Fish Lines December 2020 Edition

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u s fish and wildlife service

Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program - USFWS Interior Region 3 Great Lakes

December 27, 2020

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?

girl holding net with trout in bottom

Upper Peninsula Kids Fishing Pond Has Another Successful Year Thanks to Generous Donors

Courtesy of Roger Greil, Lake Superior State University and Tom Pink

With all the bad news and cancelled events this year due to COVID-19, young Eastern Upper Peninsula residents and visitors found some solace at the Kids Fishing Pond in Sault Ste. Marie’s Rotary Park. Due to a variety of cancelled fishing events in the region, the Kids Fishing Pond stocked the largest number of fish in its history.

One of the pond’s donors kept the pond teaming with fish by stocking it with 1,500 brook trout in June. Then, for the rest of the summer, the pond received another 2,500 rainbow trout over three months. All of the fish were 10-14 inches long.

“A 14-inch brook trout carries a lot of bragging rights wherever you fish for them, and we are sure a lot of lucky young anglers caught them at the Kids Fishing Pond this year,” said Roger Greil of Sault Ste. Marie, who has been breaking brush to chase brook trout in remote streams since he was a kid. “This was a neat year for the pond.”

The pond is open to kids aged 16-under, both residents and visitors.

“All of the fish that went into the pond for the summer of 2020 came from the Jordan River National Fish Hatchery, and without them it would have been a tough year for our youth; in fact, I am not sure the pond would have been opened this year, or if it was, there would have been a very low number of fish stocked for the kids,” said Greil, who has been leading the efforts at the pond since it was established in 2004.

“The fish we’re stocking are part of the Jordan River National Fish Hatchery fishing initiative, where we provide fish to groups that promote free and accessible youth fishing opportunities across the state of Michigan,” said Roger Gordon, manager of the federal hatchery and a former student of Greil’s at the Lake Superior State University Center for Freshwater Research and Education.

Greil said other federal and state hatcheries have come to the pond’s aid to stock fish, including Pendills Creek National Fish Hatchery and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Division.

“The Eastern UP community really appreciates everyone who has been helping make the pond a success for our youth since its beginning,” Greil said.

New Sault Ste. Marie City Manager Brian Chapman and his family really enjoyed the pond in their first EUP summer.

“My children – Aiden, 12, and Piper, 4 – spent a lot of time there last summer and right up until the fall,” Chapman said. “It was truly the highlight of our summer…My son even started to experiment with the fly rod a bit toward the end of the summer and got a thrill every time one of those trout hooked up on his 5-weight rod. We certainly look forward to it next summer.”

The only disappointment associated with the pond this year was that the 2020 Connor Gorsuch Kids Fishing Day, a free annual event that provides plenty of food, fun and fish, was cancelled.

“It was a great disappointment to all involved to have to cancel the Kids Fishing Day, but we just felt there was no way we could do it while insuring the safety of everyone,” said Greil. “We just did not want to limit the number of young anglers fishing at the pond, nor the number of parents, grandparents or volunteers – to insure safe distancing – so we made the hard decision to cancel this year. We need to be safe and make sure this is an enjoyable event for everyone involved, and we just did not see a way that we could do that this year.”

This was only the second time since 2002 that Kids Fishing Day has been cancelled, Greil said, noting that the first few events were held at a private campground on the I-75 Business Spur. The 2021 event is set for the last Saturday in July.

“Everyone involved with the event sure did miss it,” he said. “It has become a big part of our summer.”

The Sault Ste. Marie Kids Fishing Pond was created by the now-defunct Soo Area Sportsmen’s Club, city of Sault Ste. Marie, Cloverland Electric Cooperative and Lake Superior State University by placing a blocking net in an oxbow of the St. Mary’s River, keeping fish in the enclosure. The SASC, through a committee of volunteers, organized Kids Fishing Day, fish stocking and other activities to keep the pond open for area youth, trying to provide at least 500 trout per month from June through September. When the Soo Area Sportsmen’s Club dissolved, a few of its members approached Linda Hoath and the Sault Convention and Visitors Bureau with the idea of working together to keep the pond open.

