Fish Lines

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u s fish and wildlife service

Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program - Midwest Region

September 9, 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?

kids sitting on a log

Discussing what aquatic vegetation and stream bank vegetation can be seen at this stream location. Credit:USFWS

STREAM Girls has been Making Bugs Cool Since 2014

By Paige Wigren, Alpena FWCO - Detroit River Substation

STREAM Girls was founded in early 2014 by the Trout Unlimited Headwaters Program and is geared towards engaging young woman in fly fishing, stream ecology and aquatic macroinvertebrate identification. In hopes of igniting a lifelong passion or even foster a STEM based career path, several workshops have been hosted spanning from Washington to Pennsylvania, and just recently in Michigan.

The Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative Project of Trout Unlimited partners with the Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore chapter to host weekend long camps throughout the state. In late July of this year, Paige Wigren from the Alpena FWCO – Detroit River Substation had the opportunity to volunteer teaching fly casting, macroinvertebrate sampling and identification, and fish identification. In total, fifteen 5th grade girls were able to experience hands on stream ecology activities like measuring flow rate, sediment concentration, what factors make a stream healthy and how to identify problem areas within a stream or watershed right in their own backyard.

Each girl donned a pair of waders and a kick net and were let loose in the stream and wetland area to see what aquatic macroinvertebrates they could find. Amongst excited screams and shrieks, they managed to find several families of bugs. When a large dragonfly larvae was discovered, the girls were hooked! On the last day of camp, each girl put their skills to the test by grabbing a fly rod, casting several times resulting in each girl successfully catching a fish and rounding out the perfect ending to camp.

girl checking out a D net samaple

Checking the D net to see what aquatic macroinvertebrates were collected. Credit: Trout Unlimited – Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative

Feature One

targets on an archery trail

Archery targets on one of the 16 shooting lanes on the new 3D archery trail at the Iron River NFH. Credit: USFWS

Expanding Outdoor Recreation on Service Lands

By Brandon Keesler, Iron River NFH

At Iron River National Fish Hatchery (NFH) the main focus is restoration of lake trout and coaster brook trout in the upper Great Lakes, where 1.5 million yearling fish are stocked annually for this purpose. The hatchery sits on 1,200 acres of land and our secondary focus is to provide quality outreach activities and  programs, based heavily in outdoor public recreation. Visitors can find snowshoes in our lobby, free of charge, for use on our extensive 3.5 mile trail system and can access this trail 365 days a year for other uses, such as cross country skiing, hiking, hunting and birding.

We are always looking for ways to expand upon our program and it is with great excitement that we are able to announce that our 3D archery course is completed and open for business! Visitors can access the nearly mile long trail from the hatchery parking lot and will be met with sixteen shooting lanes comprised of an assortment of 3D animals and targets at varying distances. The trail is free to the public and open May through November. All ages and skill levels are welcome to come and enjoy this wonderful new addition to our grounds. Outdoor access is a priority at Iron River NFH, come check out our diverse public use opportunities!

Feature Two

biologists working on hydroacoustics aboard MDNR vessel

MDNR technicians, USGS and USFWS biologists setting up the acoustic equipment aboard the R/V Tanner. Credit: USFWS

Helping Partners Develop Hydroacoustic Capabilities

By Chris Olds, Alpena FWCO

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), Alpena Fisheries Research Station procured a new research vessel in 2016 to conduct fisheries work on Lake Huron. This vessel is equipped to collect hydroacoustic data along with deploying a mid-water trawl. Until recently there was not a need to use the hydroacoustic equipment. However, with the cisco recovery efforts in Saginaw Bay this was the perfect opportunity to use the MDNR vessel R/V Tanner to conduct some hydroacoustic work to assess cisco survival and growth after stocking cisco in 2018.

Staff from the USGS-Great Lakes Science Center and Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) teamed up with the MDNR to assist them with setting up their hydroacoustic software and going through the steps of calibrating it to ensure accurate data collection. Staff spent two and half days on Lake Huron going through all of the data collection steps making sure all equipment was working and operating correctly. By the end of the last day, the R/V Tanner was ready to go collect hydroacoustic data and deploy the mid-water trawl for cisco.

Feature Three

archery training at Genoa NFH

Students from the local YMCA receive personal instruction in archery techniques at the Genoa NFH Outdoor Classroom. Credit: USFWS

Genoa NFH Incorporates Archery into Outdoor Classroom

By Orey Eckes, Genoa NFH

Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) welcomed students from the local YMCA for a tour of the hatchery and a day of archery. Hatchery staff members have partnered with the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) to offer students a chance to experience archery as part of the hatchery outdoor classroom. Archery is a great tool to get children outdoors. Recently biologist (Jeena Credico, Brandon Keesler and Orey Eckes) were certified as a basic archery instructor trainers. This training will allow other people at Genoa NFH, friends group members and anyone interested in becoming an archery instructor to become certified to hold archery events. We are proud to announce four newly certified archery instructors to the NASP team!

