Fish Lines May 2021 Edition

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

May 27, 2021

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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

Did You Know?

Hatchery staff setting up 3D archery target

3D Archery Trail Open for 2021

By Brandon Keesler, Iron River National Fish Hatchery

The Iron River National Fish Hatchery’s primary focus is restoration of lake trout and coaster brook trout in the upper Great Lakes, stocking 1.5 million yearling fish annually. 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 for use on our extensive 3.5-mile trail system, free of charge and can access this trail 365 days a year for other uses such as cross-country skiing, hiking, hunting, and birding.

In 2019 we officially opened our 3D archery range and have seen numerous visitors frequently using it for both entertainment and practice. With Covid-19 scrapping most everyone’s daily activities for the summer of 2020, outdoor recreation saw a sharp increase. There was no exception here at the Iron River National Fish Hatchery. Even though our visitor center was closed, and our scheduled activities were canceled, our hiking and archery trails remained in use. We witnessed many visitors taking advantage of some down time and enjoying the our outdoor access.

For 2021 both our hiking and archery trails are open for use. Visitors can access the ¾ mile archery trail from the designated 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 experience this wonderful new addition to our grounds. Great things are happening at Iron River National Fish Hatchery. Come check us out!

Above: A hatchery employee sets up a black bear target on the 3D archery range at the Iron River National Fish Hatchery. Credit: USFWS

FWS employee holding an invasive carp

La Crosse FWCO Assists in Study of Underwater Acoustic Deterrent System

Katie Lieder, La Crosse FWCO

This spring, staff from the La Crosse Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) traveled to Keokuk, Iowa to assist the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, and other partners with a project to study how a newly-installed underwater Acoustic Deterrent System (uADS) affects fish movement through Lock and Dam 19 on the Upper Mississippi River. The uADS system was put in place earlier this year as an experimental deterrent to upstream movement by invasive carp through the lock chamber. Lock and Dam 19 has a rise of 38 feet, which makes it impassable by fish except through the lock, making it an ideal location to test a deterrent.

As part of this study, commercial fishing crews caught fish using gill nets in Pools 17 and 18 and the La Crosse FWCO staff used trucks outfitted with hauling tanks to transport these fish from their capture locations to just below Lock and Dam 19. USGS surgery crews put acoustic tags in these fish so that their movement through the lock chamber can be monitored by telemetry receivers. Both native species (such as Bigmouth Buffalo) and invasive carp (Grass, Silver, and Bighead) were tagged to study how the uADS affects the behavior of different species in the lock approach.

The La Crosse FWCO assisted with this project for two weeks putting many miles on the hauling trucks and chauffeuring over 300 fish from their capture sites to the release location in Pool 20. It felt a little like being an Uber driver for fish, but it was also very rewarding to assist our partners from many different agencies with this project. This was a great kick-off to the 2021 field season, and we are looking forward to seeing the results of this study in the future. 

Above: La Crosse FWCO Fish Biologist Jenna Merry holds a tagged silver carp ready for release in Pool 20. Credit: Marybeth Brey/USGS

topeka shiner and orange spotted sunfish

Time to Shine at Neosho NFH

By Nathan Eckert, Neosho National Fish Hatchery

As the bright sunshine warms southern Missouri our temperatures rise and it is time to begin production of the Federally Endangered Topeka Shiner here at Neosho National Fish Hatchery. The Topeka Shiner is a minnow known to inhabit small prairie streams of the high plains. They have a unique reproduction strategy in that they spawn in nests that sunfish prepare and maintain. Normally, the male sunfish will make a nest, and care for the eggs and fry. The Topeka Shiner has developed the strategy of sneaking into this nest to deposit their eggs in hopes that the sunfish won’t be able to tell the babies apart and will care for both alike. Here we use Orangespotted Sunfish because they are the smallest of the locally available sunfish, and less likely to feed on the larval Topeka Shiner. We fill a pair of raceways that aren’t occupied by rainbow trout, and keep them static so that the temperature rises, when the temperature reaches about 75 degrees Fahrenheit, the spawn begins. By keeping a second adjacent raceway full the temperatures match and we’re able to net any Topeka Shiner fry that we see over to the empty side to further decrease the chances of predation. There are two strains of Topeka Shiner currently in production for restoration efforts. This year we are the only station holding and producing the Sugar Creek strain. All individuals we produce this year will be stocked in small streams in northern Missouri in an attempt to bolster populations and expand the range to a point where these efforts are no longer necessary.