Thankfully, the CVB was able to step in to ensure the pond and events continue to be supported. The CVB operates a 501C3 foundation -- the Sault Area Foundation for Education for projects like this one and now has a committee to oversee the Kids Fishing Pond and associated events.

The sponsors are still aided by many individual volunteer and group donors who help in various ways. Without them, the pond and Kids Fishing Day couldn’t happen, Greil said.

“We’re thankful each year that our youth have a place to fish and our community has another activity that encourages family’s involvement.” Greil said. “Please stay healthy and enjoy the rest of the fall and winter. We hope to see our young people next summer at the kids’ pond.” Above: "Too cute" this four year old angler shows off a nice trout caught at the pond. Image Courtesy of Brian Chapman, City of Sault Ste. Marie, MI

a person holds a pipe while fish are released from a truck

Jordan River National Fish Hatchery’s Tim Falconer and Dakota VanFleet work on stocking 1500 Brook Trout into the Rotary Park Kids Fishing pond while vacationers from Lowell, MI stand by and watch. Pictured left to right: Dakota VanFleet (LSSU Junior, Fisheries and Wildlife Management), Tim Falconer (Jordan River National Fish Hatchery). Image Courtesy of Dakota VanFleet, LSSU

a man sitting on a stool next to lab equipment

We Have Chemists in the US Fish and Wildlife Service

By Benson Solomon, Marquette Biological Station

How many of the approximately 9,000 employees within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) are chemists? According to doi.gov/careers, there are two, which are outnumbered by over one thousand biologists in various disciplines including wildlife, fisheries, botany, and ecology. Clearly, the two chemist positions are quite unique in an agency that focuses heavily on the study of organisms and their environment; even more so within the Sea Lamprey Control Program (SLCP) which focuses exclusively on controlling the population of a single fish.

The SLCP use two chemicals to control sea lamprey, TFM (3-trifluoromethyl-4’-nitrophenol) and niclosamide (2’, 5-dichloro-4’-nitrosalicylanilide). Through the application of pesticides to the tributaries of the Great Lakes, we can effectively control the population of sea lampreys. The core of the SLCP chemist’s job is to ensure our pesticides are accurately and precisely measured in as close to real time as possible, which is where my training as an analytical chemist is crucial. We use high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and spectrophotometry to measure the concentration of the pesticide, along with other chemical measurements such as pH, alkalinity, and dissolved oxygen.

Like many of my colleagues within the Service, there is really no ‘normal’ day. I may find myself out in the field taking flow and water chemistry measurements; treating a river for lamprey; capturing young sturgeon to protect them from pesticides; investigating the effect of pesticides on protected mussels; trying new formulations of lampricides; and working with other Service personnel, Department of Interior programs, and partners on various research studies. Outside of fieldwork, I may be training new employees to take water chemistry measurements; teaching a Hazard Communication course; acting as the Medical Surveillance Program Coordinator; attending a meeting of the Lampricide Control Task Force; or working on a new HPLC method for measuring pesticides. These are just a few ways I am able to contribute to SLCP and Service objectives.

I believe a critical component of my job is teaching other members of the SLCP how, and more importantly, why we make these measurements. Our technicians often ask me questions like: How does this pH probe work? Why does TFM change color? Why do we add a basic buffer to TFM samples prior to analysis? What is alkalinity? What does HPLC do? These questions require a deeper understanding of chemical knowledge and give me the opportunity to develop scientific knowledge within the SLCP.

