Fish Lines Early October 2019 Edition

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u s fish and wildlife service

USFWS Interior Region 3 and 4

Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program 

October 3, 2019

fish lines

Fish Lines is a monthly publication that highlights the recent news and work conducted by USFWS Interior Region 3 Fisheries personnel and their partners and friends. For questions or for more information contact the editor at

Did You Know?

raena parsons teaches kids about hatchery programs

Raena Parsons teaches a group of young hatchery visitors about lake sturgeon. Photo courtesy of Bekky Murphy.

Raena Parsons Receives Regional Sense of Wonder Award

By Katie Steiger-Meister Regional Office - External Affairs

Raena Parsons, an environmental education specialist stationed at Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin, is the 2019 recipient of the regional Sense of Wonder award. We at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service use the Sense of Wonder award to honor employees who have designed, implemented or shown visionary leadership in an interpretive or environmental education program that fosters a sense of wonder and enhances public stewardship of the country’s fish and wildlife heritage. Nominees are evaluated on their ability to use the principles of interpretation and environmental education to create original and innovative methods of connecting the public with our resources and programs.

Raena was selected as this year’s regional recipient due to her extraordinary work as the fish hatchery’s first and only full time interpretative staff person. In addition to visiting schools, Raena welcomes and educates visitors at the Great River Road Interpretive Center, a 5,000 square foot facility that opened in 2018. The new visitor center includes educational exhibits focused on the natural resources of the Upper Mississippi River, the history of the region, the hatchery’s species recovery work and soon, through Raena’s efforts, an exhibit highlighting the center’s rooftop pollinator garden. Raena’s innovative approach connects static interpretive materials with physical interactive interpretation. As a result, visitors are able to get an up close look at how beehives function and how pollinators help fisheries resources and the larger ecosystem. This project is being done in addition to Raena’s ongoing work to engage residents and visitors to the area through interpretive programming for school groups, coordination of hatchery events and providing a presence at community events.

The Sense of Wonder award is coordinated by the National Wildlife Refuge System. Raena’s win as a Fish and Aquatic Conservation employee illustrates that like national wildlife refuges, national fish hatcheries play an important role in connecting the American public to the country’s resources. Raena’s regional selection qualifies her to compete for the national Sense of Wonder award, which will be announced in November at the National Association of Interpretation conference in Denver, Colorado.

attendees at 11th annual youth outdoor fest experience a snake

David Stokes’ reptile show introduces snakes and other critters to kids. Photo courtesy of Jerry Weigel.

11th Annual Youth Outdoor Fest: More than 1400 Attend

By Gretchen Newberry, Midwest Fisheries Center

On July 13 at Veterans Freedom Park in La Crosse, Wisconsin, more than 1,400 adults and kids attended the 11th Annual Youth Outdoor Fest. This free event featured 45 outdoor activities including a reptile show, a zipline, archery, arts and crafts, and geocaching. The festival is a collaboration between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Midwest Fisheries Center, La Crosse Parks and Recreation, and the Friends of the Upper Mississippi.

Each year in Wisconsin’s Driftless Area, Genoa National Fish Hatchery, Upper Mississippi Wildlife and Fish Refuge, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Geological Survey, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, as well as many businesses and nonprofits come together and offer outdoor activities to families. This year, attendees enjoyed archery, storytelling, pontoon rides, canoeing, kayaking, furs and skulls identification, forestry, fish identification, fish and mussel touch tank, dog training, BB gun safety, bird feeders, invasive plant identification, knot tying, water safety and Leave No Trace education.

We invited new booths this year including Hillview Urban Agriculture Center's ‘composting with worms’ activity and Kane Street Garden to emphasize sustainable wild foods. Badgerland Girl Scouts, Norsekedalen Nature and Heritage Center, REI’s ‘camping gear demo’, David Stokes' ‘reptile show’ and Viterbo University's insects were also new additions to the festival this year. Thank you to all of our volunteers, booths and partners, for making this event so successful for 11 years and counting.

If you have an outdoor activity you would like to feature in a future festival, typically held the second Saturday in July, contact the Midwest Fisheries Center Visitor Services Specialist Gretchen Newberry at

a crew of workers identify and sort tiny mussels

Crews diligently harvesting mussels from cages. Credit: USFWS

Pond Research Yields Bountiful Harvest

By Doug Aloisi, Genoa NFH

As fall is upon us, the growing season for fish and mussels is quickly coming to a close. This is when ponds at Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) are drained and fish and mussels are either placed in their winter homes for continued grow out at the hatchery, or released into their wild habitats.

