Fish Lines December 2019 Edition

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u s fish and wildlife service

Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program 

 USFWS Interior Region 3

December 10, 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, email tim_smigielski@fws.gov

Did You Know?

Great River Road Interpretive Center

Great River Road Interpretive Center at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin. Credit: Jerry Wiegel

Regional Team Receives Department of Energy Award

By Monica Blaser, Regional Office - External Affairs

We at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service believe it is important to be a leader in energy efficiency. The Great River Road Interpretive Center at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Genoa, Wisconsin is a recent example of our dedication to showcasing quality public facilities that utilize energy efficient technology.

On June 1, 2018 the Great River Road Interpretive Center opened its doors to visitors for the first time. The interpretive center garnered media attention for its exhibits highlighting significant regional histories including the pearl button industry and the Battle of Bad Axe, but local newspapers and television stations were not the only ones to take notice of the new facility.

The Federal Energy and Water Management Program, an office of the U.S. Department of Energy, recognizes individuals, groups and agencies for their outstanding contributions in the areas of energy efficiency, water conservation and the use of advanced and renewable energy technologies at federal facilities while also advancing federal agency missions.

On October 29, 2019 a regional team consisting of Doug Aloisi, Mike Brickley, Erin McFadden, Meaghan Nelson and Kurt Schilling was recognized by the Federal Energy Management Program for their collective work on the Great River Road Interpretive Center.

The 5,000 square-foot interpretive center is LEED Silver rated with an innovative geothermal heating, ventilation and air conditioning system that utilizes process water straight from the hatchery. The building exterior was constructed using native limestone and reclaimed barn wood. It is a model of a high-performance sustainable building with a grid-tied solar power system, low-flow fixtures and water efficient landscaping which conserve about 36,900 gallons of water annually.

The interpretive center plays a major role in educating hatchery visitors on the importance of the Mississippi River and the work of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The interpretive center offers visitors opportunities to learn about the flora and fauna of the Upper Mississippi River. Educational exhibits go beyond the story of the hatchery and feature significant histories of the area.

Hatchery activities and amenities include a wetland and native prairie boardwalk with an outdoor classroom area, a walking trail and map of the facility and culture buildings housing 24 species of fish, freshwater mussels and amphibians. Visitors can observe up to 13 species of fish that are reared on site and a number of mussel species that are common to the Upper Mississippi River Basin.

The construction of this award winning interpretive center was partially funded by a National Scenic Byways grant, making Genoa the first national fish hatchery to be awarded Department of Transportation, Federal Highway - National Scenic Byways funds.

The center is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. There is no fee for entry.

Learn more about the Genoa National Fish Hatchery and plan your visit!

biologist collect gametes from cisco at Jordan River NFH

Jordan River NFH Completes Life Cycle for Cisco in Captivity

By Roger Gordon, Jordan River NFH

During November 2019, Jordan River National Fish Hatchery (NFH) staff began spawning operations on captive brood stocks of cisco, (Coregonus artedi) on the facility. This represents the first time this species has been cultured to maturity within the national fish hatchery system, and a first at the production scale anywhere. The adult fish at the hatchery were collected as eggs from wild populations in Northern Lake Huron beginning in 2016. Spawning operations for this captive population will continue into early December 2019 with analysis of the viability of the resulting eggs available in mid-January 2020. This program is part of a comprehensive restoration effort for the species on Lake Huron in cooperation with the State of Michigan, Chippewa-Ottawa Resource Authority, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and federal partners. Progeny from these spawning operations will be stocked next fall in the Saginaw Bay region of Lake Huron in fulfillment of a 10 year reintroduction study. For more information about this exciting development or other questions about the cisco reintroduction program contact Roger Gordon, Hatchery Manager at roger_gordon@fws.gov. Or call the hatchery at 231-584-2461.

Above: Fish Biologists collect eggs from ripe female cisco at Jordan River NFH. USFWS photo

brook trout isolation building design

Brook Trout Isolation Room in Design Phase at Iron River NFH

By Jeremy Trimpey, Iron River NFH

The broodstock program at the Iron River National Fish Hatchery (NFH) provides approximately three million eyed lake trout and coaster brook trout eggs for partners around the region and nation. That all came to an end in 2018 with the occurrence of bacterial pathogen, Vagococcus salmoninarum on the facilty. All broodstock were culled, the facility was disinfected and the hatchery is attempting to start over with egg collection from wild parents stocks. Coaster brook trout were hit the hardest by the pathogen and regional fishery managers agreed that production techniques for these brood fish had to change to prevent future occurrences. In response, it has been proposed to produce these fish in an isolated rearing unit where single pass spring water can be filtered and sterilized then used in a protected indoor tank system.

