible.

This summer the station received larvae on May 30th and placed them into cages in the mobile rearing unit on May 31st. This mobile rearing unit allows the larvae to be in a highly visible tank to monitor the small larvae closely during the first couple weeks on station as well as serving as a temporary quarantine facility, keeping the larvae in an isolated water source. The mobile unit was designed to use pond water, drawing from the pump station it is located next to. This source water coming from the ponds is full of natural food sources for the larvae, teeming with zooplankton to eat and is also at the ideal rearing temperature for the larvae. Water conditions were ideal early summer and the larvae grew enough to be moved to larger cages out in one of the hatchery ponds on June 22, 2019. The cages will be checked periodically throughout the summer to monitor the larval growth and the ponds are monitored daily for oxygen levels and temperature. At the end of the summer, the larvae will be weighed and measured again and then transferred back to USD for final larval growth and eventual emergence in 2020.

hines emerald dragonfly

Endangered Hines Emerald Dragonfly. Credit: USFWS

Fish Tales

Advocating Invasive Species Management


As employees of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service we engage in many projects that enhance, protect, and restore landscapes and wildlife populations. Two key components to making many of these successful projects work is engaging partners to work with us and educating the public on how they can help us in being stewards of the environment.

This spring Anthony Rieth and Touhue Yang attended a workshop titled “EmpowerU! Advocating Invasive Species Management” held in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Approximately twenty people participated in the learning opportunity. While attending, Rieth and Yang engaged in developing better engagement tools to interact with concerned citizens, large audiences, and public officials. Additionally, several new contacts were made with state and local government partners which will serve to forge more partnerships in the future.

Off to MARS: Mussel Culture Trailer Deployed


After the wettest year in recent memory the Mississippi River dropped below Flood Stage on the USGS and NOAA water level tracking maps at the Genoa Dam a short period on June 17th. This meant that the mussel trailer, aka the MARS (Mobile Aquatic Rearing System), could be deployed at Blackhawk Park, managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the next week. Since then subadult Washboard and Salamander mussels and newly transformed Fatmucket juveniles have gone into tanks there to feed on the rich Mississippi River flowing through. More juvenile mussels will be placed there over the summer and we have great expectations for good growth and survival this year.

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