This season the staff at Genoa NFH were trying to determine the best water quality and fertilization schemes to rear both fish and freshwater mussels in two hatchery ponds. 24 hour monitoring equipment was acquired and two seasonal employees were tasked with taking daily and weekly water quality measurements. Our mussel biologists, Megan and Beth took measurements of food particles throughout the growing season.

In early June largemouth bass with Fat Mucket mussel larvae attached to their gills were placed in propagation cages in two similar sized ponds. Ponds were fertilized weekly dependent on healthy water quality parameters. This week the ponds were harvested and cages were carefully checked for mussels. At just over three months old the mussels could be hard to find but with the help of the Prairie du Chien Advanced Placement High School Biology class, partners from the Iowa DNR, and some of our trusted volunteers the harvest was bountiful. Over 35,400 juvenile Fat Muckets were removed from the cages and we began their distribution for further grow out this winter.

This is exciting news for us as rearing mussels co-located in fish ponds would save us many hours of transportation. It would also save us the uncertainty of uncontrollable variables such as high water and cage siltation in the natural environment. We still have yet to try these methods on other species that may have more challenging culture and water quality requirements. However we are optimistic that the results are repeatable with careful pond monitoring and course corrections throughout the growing season.

mallory mackey with iron river nfh in a milfoil costume

AIS Superhero and Villains at Iron River NFH Open House

By Jeremy Trimpey, Iron River National Fish Hatchery

Weevil Knievel, Milfoil Man, and the Zebra Mussel were among the participants in the Iron River National Fish Hatchery’s open house this year. These three costumes were used to inform and interact with the public of all ages on AIS issues. The superhero Weevil Knievel represents the Milfoil Weevil, a native to North America and natural predator to Eurasian Milfoil, which is characterized by the villain Milfoil Man. The villain Zebra Mussel was also used as a talking point to explain the ecological and economical damages caused by this AIS in the Great Lakes. These costumes were loaned to the Hatchery by the Bayfield County AIS Coordinator. The open house is an annual event held in September where the Hatchery can showcase its facility,  promote its conservation efforts, and introduce youth to archery and fishing. USFWS photo

edited image of two culverts showing improved fish passage potential

Fish passage improves after culvert replacement under local roadway. Credit: Ken Dolata, Oconto County

Improved Northern Pike Spawning Habitat on Green Bay's West Shore

By Betsy Galbraith, Green Bay Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office

In Wisconsin's Oconto County, land conservation and highway departments are teaming up improve fish passage in local waterways. Impediments such as rock dams, poorly placed culverts, and farm crossings that restrict water flow are being removed or corrected. In some cases, wetlands have also been restored and reconnected to streams for fish spawning. The Nature Conservancy’s fish passage tool helps county conservation department staff identify and prioritize project sites. Once designs by conservation technicians are complete, the highway department implements the projects using their staff and equipment. “These projects are a win-win for Oconto County and northern pike,” states Ken Dolata, county conservationist. Sites are monitored for both adult and young of year northern pike reproduction. Northern pike along with many other types of fish and wildlife benefit from the improvements. Matching funds from the Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program have also supported these projects.

lab workers analyzing mussels

Biologists in the lab collect samples from dead and dying mussels to be tested for viruses. Credit: Gretchen Newberry, USFWS

Be on the Look Out for Mussel Die Offs this Fall

By Gretchen Newberry, Midwest Fisheries Center

Eric Leis and Sara Erickson from the Midwest Fisheries Center, along with Diane Waller of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), are investigating a mussel die-off in Michigan. Michigan State University and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources collected a sample of dead and dying mussels. Die-offs tend to happen in the fall. Please contact ( if you find mussels that are gaping (like the picture below), floating at the surface, or laying on their side. The biologists are collecting hemolymph (the mussel's circulatory fluid), and samples from the mantle (lining the shell) and the foot (the structure that pushes out from the shell used for digging and locomotion). The samples will be tested for viruses. The Mussel Mortality Network, a cooperative effort between U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USGS, and many other partners, has identified 20 new viruses, and the number climbs with each new die-off event. 

