Fish Lines November 2019 Edition

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u s fish and wildlife service

 Interior Region 3 and 4

Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program

November 15, 2019

fish lines

Fish Lines is a monthly publication that highlights the recent news and work conducted by USFWS Interior Region 3 and 4 Fisheries personnel and their partners and friends. For questions or for more information contact the editor, email

Did You Know?

eyed lake trout eggs from yellowstone lake

Eyed Lake Trout eggs incubating. Photo credit: Angela Baran-Dagendesh, USFWS

Visitors from Yellowstone are Making Themselves at Home

By Doug Aloisi, Genoa NFH

Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) has some visitors that are making themselves right at home. In fact, they like southwest Wisconsin so much that they don't plan to leave for at least 16-18 months. That is if all goes as planned and they clear their three fish health exams and are able to visit other exotic places such as the Iron River (WI) NFH and Sullivan's Creek (MI) NFH. There they will be incorporated into the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) long range efforts of restoring lake trout to the three upper Great Lakes.

There is a good reason why we are so interested in having these visitors from Wyoming come stay with us. Many decades ago, lake trout from Lake Michigan were stocked into Lewis Lake in Yellowstone National Park. These fish, even though stocked generations ago still should maintain a cadre of genetics that was developed over time to survive in Lake Michigan. This genetic refugia is doubly valuable, as nearly all of the native lake trout in Lake Michigan disappeared due to the effects of pollution, overharvest and the introduction of the parasitic sea lamprey into the Great Lakes.

The Service has developed this Lewis Lake strain into a captive broodstock and egg source to use in their re-stocking efforts. Biologists from Iron River NFH and the Jordan River (MI) NFH with the Lander (WY) Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office captured adults from Lewis Lake and collected eggs from 150 pairs of adults and shipped them to the Genoa NFH quarantine facility.

The eggs are being well cared for and equal numbers from each egg take will be used to make two lots (groups) of broodstock. The lots will be housed in the Genoa NFH quarantine facility until they clear three separate fish health inspections. Then they will be transported to the Service's captive broodstock stations and the two lots will then be crossed with one another. This method reduces any chance of interbreeding with other closely related fish. Careful management should preserve the genetic diversity of the brood line and also ensure a fighting chance of survival once the yearling fish are released.

Great progress has been seen in Lake Huron and Lake Superior in developing self sustaining lake trout populations, and with this native strain of lake trout available for stocking in, it is hoped that we may someday see the same results in Lake Michigan.


youth bird hunter and dog ready for a flush

Fall Hunting Opportunities at Iron River NFH

By Brandon Keesler, Iron River NFH

In a continued effort to increase public use and promote hunting on federal lands, Iron River National Fish Hatchery (NFH) hosts mentored youth hunts throughout the year in conjunction with regular and special seasons open in Wisconsin. We currently host a mentored youth turkey hunt in the spring, a youth deer hunt in early October and mentored grouse hunt later in the fall.

Iron River NFH hosted a youth deer hunt just a few weeks ago. This year’s applicants, brothers Hayden (12) and Hunter (13), accompanied by their father, were not successful in bagging (or even seeing) a deer in the pouring rain. They were very thankful for the blind to sit in and had a great time in spite of the inclement weather.

This fall’s mentored grouse hunt was held on October 19. Jake (12) was selected to participate in this year’s mentored grouse hunt. Jake had never been grouse hunting and was eager to learn. Jake and his mentor first went over grouse identification to be able to discern the difference between the targeted Ruffed Grouse and the state protected Sharp-tailed Grouse, both found on hatchery property.

As always safety concerns were addressed, especially in regards to the unique opportunity of hunting with a bird dog. A gloomy start to the day did not delay the hunters from taking to the field. With grouse numbers predicted to be higher this fall than last fall, the hunters were optimistic they would have plenty of opportunities. The group walked over four miles of trails but unfortunately only two grouse were spotted, and neither were harvested.

Jake had a fun time and is looking forward to applying for the youth turkey hunt in April. Although the game bags were empty the memories will remain etched in the minds of these young people as they continue their journey into hunting. Photo credit: Brandon Keesler, USFWS

sturgeon in a hand

Tracking Fall Fingerling Lake Sturgeon

By Jennifer L. Johnson, Alpena FWCO - Detroit River Substation

Staff from the Alpena FWCO – Detroit River Substation work with lake sturgeon of all sizes…Adults in the Detroit, St. Clair, and St. Mary’s rivers, juveniles in Lake Erie, and recently they traveled to the Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin to PIT (Passive Integrated Transponder) tag fingerlings.