Above: Adult Topeka Shiner over a gravel bed with an Orangespotted Sunfish in the background. Image Courtesy of Nathan Eckert/Neosho NFH.

Adult Silver Caro being held in hands

Invasive Carp eDNA reboot at Carterville FWCO

By Rebecca Lucas, Carterville FWCO

The Carterville Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) is rebooting their invasive carp environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling program following a three-year hiatus.

Since Carterville’s eDNA program was operational, there has been substantial employee turnover (nine new individuals have joined the team since January 2020) and the 2020 field season and trainings were cancelled due to the pandemic. This spring, several of the new team members attended the annual eDNA after-action meeting, virtual this year, unfortunately. The meeting allowed us to meet staff from other FWCOs who are also working on invasive carp eDNA sampling and to learn about updates to the Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) for this year. Next, we read the QAPP and Collector’s App manual to learn the steps of collecting and processing water samples for invasive carp eDNA. Then we performed an inventory of our existing eDNA equipment and supplies to determine purchase and repair needs to get our team ready to hit the water.

This team member had the unfortunate finding that a raccoon had gotten into the storage unit and left a little bit of a mess for us. Luckily, the raccoon only damaged a few boxes of centrifuge tubes that were outside the eDNA trailer. Hopefully, he did not party in our storage neighbors’ RV and boat! After watching the new eDNA training videos made by the Interior Region 3 invasive carp eDNA team, I was able to participate in field training with the La Crosse FWCO eDNA team. Both field days turned out to be wonderful, even with a cold front that brought frost warnings to the Chicago area in May, water samples were collected from 400 sample sites in the Chicago Area Waterway System. I was able to spend the first day on the boat collecting water samples and the second day in the mobile eDNA processing lab preparing water samples for testing at the Whitney Genetics Lab in Onalaska, Wisconsin. Next, I will help train other Carterville FWCO staff in eDNA collection and processing and get our eDNA processing lab and boat ready for sampling. Be sure to check out the Invasive Carp Story Web Map.

Above: Adult silver carp. Credit: USFWS

lake sturgeon eggs incubating in jars

April Marks the Beginning of a New Lake Sturgeon Season

By Orey Eckes, Genoa NFH

As staff members finish stocking rainbow trout and wrap up walleye operations on the Mississippi River the end of April and beginning of May begins with the collection of lake sturgeon eggs. Currently, this year Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) staff collected eggs from the Wolf and Wisconsin Rivers in cooperation with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. In June, Genoa NFH staff members will be assisting with egg collections on the St. Clair and St. Lawrence Rivers. The geographic location of the river and differences in water temperatures account for lake sturgeon spawning at different times of the year. Throughout the summer sturgeon are fed a diet of brine shrimp, bloodworms and krill. After a summer of intensive culture juvenile sturgeon reach lengths of about eight inches. Prior to release all sturgeon are coded wire tagged to track population trends in the future. Currently the sturgeon building is home to lake sturgeon ranging in sizes from one to three inches.

Between feeding of sturgeon three times a day, staff members are involved in continuing lake sturgeon projects and research. Ongoing research includes: Evaluation of Genetic Selectivity, Growth and Survival of Lake Sturgeon Fed Commercial and Traditional Diets, Evaluation of Contaminants on Rearing Success of Lake Sturgeon Fed Traditional vs. Commercial Diets and monitoring sturgeon stocked in the St. Clair River to determine post stocking survival and natal homing response between hatchery stocked fish and stream side reared fish.

Above: Lake sturgeon in circular rearing tanks. Credit: USFWS 

Field Focus: Green Bay FWCO

Working with Tribal Partners to Achieve Shared Conservation Goals

By Zachary Locklear, Green Bay FWCO

The conservation work of the Green Bay Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) spans a wide variety of space, time, and place, from the depths of Lake Michigan to the spring pond headwaters that feed it. The nature of this work requires partnerships and collaboration in order to be effective, and at the center of our partnerships are our tribal nations. We recognize their importance in the history of the basins natural resources and how this history is a critical component to future sustainability if these aquatic resources.  

The Lake Michigan basin is home to over a dozen tribes, both federally and state recognized, and our office is committed to coming alongside our tribal partners to realize their conservation goals. We have a number of projects with our tribal partners, ranging from road stream crossing inventories and monitoring to larval lake sturgeon drift collectionsaquatic habitat restoration, lake trout rehabilitation work, and lake whitefish science to name just a few. One project we’re excited for in particular is the Lake Winnebago wild rice initiative, led by our newest tribal partner, the Brothertown Indian Nation. 

