Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
Making Sturgeon Babies
Midwest Region, May 28, 2014
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Adult lake sturgeon gathering near spawning grounds
Adult lake sturgeon gathering near spawning grounds - Photo Credit: USFWS
Extracting milt from a male lake sturgeon
Extracting milt from a male lake sturgeon - Photo Credit: USFWS
Hatchery Manager Doug Aloisi stirring eggs during fertilization
Hatchery Manager Doug Aloisi stirring eggs during fertilization - Photo Credit: USFWS

May was another busy month at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery. Lake sturgeon spawning was in full swing and three different strains of lake sturgeon eggs arrived at the hatchery. One more strain is set to arrive in early June making a total of four different strains that will be raised at the hatchery this year.

Due to dams on many of the river systems spawning runs are stopped because fish cannot pass and continue to spawning grounds. The hatchery plays a vital role for these populations by spawning the fish, hatching the eggs, and stocking juvenile lake sturgeon into waters where ongoing restoration programs have been initiated. The spawning ready females are captured by state and federal biologists and the eggs are taken from the females right on shore next to the river. Males are collected the same way and the milt is removed and collected in preparation for the egg take. Once the adults have been used in the spawning operation they are released back where they were taken from. Eggs and milt are then combined on shore and fertilized eggs are disinfected and boxed up for their journey back to the hatchery. 

The first strain to arrive was from the Wolf River below the Shiocton dam in Shiocton, Wis. The fish were ready to go upon our arrival and in one day we managed to bring back just over 54,000 eggs. The second strain to come was from the Wisconsin River where they were spawned in Wisconsin Dells below Kilbourn dam. The Wisconsin DNR uses hormone injections on these fish to accelerate the spawn. They are lifted up by crane from the river below the power plant and held in tanks until ready to spawn. It was an excellent year for the Wisconsin River strain and we brought back more than enough eggs to produce fingerlings for three ongoing restoration programs.

The next strain to arrive was the Rainy River lake sturgeon eggs from Canada. We do not travel to spawn these fish; the fertilized eggs are shipped to the hatchery where we disinfect them on arrival. The final strain set to arrive will be from the St. Lawrence River in New York. Spawning of these fish will likely take place in early June when water temperatures hit the optimal range and the fish are ready to go. This strain is the latest to spawn due to the St. Lawrence River naturally taking all of the cold waters of the Great Lakes. The trip to New York will also be combined with delivering lake trout to be used as a broodstock population at Berkshire National Fish Hatchery in Mas.

This is shaping up to be a tremendous year for lake sturgeon production at the hatchery. In total we acquired sturgeon eggs from the initial three strains and hope to get around 50,000 from the fourth strain that takes place in New York. The juveniles that are raised from these eggs will play an important role in providing a sustainable fishery to area tribal lands and local states. The preservation of this species is essential to our mission at Genoa National Fish Hatchery and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Contact Info: Aaron Von Eschen, 608-689-2605, aaron_voneschen@fws.gov
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