BY ANN RUSTROM, LA CROSSE FWCO
The 2013 Lake Winnebago sturgeon spear fishery in Wisconsin began on Saturday, February 9th. Spear fishers are allowed one sturgeon and must register it at a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) registration station. Stations record length, weight, sex, and check for tags. There are seventeen stations around the lake as the total allowable harvest is over 2000 fish and the lake is large, 137,000 acres, 30 miles in length and ten miles wide. Although the stations are mostly staffed by WDNR employees, Service staff and college students also assist and gather additional data in addition to normal registration data. Samples were collected for fish health analysis at the Service’s La Crosse Fish Health Center, Northland college students collected data on fat composition, and a sound engineer from the University of Wisconsin was measured swim bladders to analyze the sturgeons’ ability to make sound and communicate by those means. Staff from La Crosse Fish and Wildlife Conservation office collected samples for the Fish Health Center and aided Wisconsin DNR in data collection at the registration station in Winneconne, Wisconsin. Learn More
BY NATHAN ECKERT, GENOA NFH
Mussel restoration activities at Genoa NFH often require the use of a boat, either for transportation of gear or for access to remote locations. In the past when the needs arose we used our station’s net boat to accomplish program goals. This posed two issues; first, the net boat isn’t properly outfitted as a dive vessel because of overall size, layout and diver accessibility. Second, and more importantly, during the spring the net boat spends significant amounts of time on the river spawning fish and is unavailable for the mussel program.
Two regional partners (Green Bay ES Field Office and the La Crosse Fish Health Center) were willing to invest in the Genoa NFH mussel restoration program and solve both of these issues. With their help we ordered a boat that will adequately fulfill the needs of the mussel restoration program. The new boat, which was built by Kann Manufacturing, is 22’ X 8’ marine grade aluminum with a 90 horse power motor and several features to facilitate SCUBA diving and mussel cage culture. First, a pair of dive platforms with handrails and removable ladders was placed along the transom to provide easy access to the water for divers. A SCUBA tank storage bin was also placed in front of the helm to provide safe storage of compressed air cylinders. The bow features a work deck with scuppers to allow for easy washing of the work surface. A davit and winch were also installed for mussel cage placement and retrieval. The remaining space within the boat was intentionally left open to provide plenty of room for dive gear and mussel cage transport. An additional handrail runs the length of the gunwale to provide multiple tie-down options when a large load of mussel cages needs to be transported. The final touch is a Bimini top to protect the boat operator and surface crew from the sun during dive operations. The mussel staff can’t wait to get out and test the new boat and see how it improves efficiency. Learn More
BY CAREY EDWARDS, IRON RIVER NFH
Iron River National Fish Hatchery (NFH) raises approximately 2 million lake trout and coaster brook trout for restoration purposes in the upper Great Lakes. Roughly 4,000 adult fish are maintained to produce these numbers. Adult brood fish are “retired” as their efficiency at producing eggs declines, egg/fish requests decline or space is needed for new brood fish. The hatchery staff makes every effort to place these fish in the local fishery. Working with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Iron River NFH was able to stock over 1,400 two to four pound coaster brook trout in four area lakes (Wanoka, Perch, Beaver and Anderson) located in Bayfield and Douglas Counties.
Over a five week period, a local hiking group would meet hatchery staff and assist with unloading the fish into the water. Some of the treks were strenuous and included loading fish in travel coolers and lugging them down an eighth of a mile rocky trail, walking down steep embankments which were often times icy or shuttling fish in otter sleds to a hole chopped in the ice. Iron River NFH staff was very appreciative of the help from the hiking group. Iron River NFH staff is happy to put these fish to good use, while forging stronger ties with local fisherman and we enjoy hearing stories about “lunkers” caught and the one that got away! Learn More
BY TIMOTHY FACLCONER, PENDILLS CREEK NFH
Many people were present at Sullivan Creek National Fish Hatchery (NFH) for the momentous day of October 3, 2012. It was the day for fertilization of the 2002 year class Seneca Lake Wild (SLW) Lake Trout eggs. Sullivan Creek NFH was the temporary home for the eggs destined for the tanks at the Pendills Creek NFH. Over the course of the spawning season there were over nine million eggs taken and fertilized.
Due to space constraints and the number of fish planned for release, only a special “few” (255,744 eyed eggs) are chosen for the Pendills Creek NFH. On December 19, 2012, this select group of eggs made their first road trip - travelling in specially made Styrofoam egg shipping crates - to the Pendills Creek NFH. On New Year’s Eve, the first fish began to emerge from their shells. What they are called changes at this point from eyed eggs to sac fry. They are called this because even though they mostly look like the normal fish body shape, there is also a yolk sac attached that they are using for food. This yolk sac makes them look like they have a large protruding belly. Growing on the food from their yolk sacs in the 45 degree water, they lived in their trays until February 13, 2013. It was on this day the sac fry-all of which were now completely hatched-were moved from the trays they called home for so long into three mall rearing tanks.
The sac fry are learning to control their muscles and air bladder so they stay close to the bottom of the tank. Gradually, hatchery staff will begin introducing more and more food sprinkled on the water surface as the young fish begin to swim up into the water column. Now, the sac fry will continue to use up their yolk sac and “button up” or lose the protruding belly, and will be known as fry. By the end of February, the fry should all be swimming up and feeding. Now that all the fry are in the tanks and once they are all feeding, the task of growing fish (and sometimes limiting their growth) begins. This season of growing in our facility will conclude in the spring of 2014 when these babies we have come to know and love are released into the wild waters of Lake Michigan. Learn More
BY ANN RUSTROM, LA CROSSE FWCO
La Crosse Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office staff aided the Menominee Tribe with a fundraiser for their cultural museum and for the new Menominee Sturgeon Guard program. On a blustery February morning, volunteers set up the fish check in station, plugged in the crock and coffee pots, and hung out t-shirts for sale outside the Thunderbird Casino in order to raise funds for these worthy causes.
The Sturgeon Guard program began in 2012 with the first sturgeon spawning run at Keshena in 100 years. A small group of dedicated tribal members patrolled the shores of the Wolf River, protecting their revered sturgeon for 24 hours a day over a four week period as the sturgeon finally returned home to Keshena Falls. This year, the Conservation Department and the Museum want to provide hot meals and an appreciation gift for each Sturgeon Guard participant. Thus, Menominee Conservation and museum staff volunteered to host the Legend Lake Fishing Derby on February 9, 2013. Cash prizes were awarded to the biggest fish in four categories, northern pike, yellow perch, largemouth bass, and crappie. Raffle tickets were sold for donated prizes, including a nice portable ice fishing shack. Many hungry anglers took advantage of the hot food, fresh fry bread, coffee, and pop that was available for purchase. Unique artistic sturgeon shirts were also for sale (and are still available by calling 715-799-5116. Staff from La Crosse FWCO participated in educational outreach at the event and measured fish that came into the registration station. Menominee Conservation is looking for volunteers for the 2013 Sturgeon Guard. Anyone interested can call 715-799-5116 for details. Learn More