Fish Lines August 2021 Edition

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Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program - USFWS Midwest Region 3 

August 27, 2021

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

Did You Know?

FWS staaf work in brood stock isolation room

Coaster Brook Trout Brood Stock Isolation Room Operational

By Carey Edwards, Iron River National Fish Hatchery

The broodstock program at the Iron River National Fish Hatchery 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 bacterial pathogen, Vagococcus salmoninarum. All broodstock were culled, the facility was disinfected and the hatchery began collecting wild gametes from parents stocks to start building the program. 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. Since then, hatchery staff, engineers and contractors have designed and constructed an isolation room in the current footprint of the hatchery that will house all coaster brook trout brood stock and their eggs, safely and away from the lake trout brood stock and their eggs. The new system has ultraviolet light (UV) sterilization capable of destroying pathogens in the water. The new system will easily hold five year classes of brook trout in the proportions necessary to reach hatchery egg production goals.

It's been a long time in the making and has been brutally long waiting for the construction to be completed. A couple of major hiccups along the way stopped construction for long periods of time and of course, COVID and supply and demand issues didn’t help progression of the project. Deadlines came and went and because their new home was still not ready, we had to juggle coaster brood fish placement to make way for our new lines of Lewis Lake lake trout, fresh from isolation. We were very close to an emergency situation with mass marking coming up and raceways needed for production lake trout being occupied by brood fish. Thankfully, we can finally report that moving day has occurred. Three lines of coaster brood brook trout have been successfully moved into their new home and are doing well. Crisis averted!

Above:Brood fish were gently loaded onto a mobile distribution unit from the production building and moved to their new home. Credit: USFWS 

FHC staff work up a fish for health screening

Fall Fish Health Sampling Begins

By Orey Eckes, Genoa National Fish Hatchery

Staff from the La Crosse Fish Health Center visited the hatchery as part of a bi-annual fish health inspection. The Fish Health Center provides fish health inspection and diagnostic services for six national fish hatcheries and numerous tribal hatcheries throughout the region. In the spring staff sample hatchery production fish for possible pathogens or diseases. The results of these surveys ensure quality fish being stocked in the fall each year. In addition to hatchery production samples, Genoa National Fish Hatchery provides a variety of fish from the Mississippi River for the fish health center as part of ongoing national wild fish health surveys. These sample collections and surveys allow fisheries managers to prevent and diagnose hatchery and wild populations of fish for pathogens or diseases. These results allow safe transport and stocking of healthy fish throughout many regions.

Above: Fish health biologist, Eric Leis samples lake sturgeon. Credit: Jadon Motquin/USFWS

FWS staff empty a fyke net into a tub.

Alpena FWCO Completes Fyke Netting in Lake St. Clair for Joint Study with MDNR and OMNRF

By Kristen Towne, Alpena FWCO

The Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) Detroit River Substation completed field sampling in July of 2021 as part of an assessment of the near-shore fish community of Lake St. Clair. This work was done in collaboration with Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (OMNRF). The 430 square mile lake hosts a diverse, constantly changing fishery that can be challenging to monitor. Although both Michigan DNR and OMNRF complete yearly fishery surveys, this is the first coordinated sampling effort between the Michigan and Ontario agencies in Lake St. Clair. The Alpena FWCO provided field sampling support as well as the design and maintenance of an ArcGIS Online database and Survey123 data collection form.

Sampling consisted of small mesh single fyke nets, with each agency completing 30-40 units of effort. Although full data analysis is yet to be completed a total of 46 species and 27,101 fish were captured between the three agencies, with Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, and Gizzard Shad being the most common species captured. Some of the more rare species in the survey include Banded Killifish, Bigmouth Buffalo, Black Buffalo, Northern Madtom, Northern Pike, and Trout-Perch, all of which were only captured once.

This partnership will continue into the future, with small mesh fyke nets and large mesh gill nets to be used at three year cycles. The gill nets are scheduled to be deployed in 2022. The Alpena FWCO staff are looking forward to participating in these assessments for years to come!