hand with purple glove holding mussel that is partially agape

Close up of a bivalve mollusk gaping. Credit: Gretchen Newberry, USFWS

Field Focus | La Crosse FWCO

edited image of round goby specimen on ruler

Round goby on measuring board after capture by bottom trawl in the Illinois River. Credit: USFWS

New Concerns After Round goby Found in Mississippi River

By Jenna Merry, La Crosse Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office

Small, aggressive, maybe even a little bit cute, round goby are not a new face in the world of invasive fish, but recent captures have sparked concerns about a potential new wave of invasion. While not as apparently detrimental to riverine ecosystems as other invasive fish, like silver carp, round goby are feisty fiends that may outcompete native fish for food and spawning habitats. Their populations have the potential to grow rapidly where they establish which has had deleterious effects on native fauna in some areas, especially on those fauna that occupy a similar niche.

Native to Eurasia, round goby have been found in the United States for nearly three decades. First observed in the St. Claire River in 1990, they quickly expanded to more distant reaches of the Great Lakes region, showing up in the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) by 1992. From this time, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has lead an annual effort to monitor this particular invasion front as they have moved from the CAWS downstream along the Illinois River towards the Mississippi River and the country’s interior. Recently, in 2018, a round goby was documented for the first time in the main stem of the Mississippi River near its confluence with the Illinois River, a short boat ride upstream of St. Louis, MO. Round goby were found there again in 2019.

With their, perhaps inevitable, advancement into the Mississippi River comes an onslaught of questions and concerns for river managers. Could a population of round goby take hold in this big river? Will the diversity and habitat complexity, or even the system of locks and dams, help stifle further advancement? What about the hundreds of tributaries with connections to headwater streams? Although not without obstacles, the Mississippi River provides an avenue of new real-estate for this accomplished invader to explore. What are we going to do about it?

To learn more about round goby and their advancement in the United States, visit fact sheet


Fish Tales

What's Happening at Neosho NFH

By Bruce Hallman, Neosho National Fish Hatchery

Since 2002, we have been working with the federally listed pallid sturgeon to contribute to its recovery. Each year in May we breed reproductive adults and seek to hatch the eggs and rear the young for about a year. This spring we bred one female with two males, and are working with additional young from Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery to maximize our techniques and practices. We have three new staff members that are working through our pallid cycle for the first time, so the more exposure the better. Also new last year was the changing out of many old fiberglass tanks for new round ones. The fish have been doing fine in the new tanks, but we have yet to see if they have produced any measurable improvements.

Similarly, we have bred endangered Topeka shiners for the fifth consecutive year in 2019. Always looking to improve our results, we split our breeding groups into two: half outdoors in a raceway environment and the other half indoors in shallow fiberglass tanks. Both have produced young, so it is good to have multiple avenues to pursue in the future.

Other programs include freshwater mussel propagation and rainbow trout. We currently have three mussel host fish on station (logperch, drum and largemouth bass), and hope to have mollusks by the coming spring’s breeding window. We have adjusted our trout numbers downward to reflect an increase in overall length to help meet the state’s recreational fishing goals.

In all, we’re encouraged by the strides we’ve made in 2019 and expect bigger and better things in 2020.

 Fishery Independent Lake whitefish Surveys Completed in Northern Lake Huron

By Adam Kowalski, Alpena FWCO

During July and August, staff from the Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) conducted the annual fishery independent lake whitefish survey in 1836 treaty waters of Lake Huron. The purpose of this survey, is to collect fishery independent abundance and biological data on lake whitefish stocks in treaty waters, for use in statistical catch-at-age population models. The models are updated annually to determine safe harvest limits for commercial fisheries in 1836 treaty waters of the Great Lakes.

During the survey, 24 variable mesh gill nets (2”- 6” stretch mesh) were set at randomly selected sites in lake whitefish management units WFH 04 (Hammond Bay to Presque Isle) and WFH 05 (Presque Isle to Alpena). All lake whitefish and lake trout collected were measured, weighed, sexed, assessed for maturity and visceral fat content, and checked for sea lamprey wounds, fin clips, and tags. Maxilla and otoliths were collected for age determination. Similar biological data were collected from non-target species.


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