My three years of experience within the SLCP have allowed me to branch out to other disciplines such as fish biology, invasive species management, and pesticide regulations. I am eager to work with new people in different areas of the Service to exchange information and ideas. Few people within the Service may know a chemist, so if you have a question we can help with, seek us out and ask! Above: Here is our chemist, Benson Solomon, with the Interior Region 3-Great Lakes Sea Lamprey Control Program. Credit: USFWS

man standing on deck of a specialized trawling boat

A New Gear for Untested Waters

By Cody Henderson, La Crosse FWCO

The electrified dozer trawl, a fishing gear developed by the Columbia Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO), is a new gear being used by the La Crosse FWCO to combat Asian carp in the Upper Mississippi River. This gear has all the same components of an electrofishing boat, but also has a three foot by seven foot frame with a net attached to it that can be raised and lowered with winches. The net captures the fish as they are immobilized by the electrical field in front of it, basically taking the place of the dip netters that are used while standard electrofishing. The La Crosse FWCO staff was able to build this innovative gear and has done some testing to ensure it functions properly. This gear has been used in multiple basins to collect data on Silver Carp and has shown promising results. Our office plans to deploy this gear next year to test its efficacy in the Upper Mississippi River. Our hopes are high that this gear proves effective in the collection of Asian carp data as well as assist in collecting community data in the Upper Mississippi Basin in the year 2021 and beyond.

Above: A US Fish and Wildlife Service employee preparing the net of the Dozer trawl just before it was deployed. Credit: Wes Bouska, USFWS

orange baskets with water faucets

Streamside Mussel Culture Season Ends: Moves Back to Genoa NFH 

By Beth Glidewell, Genoa NFH

At the end of the summer growing season, juvenile mussels that have been cultured in the Mobile Aquatic Rearing System (MARS) trailer all summer are counted, measured, and moved to the mussel building at Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) for winter culture. The MARS trailer is also returned to the hatchery, cleaned, needed repairs are made, and is winterized for storage until next spring.

The MARS trailer is installed at Blackhawk Park each year as soon as spring flood waters recede, with electricity to run air and water pumps, clean water to maintain the filtration system, and UV sterilization systems operating as biosecurity measures. These features make the MARS trailer a very productive culture system for many species of juvenile mussels, and also require a team effort to close-out the system at the end of the season. We were lucky to have low water levels and several balmy Wisconsin fall days to pack up the trailer, haul the water pump and its filter cage out of the slough, bring everything back to the hatchery, and power wash away a season’s worth of river mud, algae, bugs, and unwanted pests.

The juvenile mussels that spent the summer in the MARS trailer are now settled into their winter homes in rearing pans and baskets in the mussel building. This year, the mussel building is getting a major renovation: in addition to a re-design of the rearing pan system, the building features insulated building walls and a new head tank for incoming pond water. We’ll feature these and many more upgrades to the building in upcoming editions of Fish Lines.

Above: "Home at the Hatchery" larger groups of juvenile Fatmucket overwinter in ‘floating baskets’ in a mussel building raceway. Credit: Beth Glidewell, USFWS

gloved hands spawning a brook trout into a bowl

As Spawning Season Winds Down...Isolation Building Construction Ramps Up

By Jeremy Trimpey, Iron River NFH

The 2020 coaster brook trout spawning season was a welcomed success by the Iron River National Fish Hatchery (NFH) crew this year. This was the first “back-to-normal” spawning event since the Hatchery had to cull off its brook trout brood fish due to an outbreak of the bacteria Vagococcus salmoninarum within the Iron River NFH brood population. Last spawning season, the Hatchery staff was able to muster 77,000 eyed eggs from a very young brood line which resulted in nearly 26,000 fingerlings. Although the 2019 spawning season was performed under less than ideal conditions and not all egg requests were met, the resulting offspring prevented a lost year class in the Hatchery’s Tribal partner’s restoration efforts. During the 2020 spawning season, two different Tobin Harbor strain coaster brook trout lines were crossed to create a new Iron River NFH brood line and over 2.3 million green eggs were collected so that all egg/fingerling requests will be able to be met for the upcoming production year.