Above: Alpena FWCO - Detroit River Substation staff empty a fyke net as part of a near-shore fish survey of Lake St. Clair conducted with Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Credit: Janine Lajavic/USFWS

partners pose before fishing tournament

Great Lakes Fish Tagging and Recovery Operations Working with State, Tribal and University Partners

By Shannon Cressman, Green Bay Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office

For the Great Lakes Fish Tagging and Recovery Operations Branch this field season has been one for the books. After not having a field season in 2020 due to the pandemic, the five teams for the Recovery Operations have had to overcome many obstacles in 2021. With extra precautions to keep field teams and the public safe while collecting data from angler caught fish from Lakes Michigan and Huron, they have strengthened their collaborations with partner agencies to collect and share more data. Each season the recovery operations field teams collect core data (weight, length, fin-clips, sea lamprey wounding, sex and maturity), along with coded-wire tagged snouts from angler caught salmon and trout, but with additional collection of tissues and specimens for collaborative studies with universities, state agencies and tribes. This season there are three collaborative studies: Lakes Huron and Michigan Predator Diet Study to determine what kind of prey predators are eating; a Coho Otolith Microchemistry Study to determine what streams produce most of the wild coho salmon; and Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) of Lake Michigan Salmonines which looks at the contaminate bioaccumulation in a fish’s tissues. These collaborative studies are funded by a variety of competitive research grants and an involve staff from Michigan State University, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, United States Geological Survey, Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Central Michigan University, and the University of Notre Dame. In the last six months, FWS biotechnicians have visited 52 different fishing ports around Lakes Michigan and Huron, allowing an impressive collection of samples from a wide variety of species, sizes, and locations for each of these collaborative studies. We look forward to expanding our scientific reach with new projects and partners to learn more about the biology of Great Lakes fishes.

Above: Two USFWS technicians, two MSU students and a MDNR creel clerk take time to pose together before beginning work at a fishing tournament. Credit: USFWS

biologist holding a paddlefish

Historic Flooding Opens the Gates for Paddlefish Migrations in the Upper Mississippi River

By Mark Fritts, La Crosse FWCO

Staff at the La Crosse Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) collaborate with partners in state and federal agencies and academic institutions to maintain an extensive network of telemetry receivers in the Upper Mississippi River (UMR). For the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the primary purpose of this network is to monitor the migratory patterns of invasive carps. However, invasive carp are not the only fish carrying transmitters in the UMR. Detections data collected from this network can also help partners build better understandings of the movements of native fishes.

Partners at the Illinois Natural History Survey and Western Illinois University have been tagging paddlefish in Pools 14-16 of the UMR near Davenport, Iowa (IA) in an effort to better understand their movements through the lock and dam system in the river. Most of these paddlefish were captured and tagged with transmitters during 2017-2018. Tracking data indicates that these individuals remained close to their tagging locations thorough 2018. However, spring 2019 brought historic flooding to the UMR. These floods forced the US Army Corps of Engineers to maintain ‘open river’ conditions for much of the summer. Under these conditions, the gates and locks on the dams that typically block fish passage are left open to release flood waters. And it appears that fish took advantage of this opportunity to move! Fifteen paddlefish have been observed making the big run from Davenport up to locations ranging from Pool 12 near Dubuque, IA all the way up to Lake Pepin in Pool 4 near Lake City, Minnesota.

These remarkable movements demonstrate the capacity of paddlefish populations to radiate into new areas in a relatively short time period. They also provide an indication of the interconnectedness of paddlefish populations in the UMR and highlight the need for interjuristictional, multi-state conservation planning for this species. The USFWS works within partnerships made up of incredible scientists and dedicated managers. Sharing data, such as detections data from this telemtry network, is a central practice of this partnership and helps to advance fisheries management throughout the UMR.  