Feature Four

small lake sturgeon on boar gunnel

A juvenile lake sturgeon caught by a commercial fisherman near Kelly’s Island, Lake Erie. Credit: Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Juvenile Lake Sturgeon Making Appearances

Jennifer L. Johnson, Alpena FWCO – Detroit River Substation

Lake sturgeon have been around for millions of years. However, in the last couple of centuries their numbers have greatly declined. As a result, the Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO)– Detroit River Substation has worked with several partners over the last few years to stock fingerling lake sturgeon into the Saginaw River watershed in Michigan and the Maumee River, a tributary to Lake Erie in Ohio.

These efforts appear to be paying off. There have been several reports of anglers and commercial fisherman catching small lake sturgeon. Before this year, these reports were extremely rare. Some of the commercial fisherman who have been fishing for years have even said these are the first juvenile sturgeon they have seen in their career.

While our office works to monitor the status of these stocked fish, we cannot monitor all locations due to the large area these sturgeon could be inhabiting. Thus, we have been working with commercial fisherman by providing them with materials to take some important data. Hopefully as the stocking efforts continue, more and more juvenile lake sturgeon will be detected in these systems.  

Feature Five

genoa nfh softball team

2019 Genoa NFH Softball Team. Credit: USFWS

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

By Doug Aloisi, Genoa NFH

With a stellar record of three wins and seven losses, (3-7) the positive results of the Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) softball team did not necessarily show up on the scoreboard. But some of the intangibles, or soft skills as it is now in vogue to say, were team building among family, friends and staff members of three of the La Crosse area Fisheries offices and even one of our environmental education partners. Field stations represented were Genoa NFH, the Lacrosse Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, and the Whitney Fish Genetics Laboratory. A Summit Environmental School teacher was also enlisted to boost our lineup and our partnership numbers.

Even though we were swiftly booted from the final tournament, the team felt that we should have been given a consolation trophy for best t-shirt design, which featured two lake sturgeon on the front with matching sturgeon scutes running down the back. We will try to field a team again next year, maybe with the same results, but still styling all the way around the bases with our chic lake sturgeon apparel.

Field Focus | Jordan River National Fish Hatchery

cisco fingerlings reared at Jordan River NFH

Spring fingerling cisco at Jordan River NFH. Credit: USFWS

Jordan River NFH Updates Facilities to Meet New Challenges

By Roger Gordon, Jordan River NFH

Jordan River National Fish Hatchery (NFH), located in Elmira, Michigan has been producing lake trout fingerlings and yearlings for Great Lakes restoration projects since 1963. As such, the hatchery propagation program has developed into one of the planets largest char restoration initiatives. With historic annual requests above 3.5 million lake trout, the hatchery has been a major contributor to the restoration of depressed populations of lake trout across the upper Great Lakes. Over the past 50 (plus) years, the facility has shipped in excess of 100,000,000 of these regionally significant animals to stocking sites across this globally unique watershed. In response to recent successes in lake trout restoration initiatives production at the facility has begun to shift to other species of concern within the Great Lakes.

Two of the newly propagated species, the cisco and bloater, have significantly different rearing requirements than previous fishes raised at Jordan River NFH. In order to produce these and other regionally important aquatic species the hatchery has turned to modern technologies to fill the infrastructure gaps. Beginning in 2014 the hatchery began construction of multiple recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) to meet temperature and other environmental requirements of multiple non-traditional aquatic species. To date, three large RAS systems have been installed at the project. With the addition of these systems, and other infrastructure modifications, the hatchery has become the largest coregonine (cisco, bloater, whitefish) production facility in North America. With completion of additional planned RAS additions, Jordan River NFH will be able to produce up to 4.0 million coregonines annually to meet restoration initiatives across the Great Lakes watershed.

For more information about this or other fishery programs at Jordan River NFH contact Roger Gordon, Hatchery Supervisor at or phone at 231-584-2461

view of cisco facility updates

Newly installed 40,000 liter Recirculating Aquaculture System at Jordan River NFH. Credit: USFWS

There's always more to our stories...

FWS employees show the collected food items

As part of the Feds Feed Families program, the Midwest Fisheries Center collected more than 618 pounds of food and toiletries for our food drive. This week, along with Friends of the Upper Mississippi vice president Al Brinkman, we delivered everything to WAFER, a food pantry here in La Crosse. We wish to thank fish biologist Katie Lieder for organizing the drive. Many our friends group members also volunteer at WAFER and we wanted to honor their community spirit by contributing. Credit Gretchen Newberry, USFWS

Fish Tales

Coaster Brook Trout Program Back on Track

By Jeremy Trimpey, Iron River NFH

The Iron River National Fish Hatchery (NFH) received a little more than 3,000 twelve inch Tobin Harbor strain Coaster brook trout from Genoa NFH’s isolation facility. These fish will be the first brood line following the Hatchery’s depopulation of its brood fish due to a severe bacterial infection. Hatchery staff have implemented highly restrictive biosecurity measures around these fish to minimize the chance of another disease outbreak. Actions taken include rearing the fish on protected disease free well water, eliminating public access, allowing only a single designated employee once a day access, isolated equipment, and a disinfection foot bath. Iron River NFH expects to have eggs from these fish in the upcoming fall 2019 spawning season.

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