Fish Lines October 2021 Edition

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

October 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?

lake trout eggs in clear container

Lake Trout Eggs from Cayuga Lake, NY Arrived at Genoa NFH


As lake sturgeon culture and pond harvest wrap up for the fall, Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) staff members begin to focus their attention on hatching cold water fish during the winter months. Genoa NFH staff member (Jeff Lockington) collected wild lake trout eggs from Cayuga Lake, New York. The hatchery collects gametes from approximately 125 pairs of lake trout to maximize genetic contribution for future brood lines. Eggs collected from Cayuga Lake are shipped back to the hatchery for incubation in the current regional isolation facility at Genoa NFH. Upon receiving the eyed eggs, they were disinfected with iodine and incubated in heath trays at water temperatures between 44.6 and 46.4 degrees Fahrenheit in an insulated recirculating system. As the eggs begin to hatch, an equal representative sample of fry will be transferred to culture tanks for grow out. These lake trout will remain on station for a year and a half until they clear three fish health inspections by the La Crosse Fish Health Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin (WI). Once all testing comes back clear, the fish will be transferred to their forever home at one of our broodstock facilities (Iron River National Fish Hatchery, WI). These fish will serve as future broodstock in the national fish hatchery system.

Above: Fertilized Lake trout eggs arrived on station at Genoa NFH. Credit: Erica Rasmussen/USFWS

FWS staff holding black crappie

La Crosse FWCO and Genoa NFH Join Forces to Survey Lost Lake On Tamarac NWR


Staff from the La Crosse Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) and the Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) teamed up to sample Lost Lake on the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) located near Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. Recently, work was done by the refuge to widen the access road to Lost Lake and encourage increased use of the lake by non-motorized anglers. The refuge manager, reached out to La Crosse FWCO and Genoa NFH to see if they were interested in surveying the lake to investigate the state of the current fish community. A survey of this kind had not been completed since 2010. Over this winter, the team will develop a management plan aimed at making Lost Lake into a desirable fishing destination for local refuge visitors.

Historically, Lost Lake was stocked with bullheads, yellow perch, pumpkinseed sunfish, black crappie, bluegills, northern pike, and walleye. Biologists believe that Lost Lake has been subject to winterkill due to it's shallow average depth of less than 14 feet, eutrophication, and the aforementioned fish community. The lake has some connectivity to the Egg River, which has some influence on the lake’s hydrology, water chemistry, and potential introductions of fish species. For example, the largemouth bass found in 2010 was assumed to have entered Lost Lake via the Egg River during high water events.

The survey completed in July of 2021 identified 13 different fish species including, black bullhead, brown bullhead, yellow bullhead, yellow perch, largemouth bass, northern pike, pumpkinseed, bluegill, black crappie, golden shiner, white sucker, tadpole madtom and weed shiner. As previous surveys suggested, bullheads made up the overwhelming majority of the biomass in the lake. In this survey there were no walleyes sampled, but the appearance of the tadpole madtom and weed shiner suggest influence from the Egg River or “bait bucket biologists.” The next step will be for the team from Genoa NFH and La Crosse FWCO to develop a management plan for Lost Lake. The team is excited to have the opportunity to support Tamarac NWR in creating additional fishing opportunities for the local community and visitors. Everyone involved looks forward to future collaborations.

Above: Fish Biologist Jenna Bloomfield and Spencer Davis show Black Crappie captured in a fyke net. Credit: Nicholas Bloomfield/USFWS

Two FWS staff holding water sampling tubes

Expanding Great Lakes eDNA Monitoring Effort to Grass Carp


Grass carp are an increasing threat in the Lake Erie Basin. Environmental DNA (eDNA) has proven to be a useful tool for monitoring invasive silver and bighead carp. This year the Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) and the Whitney Genetics Lab are partnering on a project to explore the use of this tool for monitoring invasive Grass carp as well. The Whitney Genetics Lab developed three new eDNA markers for grass carp specifically for this effort. eDNA samples collected by Alpena FWCO are processed in the lab using the same protocols that were developed for silver and bighead carp; just the genetic markers being used are different. At the end of this study, we plan to develop an occupancy model that incorporates seasonal data, habitat data, and sample numbers to help determine the optimal eDNA sampling strategy for grass carp in the Great Lakes. We’re hopeful that this study will also help us continue to refine our existing eDNA monitoring efforts for other invasive carp species in the Great Lakes.