As the Iron River NFH crew is putting the final touches on this year’s spawning season by shocking, sorting, and enumerating eggs, a privately owned construction firm is fully entrenched in the construction of the Hatchery’s new brook trout isolation room. This $1.2 million renovation of previous storage space will allow for the brook trout brood program to be performed completely isolated from the lake trout brood program. The separation of these two programs will hopefully prevent another catastrophic disease outbreak like the one caused by Vagococcus salmoninarum. All phases of brook trout brood rearing and egg production at Iron River NFH are expected to occur in this room including future brood grow out (egg to spawning size) as well as production egg incubation. As of this winter, the project is expected to be completed by the end of May 2021 with the Hatchery hoping to move brook trout into the new tanks early summer 2021.       

Above: Spawning Coaster Brook Trout at Iron River NFH. Credit: USFWS

a telemetry station in Mississippi River

La Crosse FWCO Mobilizes to Help State Partners Fight Asian carp in Pool 8

By Mark Fritts, Wes Bouska, Jenna Bloomfield, La Crosse FWCO

After the collection of 39 Silver Carp in Pool 8 near La Crosse, Wisconsin in the spring of 2020, state and federal partners have come together and mobilized in an effort to keep populations suppressed. A combination of telemetry, hydroacoustics, and eDNA are now being used to guide and evaluate Pool 8 removal efforts led by the Minnesota DNR (MNDNR).

Telemetry

Biologists from the La Crosse FWCO worked with MNDNR to capture and tag five Silver Carp in Pool 8 during October 2020 (see November 2020 Fishlines for a description of these efforts). Following these initial tagging operations, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) biologists have continued collaborations with partners at MNDNR and US Geological Survey to provide up-to-date location data for these fish. Staff from the La Crosse FWCO installed two specialized real-time receivers at two locations in Pool 8. Employing similar technology to modern weather stations, these receivers use data loggers and cellular modems to relay detection data in near real-time to managers. These data are used by biologists with MNDNR to guide fishing efforts to capture additional invasive carp.

Hydroacoustics

During the last week of October, staff with the La Crosse FWCO worked with removal teams from the MNDNR to provide hydroacoustic surveys at three backwaters in Pool 8 of the Mississippi River. Hydroacoustic surveys were performed at first light, and the locations of any congregations of large-bodied fishes were reported to the MNDNR and their contracted commercial fishermen. The backwaters were then fished by the removal team, and hydroacoustic surveys were repeated after fishing efforts were completed. No invasive carp were captured at the backwaters that were fished with gill nets. The commercial seine haul, however resulted in the removal of one invasive Silver Carp. The captured fish went back to the La Crosse FWCO for necropsy to determine length, weight, sex, age, and to take a tissue sample for genetic analysis. Additional hydroacoustic surveys are planned for the spring.

eDNA

In addition to hydroacoustics and telemetry, La Crosse FWCO also conducted eDNA sampling in several off-channel areas of Pool 8 to look for additional evidence of Asian carp presence. During the first week of November, crews collected 500 water samples from targeted areas which were selected for their accessibility to potential future netting crews and suitability for Asian carp presence based on observations from pools downriver where Asian carp are common. Coronavirus risk mitigation gear added new, fashionable head wear to the mix. All of the samples were transferred to the Whitney Genetics Lab to determine if Asian carp DNA was present. Results are expected before the end of the calendar year and will be used in conjunction with the data from telemetry and hydroacoustics to help managers learn more about the emerging presence of Asian carp in Pool 8.

