Fish and Aquatic Conservation

In The News

photo of WPA workers posing at Dexter National Fish Hatchery
WPA workers pose at Dexter Fish Cultural Station ca 1936. Photo: USFWS National Fish and Aquatic Conservation Archives. 

Conserving Rare Southwestern Fishes

February 5, 2020

Certain places in our collective consciousness seem to exist because they have been the subject of books. The Four Corners belong to Tony Hillerman; the Gila River to Rev. Ross Calvin; and the Pecos Wilderness to the legendary conservationist and former director of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Dr. Elliot Barker.

But no one ever wrote a book about Dexter, New Mexico.

You may have never heard of the little village that exists primarily to service dairy farms and ranches. Dexter sits in the shortgrass prairie in Chaves County, overshadowed by its taller sibling, Roswell, a mere 15 miles distant. State Route 2 bisects Dexter, lying pike-straight on a section line like a yellow-striped gray-black ribbon. Pivot-irrigation sprinklers spin slowly over the rich alfalfa fields that feed local dairy cows. Velvet-green crop circles dot the flat countryside and tilt gently toward the Pecos River that bends within walking distance.

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photo holding a Lahontan cutthroat trout
Tim Loux holds a Lahontan cutthroat trout outside the Lahontan National Fish Hatchery in Nevada. Photo by USFWS

A Talk on the Wild Side Podcast: Conservation in Cities

February 5, 2020

In this ‘Conservation in Cities’ episode of our podcast, we talked to three U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff about the work they do in urban areas. We started in the Windy City of Chicago, where we talked to Louise Clemency, the Chicago Ecological Services Field Office Project Leader. The Chicago Urban Bird Treaty Program is celebrating its 20th year now, and Louise talked to us about the importance of the collaborative work being done in this incredibly busy bird area on the Mississippi flyway.

Then we moved to the Biggest Little City in the World – Reno, Nevada. We talked to Tim Loux at the Lahonton National Fish Hatchery Complex, and he told us about the fish passage partnerships and projects done on the Truckee River that opened up 41 miles of river habitat to the endangered Lahontan cutthroat trout.

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Fish Passage

“Confronting challenges”

Summer-run steelhead: “top athletes” and “extraordinary” and “inspiring animal” By John Heil

In football, you have diverse athletes from your typically tall and thin wide receivers to your stout and muscular offensive lineman.  Similarly, in steelhead, you have a wide range of athletic diversity.

 “Steelhead are one of the most iconic fish species on the Pacific coast of the United States,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Damon Goodman. “One of the things they are most well-known for is their athleticism. They are the top athletes of all salmonids.  They can leap up and over waterfalls and swim through extreme rapids to access their habitats.”

And among athletes, summer-run steelhead are equivalent to Olympians, per Goodman, who is now the chair of the Native Fishes Committee for the California Nevada Chapter of the American Fisheries Society.

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photo surveying a fish passage barrier
Surveying a fish passage barrier where a road crosses an Anchorage salmon stream Photo: USFWS/Katrina Liebich

Alaskan Women Engineer Passage for Wild Salmon

breaking down barriers, making inroads for Alaska’s fish | February 2020

Fish gotta swim, but it’s not as easy as it used to be—even in Alaska, one of the planet’s last great strongholds for wild salmon. Compared to most other places, of course, Alaska’s salmon are doing relatively well, but they’re forced to navigate an increasing number of obstacles as more people move into the state and transportation infrastructure expands.

It’s not so much a matter of existing dams in Alaska,” says Bill Rice, a former fish passage engineer with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska who now addresses fish passage issues across the West and Great Plains. “Most of the state’s rivers are undammed. Poorly designed culverts where roads cross streams present the biggest problems.”

Particularly for juvenile salmon who can’t muscle their way upstream as well as adults returning to spawn. In Alaska, baby Chinook and Coho Salmon and resident fishes like Arctic Grayling and Rainbow Trout need to be able to find food and safe temperatures and flows throughout the seasons. Delays at roads can cost them their lives.

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historical photo of spawning on the McCloud River
The first National Fish Hatchery was Baird Station established in 1872 on the McCloud River in California for salmon propagation.

Happy 149 Years to Fish and Aquatic Conservation!

February 2020

On February 9, 1871 a Congressional resolution created the United States Commission on Fish and Fisheries which is today’s Fish and Aquatic Conservation program.