These lake sturgeon range from five to eight inches long and are approximately three months old. Staff PIT tagged approximately 2,000 fish over the course of three days.

Five hundred of these little lake sturgeon were brought back to Michigan. Staff partnered with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to release these fish into the Saginaw River watershed. The other 1,500 tagged lake sturgeon  were released into the Maumee River in Ohio the first Saturday in October along with an additional 1,500 fingerlings raised at the Toledo Zoo. This stocking is the result of a multi-agency partnership, including U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Toledo Zoo.             Photo credit: Jennifer Johnson, USFWS

RV Smith at port

All Aboard the R/V Smith

By Captain Stormi Sutter, Green Bay FWCO

Wrapping up our first complete survey year, the Research Vessel (RV) Stanford H. Smith has become a sought after platform within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Green Bay Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO). From the RV Smith's ability to trawl, gillnet and run advanced hydro acoustics this platform will be a great asset among programs.

The surveys conducted in 2019 included spring gillnet survey to night time hydro-acoustics with mid water trawling just to name a few. Future office projects will branch out next year to various programs such as the Habitat Program at the Green Bay FWCO, where they will be doing side scan mapping of the reef systems on Green Bay. This study will help in showing reef progression and recession, habitat and various fish populations in these areas.

The vessel is still in its infancy and developing on a daily basis. Working out new build perplexities has been a new and exciting challenge for the crew and the biologists that serve aboard the RV Smith. Even with growing pains this past year has been successful and we foresee many more successes for the next 50 plus years and the next generation of fisheries professionals! Photo credit: USFWS

biologist holds large lake trout

Lake Trout Gone Wild! 

By Dale Hanson, Green Bay FWCO

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service vessel, the RV Stanford H. Smith, was on call for October lake trout spawning surveys at Clay Banks Reef, a nearshore reef south of Sturgeon Bay on the western shore of Lake Michigan.

Our survey results suggest lake trout restoration is well underway! Biologists encountered good numbers of spawners, averaging 55 lake trout per 1000 feet of net, but most striking was the high proportion 34 percent of unclipped (wild) lake trout in the spawning population. Within the last five years similarly high proportions of wild lake trout have appeared in fall spawn surveys in southern Lake Michigan, but until now the vast majority, greater than 90 percent of lake trout captured at Clay Banks Reef were of fin-clipped fish, e.g. hatchery origin.

Therefore, this year’s survey provides strong evidence that natural reproduction is spreading northward. Another highlight of this year’s survey was the participation of former Green Bay Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) project leader, Mark Holey (now retired and pictured above), who spent much of his career laying the ground-work for lake trout rehabilitation in Lake Michigan.  Photo credit: USFWS

kids petting lake sturgeon

Sturgeon Touch Tank Makes a Big Splash

By Paige Wigren, Alpena FWCO - Detroit River Substation

This fall, staff from the Alpena FWCO – Detroit River Substation partnered with the St. Clair – Detroit River Sturgeon for Tomorrow Chapter at the 5th Annual North Channel Sturgeon Classic Festival in Clay Township, Michigan. Clay Township is considered the sturgeon angling capital of Michigan and did not disappoint for this one night tournament where fisherman landed 97 sturgeon. Staff from the Detroit River Substation were on hand to answer questions about sturgeon restoration in the Great Lakes and provided two sturgeon in a touch tank for participants to view.

Approximately 1,500 adults and children attended the festival and were able to touch a real, live dinosaur! Several children screamed, “it’s a shark” or “it feels like sandpaper”. Everyone left with a smile on their face and wet hands. At the end of the festival both sturgeon were released back into the St. Clair River.      Photo credit: USFWS

Focus on the Field | Green Bay FWCO

sturgeon fitted with little backpacks

Sturgeon Backpacks, No...Really!