Above: La Crosse FWCO biologist Mark Fritts works to set up a real-time telemetry receiver in the Upper Mississippi River near La Crosse, WI. Credit: Cody Henderson, USFWS

echogram image of fish and bottom

Carterville FWCO Hydroacoustics on the Ohio River

By Garret Johnson, Carterville FWCO

In 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) developed and implemented a standardized hydroacoustic sampling program in the Ohio River. Hydroacoustics is a useful fish management tool because it is non-invasive (does not physically harm fish), has greater coverage than other gears, and can measure behavioral characteristics in the fishes’ natural environment. Similar to the transducer on a recreational boat, hydroacoustic sampling uses sound waves to sample fish populations. A sound wave is emitted from the transducer, travelling through the water at approximately 1500 m/s until it hits a target of a different density than water. When the sound wave hits a target, a portion of the sound energy is reflected back to the transducer where the receiver measures it. The amount of time it takes the reflected sound wave to return to the transducer and the magnitude of the reflected sound wave are used to estimate the distance from the transducer (depth) and size of the detected target. The USFWS deploys split-beam transducers, which have four “quadrants” emitting four concurrent sound waves and having four receivers. Each receiver independently processes the returning sound wave and the differences in wave characteristics at each receiver allows the software to determine target locations within the beam. Knowing the targets location within the beam, we can track individual targets over successive pings. These successive targets allow us to estimate behavioral (swimming speed, direction, tilt, etc.) characteristics of each target. Therefore, hydroacoustic surveys can determine physical and behavioral characteristics of each fish target in addition to enumerating fish within a survey area, greatly increasing the amount of information we use to make management decisions.

Above: Example echogram depicting fish tracks and the river bottom from hydroacoustic surveys on the Ohio River during 2017. Credit: Garret Johnson, Carterville FWCO

Focus on the Field | Genoa National Fish Hatchery

man holds lake sturgeon in boat

Native American Heritage Month: A Time to Reflect

By Doug Aloisi, Genoa NFH

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) celebrated November as Native American Heritage Month, a time the Service used to reflect on the rich history and cultures of Native Americans both past and present, and their importance to natural resource conservation in the future. The Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH), along with our Service Fish and Wildlife Conservation Offices work very closely with tribal conservation offices to assist in the conservation mission of the tribes on their tribal lands and waters. This is part of our nation's tribal trust responsibilities, many spelled out in treaties signed by the U.S. government with the tribes sometimes many years ago. Genoa NFH actively works with 12 Midwestern and Northeastern tribes to assist them in the Recovery of Threatened and Endangered Species, the Restoration of Native species of fish, and the creation of sport fisheries that are enjoyed by tribal members and non-members alike.

All of this happens over a large landscape of sovereign tribal lands and waters. Endangered species such as the freshwater mussels are supplied and propagated in tribal hatcheries. Lake sturgeon and Coaster brook trout are supplied to tribes through targeted restoration plans in order to assist in species recovery over their historic range. Also recreational fish species such as Walleye, Rainbow trout, Brook trout, Bluegill, Black crappie, and Largemouth bass are also supplied to tribes to meet their fisheries management objectives.

The Genoa NFH staff always consider meeting our tribal commitments with a measure of respect and honor, and while November is specifically chosen as Native American Heritage Month, it is celebrated year-round through the cycle of life at the Genoa NFH facility.

Above: A Tribal biologist holds a hatchery lake sturgeon recaptured during a survey. Credit: Pat Brown

There's Always More to Our Story...

man hold lake trout and chinook salmon

The Four Components of the Fish Tagging and Recovery Lab

By Kevin Pankow, Green Bay FWCO

The Great Lakes Fish Tagging and Recovery Lab, headquartered at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Green Bay Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, was established upon request by the Council of Lake Committees of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission in 2010. The vision was to “mass mark” all 22 million salmon and trout stocked in the U.S. waters of the Great Lakes to aid agencies managing the fishery by recovery of marked fish. The recoveries are used to evaluate state and federal stocking efforts, measure the success of lake trout restoration efforts, determine how many wild fish contribute to the fish community and fisheries, evaluate movement patterns of stocked fish, and provide information to state fisheries managers to help balance predator abundance to the available prey fish. It is funded through the Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

The program has four components. The first component, which began in 2010, was identifying all stocked salmon and trout by injecting a coded wire tag (CWT) injected into the nasal tissue and/or clipping the adipose fin. CWTs are stainless steel 1.1 millimeter long, 0.25 mm diameter wire with a laser-etched six digit code that is unique to a species, genetic strain, year class, hatchery of origin and stocking location. The adipose fin-clip allows anglers and biologists to easily identify hatchery-reared fish. To accomplish this the Service uses four mobile, automated tagging trailers to process about 9 million fish each year. To date, over 90 million lake trout, Chinook salmon, Steelhead, Atlantic salmon, brown trout, brook trout and splake have been tagged or adipose fin-clipped.