Above: USFWS staff collect water samples for grass carp eDNA monitoring. Credit: USFWS

map of lake trout study points of movement in northern refuge of lake MI

Green Bay FWCO Studies Lake Trout Movements on Lake Michigan


The Green Bay Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO), in partnership with Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System, U.S. Geological Survey, and Michigan State University (MSU), will track the movements of 160 adult lake trout over four years in and around the Northern Refuge in Lake Michigan. The study will document where fish live during the year, how much time they spend in the refuge, and if, when, and where they return to spawn each year. The area was designated in 1985 as a no-harvest refuge as it includes historically important spawning habitat for lake trout. Lake trout staying in this area are protected from both recreational and commercial fishing year-round. This summer, 80 acoustic receivers (red dots on map) were deployed in a grid covering the refuge and surrounding area. These acoustic receivers, which record when a tagged fish swims by, were deployed from the Services’ 57-foot Research Vessel, Stanford H. Smith. This detection grid seamlessly extends to an adjacent network of nearshore receivers deployed between Frankfort and Petoskey, Michigan, by another study team from the U.S. Geological Survey, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and Little Traverse Bay Band, who are studying movements of lake whitefish and cisco (yellow dots on map). The combined receiver network encompasses about 3,000 square miles. Acoustic transmitters, each with their own frequency, were surgically inserted into the body cavities of 160 adult lake trout captured in over-night gillnet sets in early October. The transmitters send out signals that are detected and recorded by the receiver array over time. The receivers will be retrieved each summer and the detection data downloaded, then re-deployed to collect more movement information. Results from the study will allow biologists to evaluate the utility of the refuge to protect lake trout from fishing mortality and study of the behavior and site fidelity of adult lake trout. The study was funded by Great Lakes Fishery Commission based on a proposal submitted by Chuck Bronte (USFWS), Tom Binder (MSU), Chuck Krueger (MSU), Ted Treska (USFWS), and Chuck Madenjian (USGS).

Above: A map of the Northern Refuge, Lake Michigan. The red dots are an acoustic receiver array deployed to document movement of lake trout in and out of the Northern Refuge (outlined in light blue). The yellow dots are the nearshore acoustic receiver array deployed for a study looking at cisco and lake whitefish movement. Both receiver arrays will expand the detection range for fish tagged in both studies as all fish will be detected on all receivers. Credit: USFWS

two Pallid strugeon in a hatchery transport tank

Sturgeon to Live on Display as Ambassadors of the Species


In mid October 2021 four large, old, Pallid Sturgeon were transported to Springfield Missouri to be included in the museum displays of the Johnny Morris Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium. This partnership between the US Fish and Wildlife Service's Neosho National Fish Hatchery, and the National Aquarium is a great opportunity to help spread the conservation message about threatened and endangered species. Sending listed endangered species to a private entity required a fair amount of coordination, permits, and paperwork. But at the end of the day, these beautiful creatures get to spend their retirement in a luxurious, well maintained facility, eating only the finest foods, under the best care. How do we sign up? Thanks to all who participated in this project.

Above: These Pallid Sturgeon will live the rest of their long lives on display in Springfield Missouri. Credit: USFWS

logperch a small stiped fish

Logperch: The School Bus for Baby Snuffbox Mussels


The Belle River, located in southeast Michigan, is the subject of a stream and bank restoration project to improve habitat for native fish and mussel communites. The goal of this project is to restore overall stream function and habitat complexity including creating high quality riffle habitat for species such as the snuffbox mussel and logperch. The snuffbox mussel is a small to medium sized freshwater mussel that is federally endangered in the United States. It is found in streams with swift current and shares a symbiotic relationship with logperch, a native fish species that disperses its microscopic mussel larvae called glochidia. The glochida attach to the gills of the logperch and release upon their development into juvenile mussels.

In the summer of 2019 and 2021, staff from the Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office conducted a pre-restoration fish survery of the Belle River restoration site. The fish surveys are aimed at targeting logperch which will serve as a surrogate species for the potential presence of the snuffbox mussel. The overall restoration project is a collaboration with Columbus Township, Stantec, Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with assistance from Friends of the St. Clair River and Clinton Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited. This project will provide benefits for not only the fish community, but also anglers, and park goers directly, while indirectly benefitting freshwater mussels through the benefits to the host species and improved stream functions.