Above: Illinois Natural History Survey researcher Dominique Turney holds a paddlefish captured in the Upper Mississippi River near Davenport, Iowa. Credit: Jenna Bloomfield/USFWS

Field Focus: Green Bay FWCO

American Brook lamprey spawning

American Brook Lamprey Observed Spawning in Northern Wisconsin

By Sean Cazier, Green Bay FWCO

As the field season starts, scenic views of the Upper Midwest coupled with emergence of wildlife from their winter slumber are plentiful and awesome. For those unaccustomed to Wisconsin’s beauty, it’s a lot to take in and everything around you seems to teem with the discovery of something new.

In early May of this year, the Habitat team from the Green Bay Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) began conducting their seasonal road-stream crossing inventories in the Peshtigo River watershed of northeast Wisconsin where they observed a rare sight. Several American Brook Lamprey were spotted at the Meadow Brook stream culvert located on County Road C in Athelstane, Wisconsin. This is a very exciting find as American Brook Lamprey tend to avoid human contact as much as possible. Surprisingly, the lamprey weren’t spooked by the big camera and almost seemed to enjoy the attention as they danced around in the water. In the photos taken from the original video, you can see a female lamprey making a nesting site by sifting small pebbles and digging out sand to lay its eggs in. They do this to provide their young with stable protection as the adults move on to mate at various nesting sites; eventually perishing six months after becoming sexually mature due to vestigial (undeveloped) mouth parts.

After returning to the site about an hour later, the team found the female performing a mating ritual with a potential mate! There is no obvious sexual dimorphism within the species, however there is a behavioral difference between the male and female during mating. Males attach themselves to the head of the female using their oral suckers and wrap their tails around the body of the female to position themselves for copulation. A third Lamprey was observed which isn’t uncommon as Lamprey tend to group up in multiple mating pairs within the same nesting site. In fact, the record number of lampreys found at one nesting site is 14!

The Green Bay FWCO Habitat team consider themselves lucky to document American Brook Lamprey in the wild due to their strict aquatic tolerances and reclusive nature. This species of Lamprey is not considered invasive and is a native to North American freshwater systems.

Above: American Brook Lamprey spawning in a Northern Wisconsin stream. Credit: Sean Cazier/USFWS

There's always more to our story...

Genoa NFH staff receiving 30 year awards

30 Years of Public Service

By Doug Aloisi, Genoa National Fish Hatchery

The Genoa National Fish Hatchery(NFH) helped celebrate a milestone event in its storied history this past week. We celebrated the milestone of two of our employees marking their 30th year of public service. Darla Wenger began her Service career at the Winona Fisheries Resource Office. From there she did a stint at the Winona office of the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge before becoming a Human Resource Specialist at our Regional Office in Minneapolis. Commuting 1.5 hours per day one way began to wear on her and we were blessed to have her come down the River to Genoa NFH in 2004.

Jeff Lockington spent three years in Service to his country by serving in the United States Army.   He then worked for a stint at Lock and Dam 8 as a temporary employee until he came to us in the summer of 1994. He started as an Animal Caretaker and has worked his way up to the station’s Maintenance Mechanic of a highly complex multi-species hatchery.

Both Darla and Jeff are true models of public service, as the many people they encounter, including their fellow employees, as they can attest.

Their professionalism, skill in their specific area of expertise, and their commitment to the benefit of the Service’s mission of Resource Conservation and Recovery is an example to many of the younger members of the Genoa NFH staff. They also serve as mentors to many other Service employees, through serving as instructors for the Heavy Equipment Safety Training Program, and answering many questions posed by other offices on administrative issues.

Thanks Darla and Jeff for 30 years of excellent public service!

Above:(Left) Darla Wenger and (Right) Jeff Lockington received there pin and certificate from Doug Aloisi. Credit: Megan Bradley/USFWS.

FWS staff attend a session at field techniques workshop

Midwest Region 3 FWCO Field Techniques Workshop

By Zach Ludwig, La Crosse FWCO

In early August, Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) staff from the Midwest Region 3 River Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office's (FWCO), Carterville, Columbia, La Crosse and Wilmington, traveled to Keokuk, Iowa to attend a field-based skills workshop. This workshop was the first of its kind for the fisheries staff in the region with the goal of standardizing sampling techniques associated with upcoming Invasive Carp sampling that will be conducted throughout the Mississippi River basin by each of the offices in attendance.