The proposed production system is currently in the design phase through a contracted engineering firm. A potential set back to the proposed system is the extreme turbidity of the hatchery’s source water during storm events, which can bog down drum filers and make ultraviolet light (UV) sterilization ineffective. Of course a flood event was not forthcoming during this phase, so Iron River NFH staff mimicked a flood event, collected water samples and filtered through various proposed drum filter mesh sizes. These samples will then be tested for total suspended solids and UV transmittance. Results will then be used to determine the feasibility of using drum filters and UV sterilizers in the proposed production system. Iron River NFH has many challenges yet to come. Stay tuned for updates as we move forward with restarting our broodstock program.

Above: Hatchery staff simulate turbidity during flood events that may negatively affect the proposed filtration and disinfection system. USFWS photo

sorting invasive carp during a syrvey

Anthony Rieth of the Greenbay FWCO separates Asian carp from native species after an electrofishing run on the Illinois River. Credit: Wes Bouska, USFWS

All Hands on Deck for Long Term Research and Monitoring Work

By Wes Bouska, La Crosse FWCO

Prior to the 2019 field season, Region 3 Fish and Wildlife Conservation Offices (FWCO)  were asked to assist with Asian carp work being conducted within the Illinois River. Great Lakes crews from Alpena, Michigan, Ashland and Green Bay, Wisconsin, along with Large River crews from Columbia, Missouri and La Crosse, Wisconsin, all worked together to complete electrofishing, as well as, hoop and mini-fyke net surveys throughout the field season. The surveys followed the Long Term Research and Monitoring (LTRM) protocol that has been a successful model for collecting fish community data in large Midwestern rivers for nearly 30 years. This LTRM sampling effort is used to better understand the impacts of invasive species on native fish communities, to help inform hydroacoustic surveys, to evaluate contracted commercial harvest of Asian carp, and to detect young-of year Asian carp. 

This unique opportunity brought together field staff that normally wouldn’t interact. New friendships were forged, new skills learned, and staff received a first-hand look at the conditions at “ground zero” in the battle to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. For many Great Lakes personnel, this was their first time actually seeing invasive Silver and Bighead Carp in the wild. Watching them jump behind the boat and boil from the water when electrofishing put the threat these fish pose to our Great Lakes into perspective, and galvanized our efforts to keep them from gaining a foothold in Lake Michigan and beyond. 

Crews travelled long distances and worked long days in the heat and humidity while dodging flying carp. Through the teamwork and the dedication of FWCO personnel, the sampling was completed safely, correctly, and on time. Thanks to all!

trout eggs in aquarium

Eyed lake trout eggs will continue to incubate in the rocks of the aquarium. Credit: Mallory Mackey, USFWS

Northern Wisconsin Students Embark on "Egg-cellent" Adventure

By Carey Edwards, Iron River NFH

For the past seventeen years, raising trout in the classroom has been common place in the Northwood’s of Wisconsin. The program originated in the Superior Middle School and has made its way through various other school districts around the area. The project now resides at Northwestern and Hayward Middle schools and Superior High School. What better way could there be to teach students about the life history of trout, than to raise fish in your classroom?  

Through generous donations by the Brule River Sportsman’s Club and Trout Unlimited, aquariums and chiller units were provided to the schools while Iron River National Fish Hatchery (NFH) supplied eyed lake trout eggs and fish food for the project. Hatchery staff are on-call for technical advice should any issues arise. Nearly 900 students across three schools, welcomed 500 eggs into the aquariums in mid-November. The students will monitor water temperature, feed the trout daily and make sure the conditions are suitable for their developing fish.

As part of the program, the hatchery will visit the classroom next spring to continue the learning process. Fish biologists will give a power point presentation, emphasizing math’s everyday occurrence at the fish hatchery. This helps to strike home how important and frequently math is used in everyday life. The Brule River Sportsman’s Club also follows up with a presentation about brook trout.

Trout in the Classroom is very rewarding for all involved. The students, clubs and hatchery look forward to watching the program unfold over the winter and are egg-cited to see the end results in the spring.

retired lake trout being stcoked into local michigan lakes

Staff deliver the retired brood fish to their new home at Kitch-iti-kipi (The Big Spring) near Manistique, MI. Credit: Chris Dean, USFWS

Where does a fish go when it retires?

By Denise Johnston, Pendills Creek NFH/Sullivan Creek NFH

Where do fish go when they retire from Great Lakes Lake Trout Restoration Program? No place warm…that’s for sure! The Sullivan Creek NFH brood stock produced over six million green eggs this fall for federal and state partners in the continuing effort to restore self-sustaining populations of lake trout in the Great Lakes.

With several lots (groups of young fish) poised to produce next year, the older fish could be “retired”. The hatchery staff work with our state partners to identify suitable lakes for stocking these fish. Nearly 900 Seneca Lake and Perry Sound strain lake trout found new homes in Lake Fanny Hooe, Grousehaven Lake and Maceday Lake. These whopper lake trout range from 15 to 29 inches in length. The retired fish will provide angling opportunities throughout the winter to those who brave the cold for a chance to catch a trophy sized lake trout.