The second component is data collection on the stocked fish and their wild counterparts harvested by the fishery. The collections focus on recovery of CWTs and biological data from lake trout, Chinook salmon and Steelhead. The data coupled with the CWT information reveals movement, growth and survival of the hatchery fish. Data collected on their wild counterparts helps determine contributions to the population and fishery from natural reproduction, as well as aid in developing population estimates. Beginning in 2012, the program hired 11 seasonal technicians each year to sample sport fish catches at 52 ports on Lakes Michigan and Huron. These technicians examine on the average about 16,000 salmon and trout per year. The collections occur April through September at cleaning stations and fishing derbies. Data collected on each individual fish includes species, length, weight, fin-clips, gender, maturity and lamprey wounds. Scales, otoliths or a maxillary are collected for age estimation of wild lake trout, Chinook salmon and Steelhead. The program has also collaborated with twelve different agencies and universities on nine studies focused on diet/niche overlap and contaminant bioaccumulation in salmon and trout, proportion of wild natal fish sources in Steelhead and Chinook salmon, and lake trout and Chinook salmon energy response to lamprey wounds.

The third component involves laboratory work. Coded wire tags are extracted from snouts and read to determine the six digit code for each recovered hatchery fish and over 119,000 CWTs have been read to date. Over 26,000 ages have been estimated on wild lake trout, Chinook salmon and Steelhead. Ages are used to determine the year the fish where born, age composition of wild fish, and to estimate the proportion of lake trout and Chinook salmon that are produced in the lake.

The final component is data management and analysis. The raw biological, CWT, and age data are combined and distributed to state and federal agency partners annually. The program also performs many analyses of the data to highlight results important to fishery managers and policy makers. The dataset guides state and federal agencies on species stocking decisions to help balance predator abundance to prey availability. Over 200,000 data records of salmon and trout including state creel,

weir, assessment surveys and voluntary angler returns or sport caught salmon and trout are in the set. The program uses the data to produce or partner with outside agencies on numerous scientific publications. The end result would not be possible without the program providing tagging and marking services and a system to collect, process, and cooperatively analyze return data to assist agencies in evaluating the economic and biological impact of their stocking programs.

Above: Fish Biologist Kevin Pankow preparing to examine sport caught lake trout and Chinook salmon at a Lake Michigan fish cleaning station. Credit: USFWS

man displays a very large black carp

Tips for Black Carp Identification

Michael Glubzinski, Jen-Luc Abeln, and Brett Yonker; Carterville FWCO – Wilmington Substation

Most fish enthusiasts in the greater Mississippi River Basin have heard of Black Carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus), generally the fourth and lowest-profile of the invasive carps listed as introduced into the basin between 1970 – 1990. However, chances are you haven’t seen one. In fact, only just over 700 individuals have been recorded as captured in the Mississippi River Basin from Louisiana to central Illinois, with the first verified capture occurring in Horseshoe Lake—an oxbow of the Mississippi River in southwest Illinois—in 2003. Most captured Black Carp are recovered as bycatch (unintentional target species) from commercial hoop-net and gill-net fisheries, with reports increasing since the installment of a bounty program by the State of Illinois in 2015, which offers a $100 reward for any Black Carp captured in Illinois or its contiguous waters.

