Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
Squeezing Fish – Wisconsin Style
Midwest Region, October 14, 2008
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Nestled in Wisconsin’s north woods, only minutes from Lake Superior’s south shore, the Iron River National Fish Hatchery is immersed in natural beauty.  The surrounding forests abound with deer, grouse, and black bear.   During autumn, the hillsides become ablaze in color, with red, orange and yellow painting the trees.  From the picturesque hatchery grounds, you can follow the small winding streams north until they reach their final destination, spilling into immense Lake Superior.  With this natural bounty laid out before your eyes, it becomes easy to forget that some animals here are struggling.  Native trout populations in our Great Lakes are among those creatures that need some help, and this is why there is an Iron River National Fish Hatchery.


Iron River NFH propagates lake trout and brook trout for recovery efforts in the Great Lakes.  Every year the hatchery spawns, hatches, rears and then stocks thousands of trout in order to bolster these struggling populations.  While there is always work to do at the hatchery, the fall spawning season is when it gets really busy.  Every year Iron River asks for help during their spawning operations.  This October, Columbia NFWCO sent Colby Wrasse and Patty Herman to assist. 


During our short stint at Iron River we experienced a wide variety of hatchery duties.  We began with a tour of the impressive hatchery facilities and grounds.  Hatchery Manager Dale Bast gave us a thorough walk through of their fish production process, from spawning to stocking.  After the tour, we were ready to help.  We started off by assisting Kurt Schilling and Carey Edwards with spawning of brook trout and counting of fertilized eggs.  After that, it was off to clean the water intakes, to ensure the hatchery receives a constant supply of clean water.  On day two we sorted the large lake trout by separating males from females and ripe fish from those not yet ready for spawning.  We also cleaned raceways, which isn’t an exciting job, but necessary for maintaining good fish health.


Although we were only able to stay for a couple days, we hope that we helped.  For us it was an educational experience and a fun time.  It felt good to know that we were helping to restore populations of these beautiful fish.  It’s easy to get caught up in the mystique of the Wisconsin north woods and Lake Superior, and we hope to visit again soon.


Colby Wrasse

Patty Herman

Contact Info: Colby Wrasse, 573-234-2132 x30, colby_wrasse@fws.gov
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