For those who just want to see some of these awesome specimens in their new home…and visit a really cool place, check out Kitch-iti-kipi The Big Spring in Palms Brook State Park.

lake strugeon fingerlings

A close up view of fingerling lake sturgeon. Credit: USFWS

Continued Efforts to Restore Historic Populations

By Orey Eckes, Genoa NFH

A cooperative effort among the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – New York Field Office (USFWS-NYFO), Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH), USFWS - New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe (SRMT), the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is leading to the restoration of lake sturgeon to the St. Lawrence River and its tributaries.

In June 2019 hatchery staff, Doug Aloisi and Orey Eckes, aided with the collection of lake sturgeon eggs from wild caught spawning fish below the NYPA dam in Massena, NY. After fertilization, eggs were transported to Genoa NFH and DEC Oneida Hatchery. Sturgeon were fed diets of brine shrimp, bloodworms and krill and were seven inches long by the beginning of October. All sturgeon from Genoa NFH were coded wire tagged, which gives them a batch identification number, allowing resource managers to assess future population growth and survival.

By mid-October sturgeon were ready to make their journey back east. In October 2019 hatchery staff ventured out east with approximately 18,000 tagged lake sturgeon. Upon arrival they were welcomed by local press representatives and staff from USFWS-NYFO, DEC, SMRT, NYPA and USGS. The sturgeon were released into the St. Lawrence River at Ogdensburg and below the NYPA dam in Massena, as well as several larger tributaries. With this cooperative effort among agencies, biologists are hopeful populations of lake sturgeon in the St. Lawrence River may one-day return to historic numbers. Since 2013 when the partnership began 87,500 juvenile lake sturgeon have been stocked. The Genoa NFH staff are looking forward to working with these partners for years to come to establish a growing tradition toward the restoration of lake sturgeon to the St. Lawrence River.

Field Focus | Marquette Biological Station

electrofishing for juvenilr lake sturgeon

Collecting juvenile lake sturgeon in the Big Manistee River, MI. Credit Rob Elliott, USFWS

The Opportunities We Seek

By Benjamin Bejcek, Marquette Biological Station

I was not sure what to expect when contacting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)  Marquette Biological Station to inquire about volunteer opportunities. My experiences through internships and volunteering provided me with various outreach and management opportunities, but I had not yet volunteered with a federal agency. I knew I wanted to gain more experience in the field of fisheries and it turns out that volunteering at the Marquette Biological Station provided a great opportunity to expand my skill set and to learn more about the USFWS.

The primary objective of the Marquette station is to control Sea Lampreys in the Great Lakes Basin to increase survival and reproduction of native fish such as lake trout. It was a program that I had not worked with previously, and I was excited that I would be able to help with this effort. I assisted in monitoring adult sea lamprey traps and conducting electrofishing surveys in streams to collect larvae. I had used electrofishing to collect data for my master’s thesis project, but it was certainly interesting to see how the technique was used in the Sea Lamprey Control Program.

I also assisted in capturing juvenile lake sturgeon prior to the lampricide treatment of the Manistee River. Since juvenile lake sturgeon are sensitive to the lampricide used to treat lamprey-infested streams, they were collected before treatment occurred to minimize mortality. The effort was conducted in collaboration with staff from the USFWS Green Bay Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office and biologists and technicians from the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, highlighting the great partnerships that have been developed. The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians provided facilities to care for the juvenile lake sturgeon before they were released back into the river. It was challenging, yet exciting to work during the overnight hours searching the water with spotlights for fish to capture.

All of these experiences were rewarding, both from a learning perspective as well as from the feeling of contributing to the control of a significant invasive species. With threats from invasive species, a helping hand is sometimes needed in order to maintain the balance of the ecosystem. My time spent volunteering with the Marquette Biological Station was an experience of a lifetime that I will never forget.

Always more to our story...

invasive crayfish in a burrow

With others...We make progress on Invasive Species across our Region

By Rob Simmonds, Regional Office - Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program

“Asian carp” are likely the most recognized group of Aquatic Invasive Species in the Midwest, but they are just one of many that we are working on with partners from Minnesota to Ohio. Water hyacinth is one that can go from a desired water garden plant to several garbage bags full of plants that were removed by hand when investigating a report of it being found in the East River (Green Bay, Wisconsin). Red swamp crayfish can go from a tasty treat in at a crayfish boil in Louisiana to an aggressive menace in small ponds in Novi, Michigan where over 100 were trapped or removed by hand digging them from burrows in one day of effort.

These are just a few of examples of the work done on recent site visits to state and tribal projects that are funded through grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. And there's more...like work in Minnesota to control starry stonewort, invasive plant surveys on the Oneida Nation, a review of several projects by the Gun Lake Tribe, and all of the Asian carp work in Illinois and Ohio. Thank you to our partners for all of their effort and dedication!

  Above: Rob Simmonds attempts to remove a Red swamp crayfish from it's burrow in a Michigan pond. Credit: Michigan DNR

Biologist and partners work on invasive water hyacinth

As an initial response to a report of this invasive plant, several bags of water hyacinth were removed from the banks of the East River in Green Bay, WI. Credit: Wisconsin DNR

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