Initially introduced to control trematode parasite outbreaks in aquaculture ponds by consuming snails, an intermediate host for the parasites, Black Carp are known molluscivores (mollusk-eaters) that could threaten native mussel populations, many of which are imperiled. However, recent research has shown they are not limited to a molluscivorous diet, but also consume substantial amounts of insect larvae and other invertebrates. The fear is that this observed “generalist” feeding behavior could help facilitate their survival and growth across a wider range of invaded habitats. In order to reduce the risk of further establishment, reporting of captures is crucial, but identification of Black Carp can be tricky, as they are notoriously similar in appearance to their more-abundant relative, the Grass Carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella). However, with a few tips, you’ll be prepared to distinguish these species should you come across one while on the water:

1). Black Carp tend to be dark brown/black or blueish gray in body color, with dark fins, while grass carp are typically more olive-colored toward the dorsal and silvery/white toward the ventral, with slightly lighter fin coloration

2). Black Carp have prominent, molariform (molar-like) pharyngeal teeth unlike grass carp, which possess serrated pharyngeal teeth

3). Black Carp possess a nearly linear lateral line across the length of their body, which contrasts with the curved shape of the posterior portion of the lateral line in grass carp

4). Grass Carp have a visible upper lip when viewed from above with the mouth closed, while black carp do not

Tips like these—and additional resource materials and photos—can also be found at www.asiancarp.us. Armed with this information, you can help make certain that no captured Black Carp goes unreported this upcoming year, and that this stealthy invader won’t pass by unnoticed!

Above: Southern Illinois University graduate student with a record 115 lb. Black Carp captured by commercial fishers in 2018. Credit: Jen-Luc Abeln, USFWS

Fish Tales

Habitat Restoration During the Pandemic

By Jeremy Andersen, Carterville Fish ans Wildlife Conservation Office

A large part of my work at the Carterville Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office is conducted under the Sike’s Act on Scott Air Force Base. The Sikes Act is a partnership between the Department of the Interior and Department of Defense that seeks to preserve and enhance ecosystems on military lands. With the limited ability to work in the field, we have been able to focus on and make relatively quick progress on the planning portion of several projects.

One project that we are very excited about is a Habitat Restoration Project that requires draining 400+ acres of woodland flood plains to improve available habitat for the Indiana Bat, an endangered species. The surrounding watershed has been heavily altered due to crop farming and the construction of a regional airport. The alterations have increased the frequency and duration of standing water within the woodlands, causing excess silt to be deposited and replaced large areas of tree canopy with open water. While this is great for waterfowl, it is detrimental to the habitat crucial for the Indiana Bat.

Currently we have been working with a private consulting firm and our partners on the air base to develop a plan to create new pathways for the water to recede back into the natural creek bed and replace the trees that have been lost to provide roosting opportunities for the Indiana Bat. 

Settling in for Winter

By Nick Bloomfield, Genoa National Fish Hatchery

As production season winds down, things start to slow down a bit at the hatchery. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t have fish on station. We hold on to several species for different reasons throughout the winter. We currently have four of our ponds set up to overwinter fish.

One of these ponds is dedicated to finish growing out the Rainbow trout hatched last winter. These will be grown as much as possible until the end of April when they will be stocked out as catchable sized trout. Another pond is dedicated to keeping our "fishing day" fish, mainly Rainbow trout with some fun surprises sprinkled in. There are some absolute monsters in there, partially due to the fishing day cancellations in 2020. The next fishing event will be epic, whenever that might be!

Another pond is dedicated to all the broodstock sportfish on station, including Yellow perch, Bluegill, Largemouth bass, Smallmouth bass, and Black crappie. They will be divided into their own ponds come spring. Finally, a pond is used by some of this years’ Walleye and Smallmouth bass crops. These are destined to become host fish for the mussel program in 2021. More current and future mussel host fish can be found inside the buildings. Channel catfish, Freshwater drum, Walleye, Golden shiner, and Flathead catfish are all waiting their turn to carry around some baby mussels. Never a dull moment!

 

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