As part of expanding our commitment to our tribal partners, last fall the Green Bay FWCO reached out to non-federally recognized tribes within the Lake Michigan basin to see what conservation goals and projects we could help support. Many times tribes are not federally recognized due to paperwork problems or timing but they are still an important partner.  The Brothertown Indian Nation of Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin was one such tribe and indicated that their newly formed Environment and Natural Resources Department would like to explore a partnership. Through several constructive, relationship-building meetings, where we learned about their heritage and natural resource concerns, we were invited to join their Lake Winnebago wild rice collaborative. This project brings a large number of Wisconsin tribes and other state, federal, and non-profit partners to the table in order to have a wide breadth of knowledge and increase the likelihood of project success. We are looking forward to continuing and expanding our work with Brothertown and other tribal partners in the Lake Michigan basin to advance conservation for all. 

We have several long-term tribal partnerships across the basin for which we have worked on highly important issues such as lake trout rehabilitation and lake sturgeon restoration. Our office has worked with Gun Lake Tribe (Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians), Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, and the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin on successful rearing and supplementation of sturgeon stocks in the Manistee and Kalamazoo rivers (Michigan) and assisting with relocating spawning adults above migration barriers to their historic spawning grounds on tribal lands in the Wolf River (Wisconsin). These partnerships have played an integral role in sustaining culturally significant lake sturgeon stocks and working toward species and habitat restoration to create self-sustaining lake sturgeon populations.  

These examples only begin to paint the picture of our partnerships with the tribes. The canvas remains open to new opportunities to collaborate and build on our existing ones. The future looks bright for what we can accomplish working with our tribal nations. 

There's always more to our story

a boat electrofishing at sunset on inland lake

Shocking into the Sunset

By Dan Madziarz, Carterville FWCO

It’s been three years since the Carterville Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) sampled Lake Greenwood, an 820 acre reservoir, located on the Crane Naval Station in Crane, Indiana. So, this May FWCO staff returned to assess the largemouth bass and bluegill populations using night time electrofishing. Species collected during the sampling included largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish, longear sunfish, green sunfish, spotted suckers, warmouth, white bass, black crappie, yellow perch, common carp, channel catfish, flathead catfish, and smaller cyprinid and darter species. Overall, Lake Greenwood appears to support a diverse fish community that provides anglers a variety of species to target.

In 1990, the Carterville FWCO helped develop a fisheries management plan primarily for largemouth bass and bluegill, for Lake Greenwood to improve fishing opportunities for base members. Since then, Carterville FWCO has sampled the lake every three years to monitor the sport fish population and evaluate the success of fishing regulations that have been implemented. One such regulation, a slot limit for largemouth bass (12-15 inches), was implemented in 2001 to improve this fishery in Lake Greenwood by allowing these medium size fish to be released to grow larger. Due to its success, the slot limit was removed in 2017 and no size limits are currently in effect for largemouth bass on the lake.

Throughout this summer, the Carterville FWCO will review the catch data and examine largemouth bass and bluegill otoliths to determine the size and age structure of these populations in Lake Greenwood. These data will help give insight into the productivity of populations of target species in Lake Greenwood and if additional regulations need to be implemented to keep the fisheries productive. Furthermore, water quality data collected during our sampling will allow us to assess if fish production can be improved by implementing water quality regulations. The Carterville FWCO hopes to continue its long-working relationship with Crane Naval Station to maintain Lake Greenwood fisheries and assist with future projects on the lake.

Above: Carterville FWCO electrofishing boat heading off into the sunset on Lake Greenwood, Crane Naval Station for a night of fish community sampling. Credit: Dan Madziarz/USFWS.

A five week old Hine's Emerald Dradonfly larva

The 2021 Hine's Emerald Dragonfly Hatch at Genoa NFH

By Beth Glidewell, Genoa NFH

The Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly eggs that Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) has been housing since the end of December have all hatched. The eggs were held at 39-41 degrees Fahrenheit (F) over the winter and, in early April as the outside temperatures began to rise, we began warming the eggs. By end of April they had warmed to 60 degrees F , and almost 1000 larvae had hatched. Egg cups were checked every day, and the day’s newly hatched larvae were placed in small specimen cups of pond water with a few zooplankton items as food.