Above: Close up of a logperch collected during the pre-restoration electrofishing survey. Credit: USFWS

Field Focus: Jordan River National Fish Hatchery

two people insering tags into small fish

Department of Interior Agencies Begin Tracking Recently Released Cisco in Lake Huron


Research biologists from U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Michigan State University, and staff from Jordan River National Fish Hatchery (NFH) recently carried out acoustic tagging operations on young of year cisco (Coregonus artedi) destined for release in the Saginaw Bay region of Lake Huron. This pilot study to track the initial movements of released hatchery reared cisco was funded by a Great Lakes Fish Commission research grant and is being carried out through a cooperative effort of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USGS, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan State University, and the University of Windsor (Ontario, Canada). It is hoped that this research project will provide estimates of post-stocking survival and movements that will directly benefit the restoration program for by identifying variables that influence the success of re-establishment of cisco in Saginaw Bay.  A total of 48 acoustic underwater receivers, covering an area of approximately 7.7 square miles, were placed outside of the release site for juvenile cisco in Lake Huron. During scheduled hatchery releases of fall fingerling fish by Jordan River NFH, 26 acoustically tagged individuals were released with 20,000 other similar aged fish into the receiver array. Project researchers hope to monitor the initial movements of these naïve fish for the next several months or until they leave the area of the array to assess predation or other losses post stocking. For more information about this project or other research or production projects at Jordan River NFH please contact Hatchery Manager, Roger Gordon at or reach us by phone at 231-584-2461.

Above: Researchers from U.S. Geological Survey and Michigan State University delicately implant internal acoustic tags into juvenile cisco at Jordan River National Fish Hatchery. Credit: USFWS

There's Always More to Our Story...

a survey boat at a dock

How Much is Enough? Hydroacoustic Assessments on the Ohio River


During September 2021, the Carbondale and Wilmington offices of the Carterville Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office collaborated to send two crews to tackle the monumental task of collecting hydroacoustic data throughout the entirety of the Cannelton Pool of the Ohio River. This was quite a feat, because the Cannelton Pool is the longest impounded portion of the Ohio River at roughly 100 nautical miles. Mobile hydroacoustic surveys were completed with paired 200-kHz transducers oriented horizontally (facing away from the boat). The survey path followed transects along both shorelines, with the transducers facing towards shore on the first pass along the transect, and towards the thalweg on the second pass. In total, this task amounted to sampling approximately 400 miles of transects during seven days between the two crews! Needless to say, the crew members became pretty familiar with this portion of the river!

The goal of this effort is to use these data to inform future hydroacoustic sampling efforts on the Ohio River, and other large rivers across the region. These data will allow biologists to estimate the amount of effort (hopefully not this much) and the optimal sampling design necessary to generate reliable pool-wide estimates of bighead carp relative abundance.  Now onto the fun stuff, data processing….

Above: USFWS research vessel being prepped for a day of hydroacoustic sampling in the Cannelton Pool of the Ohio River. Credit: Michael Glubzinski/USFWS

student in chest wader with net full of smallmouth bass

What's in the Ponds?


October is one of the busiest months of the year at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH). October means pond harvesting time. This is the time to see what a summer worth of feeding and careful water monitoring has produced. It also offers excellent opportunities for outdoor education. Just ask Steve Teeples and his students from Black River Falls. Mr. Teeples class helped kickoff this year’s pond harvesting season starting with our smallmouth bass pond. The students eagerly put on waders and jumped into the pond to assist by scooping up hundreds of smallmouth bass and transferred them to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hatchery truck. It was great to see the excitement on their faces as they assisted with the task and learned about the life cycle of the smallmouth bass. They also learned how smallmouth bass are a host fish used in the reproduction of freshwater mussels.

In total, 9,169 smallmouth bass were harvested from the pond. Some of the bass will be distributed to federal, tribal, and state agencies to be stocked in waterbodies, used in the production of freshwater mussels or kept for future broodstock.

I may be a little biased, but I honestly believe that these hands-on outdoor opportunities are vital for students’ education. It allows students to use all of their senses to interact with the natural world while assisting the hatchery with a necessary task. It also exposes them directly to natural resource based career opportunities. If you have any interest in volunteering or bringing a class to Genoa NFH, please feel free to contact me Erica Rasmussen at

Above: Hands on experience: A student from Black River Falls High School assists with a pond harvest during a visit to Genoa NFH.  Credit: Erica Rasmussen/USFWS

Replicas of invasive fish species of FWS Midwest Region 3

Replicas of Aquatic Invasive Species for Education


Aquatic invasive species can be difficult to identify, especially if you’ve never seen one. Giving the public a chance to view a life-size invasive fish replica increases the likelihood that they’ll recognize one when they see it, or at least generate awareness of it’s existance and possible presence in our local waterways.