With a fleet of eight boats, twenty-six staff members from the four participating offices learned the ins and outs of the electrified dozer trawl, modified boat electrofishing technique, and hydroacoustics. This included the strength and limitations of each gear as well as safety considerations and proper deployment. After staff were initially introduced to the various gears and vessels, staff headed out on the water in Pool 20 to get first-hand experience running each gear in an area of the Mississippi River which has a high density of carp. After two days of on the water demonstrations and practice, the workshop focused on large-group discussions to finalize standardized methods of deployment, data collection, and data analysis across the field offices. On the final day of the workshop staff took additional time to fine-tune their sampling skills as well as get more experience working up captured Silver Carp by recording length, weight, and removing lapilli otoliths for future aging work.

Not only was this workshop instrumental to ensuring consistent and standardized sampling and data collection when crews hit the water this fall to conduct pilot studies in support of the National Invasive Carp Sampling Plan, but it also provided a great opportunity for team building and comradery between the offices.

Above:Staff members attending a session on Electric Field Mapping. Credit: Katie Leider/USFWS

dog tick on a human hand

Ticks of the Great Lakes: A friendly reminder on how to identify, avoid and prevent those pesky ticks

By Sean Cazier, Green Bay FWCO

Ticks are back in record numbers this year making entomologists and disease experts worried about the spread of tick-borne diseases. Ticks are vectors for several diseases, many of which are present in the Midwest. Infections of Anaplasmosis and Lyme disease are the most common illnesses around the Great Lakes region with Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever being of less concern. There are three species present in the Midwest, the American Dog Tick (Wood Tick), Black Legged Tick (Deer Tick), and the Lone Star Tick.

Tick populations and ranges are dependent on temperature, weather, and host availability. They favor mild winters and long, moist summers because it greatly increases the chance of finding a host. Mild winters also increase the likelihood of disease transmission because fawns and pups (baby mice) are much more numerous and lack the developed immune systems that adults have. This year is projected to be one of the worst tick seasons of late due to above average temperature and precipitation this summer. Additionally, pre-pandemic levels of human travel are expected this year which may increase the number of tick-borne disease cases over last year.

When possible, avoid walking through high grasses and densely vegetated wooded areas as these are high traffic spots for deer and other hosts where ticks have more successful latch opportunities. They can easily climb to higher locations like grass blades where they can attach to fur or clothing. When avoiding tick infested areas isn’t feasible, as likely for many outdoorsmen, there are some strategies to help reduce the incidence of tick attachment. Wearing long sleeved clothing, tucking pants into socks and shirts into pants can help prevent ticks from gaining access to your skin. Wearing light colored clothing can make ticks more noticeable and spraying deterrents such as Deet or Permethrin can help keep them off you. The best way to enjoy the outdoors without the fear of ticks is to stay on well-manicured trails where grasses are cut short, concrete/ gravel trails where grass and bushes are absent and tucking in your clothing.

Above: A dog tick. Image Courtesy of Sean Cazier/USFWS


Genoa NFH at Black Hawk Park Fishing Derby

By Erica Rassmussen, Genoa NFH

A rainy day at Blackhawk Park didn’t stop the young anglers from fishing!  On Saturday, August 7, 2021 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hosted the annual youth fishing derby.  The free event included educational programs and a fishing derby for children 12 years old or younger.  The fishing derby was followed by a wonderful lunch and awards ceremony with prizes.  Genoa National Fish Hatchery employees Erica Rasmussen and Jeff Lockington participated in the event by teaching an educational program on the function of the hatchery, fish identification and life cycle of freshwater mussels. The participants were even able to hold a live sturgeon!  This was a great event and awesome opportunity to get children firsthand experience fishing the backwaters of the mighty Mississippi River! 


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