These juveniles were then distributed into small rearing cups either individually or in groups of two or three individuals per cup. These cups, kept in groups by maternal line, are being housed at 60 degrees F and fed three times a week by pipetting pond water with concentrated zooplankton filtered out of the pond water that comes through the mussel building. Food water is checked for larger pests that will view the dragonflies themselves as food. The remaining copepods, ostracods, cladocerans, and an early April bloom of rotifers- which appear to be a preferred food for new instar larvae- are available for the little dragonflies to hunt as prey.

After the larvae grow past their first few instars in these protected cups, they’ll move up to the next stage- small pvc and mesh cages submerged in a larger volume of water, with more food available. Individuals must have grown large enough to stay enclosed in mesh with 500-micron openings—this size is large enough to allow water flow to bring in oxygen and new food items into the cage without clogging too quickly with algae and detritus from our productive pond water.

Above: A close up of a 4 week old Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly larva. Credit: Beth Glidewell/USFWS

a lake at Scott AFB

Scott AFB Lake Treatment Follow Up

By Dan Madziarz, Carterville FWCO

It had been just over a month since the last algicide treatment of Scott and Cardinal lakes on the Scott Air Force Base (AFB), Illinois, so the Carterville Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) crew made another trip to check on the status of algal growth since the March treatment. A visual assessment showed that the first treatment effectively reduced algal cover on the lakes, with only minor algal build-up along the shoreline edges. To ensure low algal growth for the summer, another treatment of algicide and aqua shade was performed. Algal infestation has been a problem at Scott AFB in the past, especially at Scott Lake where agricultural run off flows into the lake, causing poor water quality, fish kills, and fishing frustrations for base members. Cardinal Lake receives less agricultural runoff than Scott Lake, and therefore has lower algal build up and greater water clarity meaning it requires a reduced algal treatment relative to Scott Lake. To supplement algicide treatments and hopefully reduce their frequency, aerators were installed at Scott Lake and fountains at Cardinal Lake during this past fall to help reduce the buildup of algae by increasing water movement and dissolved oxygen in these lakes.

It was a beautiful, warm, sunny spring day for a trip to the base. Abundant wildlife such as Canada geese, mallard ducks, water snakes, painted turtles, musk turtles, largemouth bass, and bluegills were seen taking advantage of the nice weather. Base members were out fishing and using the picnic areas. Fighter jets were taking off for routine flights around the base and circled over the lakes while the Carterville crew was spraying as if the fighters were checking out what the crew was doing or putting on a show for them. The Carterville FWCO hopes to continue its working relationship with Scott Air Force Base for future lake treatments and habitat projects on the base.

Above: USFWS Carterville FWCO biologists spraying aqua shade mixture after algae treatment on Scott Lake.  Credit: Dan Madziarz/USFWS

new hatchery employee holding sedling plats in a flat

Newest Staff Member Set to Arrive at Genoa NFH

By Doug Aloisi, Genoa National Fish Hatchery

Genoa National Fish Hatchery is anxiously awaiting its newest arrival. Usually the newest arrival that is anxiously awaited is bearing fins and swims underwater. But in this case it is one of our newest staff members. Erica Rasmussen, formerly of the Summit Environmental School in Lacrosse, Wisconsin. Erica has recently accepted the position of our vacant Environmental Education Specialist. We are anxiously anticipating her arrival, and are very familiar with Erica and her passion for conservation and the outdoors. Erica has been working with the hatchery for many years, using the station's wetlands and outdoor classroom to teach her middle school students the value of the outdoors and good conservation stewardship. Erica also taught her students the value of pollinators by actively keeping two hives of bees on the hatchery ground. She brings with her an added enthusiasm and excitement about getting outdoors, and loves to go fishing and hunting with her husband Kurt, who works as a Water Management Specialist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. We look forward to the new perspective that Erica will add to our Environmental Education and Public Outreach Programs. Working for 14 years in the local Lacrosse School District at a school with a strong environmental emphasis has allowed Erica to develop relationships and networks among people with both environmental and education expertise. We anticipate with her background, energy and developed networks that she will be able to hit the ground running when she arrives after the school year ends next month. Welcome to the jungle (southwest Wisconsin style), Erica!

Above: Erica Rasmussen prepares milkweed seedlings for planting at the hatchery with her 5th grade class. Credit: USFWS


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