In 2012, the Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office worked with Lake Country Replicas (Hawick, Minnesota) to procure two sets of high-quality bighead and silver carp mounts. These mounts are on display at outreach events to spark a discussion on invasive species with the public. The only problem was we did not have a replica for the species our office was targeting, the grass carp.

As a result, we decided to move forward with obtaining additional mounts to complete our invasive carps collection (bighead, silver, grass, and black carps), some additional invasive species (common carp, goldfish, northern snakehead), a native bowfin, and a new lake sturgeon for the native crew. Lake Country replicas already had molds for the common carp, goldfish, northern snakehead, bowfin, and lake sturgeon replicas, but did not have anything to make the black carp or grass carp.

We reached out to several aquaculture facilities and found one, Keo Fish Farms (Keo, Arkansas), which was willing to sacrifice fish from their broodstock, two grass carp and two black carp, to make a mold. Shortly before sending these off to Lake Country Replicas, we were informed that an angler had captured a large 36 inch, grass carp that we could use for our replicas. This specimen was much larger than the ones we received from Keo Fish Farms and more representative of what we typically capture during our field assessments.

Lake Country Replicas then proceeded to make fiberglass replicas from the black carp we shipped to them and the grass carp caught by the angler. The process for making these replicas is delicate, as they must take great care to ensure they do not damage any fins or scales during the molding process. After the mold is produced, the replicas are then painted to look as realistic as possible and are shipped with a removable base on which they rest while displayed.

Our greatest ally in the conservation of the Great Lakes is the public. Increasing awareness of fisheries issues is essential for recruiting the conservation allies we need to successfully manage invasive species, conserve the natives, and restore the aquatic environment. This project was made possible thanks to the collaboration of Lake Country Replicas, Keo Fish Farms, and the public. Our office now has high-quality replicas which can be used to engage the public on aquatic invasive species and Lake Country Replicas now has two new molds (black carp and grass carp) they can add to their collection and use to make replicas for other interested agencies.

Above: These replicas will be used in public engagement to create greater awareness of Aquatic Invasive Species in USFWS Midwest Region 3. Credit: USFWS

two people in yellow jackets seine a Lake Michigan beach

Green Bay FWCO Goes to the Beach...for Lake Whitefish


Considered tasty and fun to catch, lake whitefish support substantial commercial and recreational fisheries within the Great Lakes. While large adult whitefish are fairly easy to capture using standard methods such as gillnetting, trawls, and ice fishing, unfortunately we don’t know much about the early life stages of this important species in the waters of Green Bay and surrounding waters. Recently, newly re-colonized spawning areas have been documented in rivers around Green Bay, in addition to historic open water reefs that continue to provide spawning habitat. We do know the basics of whitefish life history: mature adults spawn in late fall on shallow reefs or in rivers, eggs mature over winter, and larvae hatch in spring. We know that juveniles then occupy nearshore habitat until mid-summer, feeding on plankton until they are around two inches in length, when they move to deeper waters. Then what happens? We don’t know. The whitefish don’t appear in our standard surveys until they are around 15 inches, when they again recruit to most sampling gears.

To better understand the early life history of lake whitefish, Green Bay Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) partners with researchers at Lake Superior State University and University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point in collecting zooplankton and young of the year whitefish samples around Green Bay and Door Peninsula in early spring 2021. These collections continue and expand on Green Bay FWCO sampling that has been going on since 2013 to look at abundance of young lake whitefish. By collaborating on sample collections, the partners were able to increase sample sizes and temporal coverage.

After absorbing the nutrition in their yolk sac, young of year whitefish congregate in shallow water areas where warming waters and sunlight spur early zooplankton growth. Focusing our efforts on sandy beaches that are favorable for sampling, sites were visited once a week using two different fine-meshed nets, one targeting the small fish, and another to sample the available zooplankton community that feeds the young whitefish. This effort produces a time series of food availability (zooplankton) as the whitefish grow and transition to external feeding once their egg sac is consumed. Final samples were collected in late June, at which point the lake whitefish leave the near-shore habitats where they are increasingly vulnerable to predators.

The zooplankton community samples will be compared with the results of diet analyses of the larval fish to determine if there are any correlations between zooplankton abundance and consumption by juvenile whitefish around Green Bay. Future surveys will gather information on lake whitefish during the timeframe soon after leaving the near-shore to start filling in the details of the multiple year gap that occurs before these fish recruit to our standard survey gears. Where do they go and what habitats do they utilize? What are they eating? Hopefully we will learn more in upcoming years.

Above: Two USFWS employees pull a square net through shallow water to collect larval lake whitefish. Credit: Sharon Rayford/USFWS


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