By Jessica Collier and Dave Lawrence , Green Bay FWCO

The Green Bay Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) works to encourage our staff to explore new and creative projects that work towards answering resources questions. One of those projects is with our Habitat Program, where the biologists are starting to monitor habitat use of age-0 lake sturgeon released from a Wisconsin DNR maintained stream-side rearing facility on the Kewaunee River, Wisconsin. Twenty sturgeon will be outfitted with specially-made spandex packs holding an acoustic tag (Vemco V7). The sturgeon backpacks, as we like to call them, hold the acoustic tags and are stitched together with dissolvable sutures. The dissolvable sutures will break away after about 200 days so the packs do not impact growth. An array of acoustic receivers are set throughout the Kewaunee River and along the mouth at Lake Michigan. As the tagged sturgeon are released this fall, the receivers will help document where the young fish spend time in the system.

In addition to the sturgeon backpacks, biologists are using side-scan sonar to assess river substrate in the lower 12-miles of the river. This information, combined with water depth and velocity measurements, will be used to create habitat suitability models for age-0 lake sturgeon in the system. Habitat use by the tagged sturgeon will help develop and verify habitat model predictions.

The goal of this project is to study habitat and use by young sturgeon to better understand where they spend time in the river and if there is adequate habitat to support survival of age-0 fish. We are also aiming to assess the spawning substrate for adult lake sturgeon to determine if the system will be able to support a self-sustaining population of this beautiful, prehistoric fish. A special thank you to the Wisconsin DNR for their collaboration and to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Science Enrichment Awards for providing seed money to start this project.  Photo credit: Dave Lawrence, USFWS

Fish Tales

Long Term Electrofishing Assessment with Oneida Nation 

By Anthony Rieth, Green Bay FWCO

As part of a long term monitoring project, staff from the Green Bay (WI) Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) and the Oneida Nation have conducted annual fall electrofishing surveys on several tribal lakes for many years. On consecutive night in late September staff members Jordan and Garrett of the Oneida Nation and Anthony Rieth with Green Bay FWCO performed surveys on Oneida Lake, Osnuhsa Lake, and Quarry Lake.

Night time electrofishing surveys are a common and effective technique for collecting fish in shallow waters on lakes and rivers. Thirteen different species of fish were encountered with several nice bluegills, largemouth bass, and walleye captured. Data collected during the surveys will be used to inform both fish stocking and harvest regulations for each lake.

Great River Road Interpretive Center Announces:

Family Fun Day is November 23, 2019

Genoa National Fish Hatchery

Head over to the Great River Road Interpretive Center on Saturday, November 23 from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for some family fun. Explore the interpretive center, complete a nature scavenger hunt, learn about local animals, and make festive crafts to take home! Adult(s) must accompany child(ren). Volunteers and partners will be hosting different hands-on stations for families including:

What's Wild in the Driftless? Explore mammals of the Driftless Area by seeing and touching the furs and skulls of mammals who call the area home. The fur and skull collection is on loan from the Allamakee County Conservation Board and the Driftless Area Education and Visitors Center in Lansing, Iowa.

Ducks on a Stick Collection: Test your waterfowl identification skills while viewing Wisconsin’s common breeding and migratory waterfowl species up close. The Ducks on a Stick Collection is on loan from the Upper Mississippi River Wildlife and Fish Refuge.

Dive Into Fish: The Upper Mississippi River is home to more than 119 species of fish! Learn about some of the common species and come face to face with fish in our aquarium room.

Create Festive Crafts: Decorate a fish ornament, write a postcard to a sturgeon, or create your own fish mobile at our arts and crafts station.

Nature Storytime: Gather around to hear nature-based stories for children at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Family Bird Hike: Learn the basics of birding and then complete a bird scavenger hunt on this family friendly hike! Be sure to dress for the weather. The hike is 30 minutes and departs at 12 p.m. In the event of measurable snowfall, this event will be cancelled. For event updates, follow us on Facebook.

Genoa National Fish Hatchery’s mission is to recover, restore, maintain and enhance fish and aquatic resources on a basin-wide and national level by producing over 35 aquatic species of varying life stages, participating in active conservation efforts with our partners, and becoming a positive force in the community by educating future generations on the benefits of conservation stewardship.

Interpretive Center Winter Hours
Monday-Friday: 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday:

Family Fun Day

Special Open Hours:
Saturday, November 23
10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.



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