Spencer Fullerton Baird, a prominent research scientist, was appointed as the first U.S. Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries. Baird had previously been serving as the Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution since 1850. Before his appointment as Fish Commissioner, Baird had already recognized the urgent need to assemble the necessary information to help analyze the magnitude of declining fisheries and identify the factors, which were contributing to a decrease in fish populations.

Consequently, it is not surprising that the first national funding for fisheries conservation occurred one year before the establishment of the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries. Commissioner Baird’s primary duty, as directed by the President and the Senate, was to “ascertain whether any and what diminution in the number of food fishes of the coast and inland lakes has occurred.” He was also required to report to Congress the necessary remedial measures to be adopted and was authorized to take fish from lakes and coastal waters, regardless of any state law.

In 1872, the Senate and the House charged the Commission of Fish and Fisheries with an additional task of “supplementing declining native stocks of coastal and lake food fish through fish propagation.”

Read the Resolution

photo of a Humpback chub
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to reclassify the endangered humpback chub as threatened.

Endangered Humpback Chub On Upswing In Colorado River Basin

January 2020

An endangered fish found in the Colorado River basin is on the upswing, federal officials said Tuesday as they proposed reclassifying the humpback chub as threatened.  

The fish that gets its name from a fleshy bump behind its head is one of four endangered fish that make their home in the Colorado River and its tributaries. It was listed as such in the late 1960s as its numbers fell drastically before stabilizing more than a decade ago.

The largest population now is found at the Grand Canyon, with four, smaller wild populations upstream of Lake Powell in Utah and in Colorado canyons. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the fish is no longer at the brink of extinction and is better suited as threatened.

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Freshwater Fish of America - Humpback chub

photo of employees stocking trout
Preparing to stock retired Lake trout. Credit: USFWS

Where does a fish go when it retires?

Written by Denise Johnston, Pendills Creek and Sullivan Creek National Fish Hatcheries, Michigan

Where do fish go when they retire from the Great Lakes Lake Trout Restoration Program? No place warm…that’s for sure!  The Sullivan Creek National Fish Hatchery brood stock produced over six million green eggs this fall for federal and state partners in the continuing effort to restore self-sustaining populations of lake trout in the Great Lakes.  

With several lots (groups of young fish) poised to produce next year, the older fish could be “retired”. Hatchery staff worked with state partners to identify suitable lakes for stocking these fish. Nearly 900 Seneca Lake and Perry Sound strain lake trout found new homes in Lake Fanny Hooe, Grousehaven Lake and Maceday Lake. These whopper lake trout range from 15 to 29 inches in length. The retired fish will provide angling opportunities throughout the winter to those who brave the cold for a chance to catch a trophy sized laker.  

For those who just want to see some of these awesome specimens in their new home…and visit a really cool place, check out the  Kitchitikipi Spring in Palms Brook State Park.

More about Sullivan Creek 

photo of employees holding a Lake sturgeon
Northeast Fishery Center scientists with Lake sturgeon from Buffalo Harbor, Lake Erie. Photo credit: USFWS

A Giant Restoration Effort

January 2020 | By Deborah Weisberg

Lake sturgeon nearly disappeared from the Great Lakes 100 years ago due to overfishing and pollution. If restoration efforts are successful, this prehistoric fish could roam the waters of Lake Erie again. For species that delay reproduction, such as the lake sturgeon which doesn’t reproduce until at least 10 to 20 years of age, it would naturally take decades to see an increase in population growth assuming the causes for the decline in lake sturgeon have been abated,” says Dr. John Sweka, Northeast Fishery Center. 

Nearly 6,000 sturgeons were stocked in the Maumee River, a Lake Erie tributary, over the past 2 years, in the hope to jump-start a naturally reproducing population of sturgeons.

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Lake Sturgeon Release at the Toledo Zoo

Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Angler and Boating Magazine

photo of service employee holding a fish
Removing dams and upgrading culverts benefits migratory fish like river herring and local communities. Photo credit: USFWS

A year of clearing the way for communities and wildlife

By Lauri-Munroe-Hultman

Rick Malasky knows definitive statements are risky. “Never say never,” said the Newmarket, New Hampshire, public works director. “But I don’t think Bay Road will flood again in my lifetime.”

That’s saying something, considering the coastal roadway required major repairs after flooding in 2006 and has been washed out three times since.

The Town of Newmarket is just one beneficiary of funding and expertise from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to improve fish passage and public safety in the Northeast.

From October 2018 to September 2019, we worked with partners to complete 58 projects that removed barriers or restrictions on waterways, reconnecting more than 1,500 upstream miles of rivers and streams and nearly 260 acres of wetlands.

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photo of winged mapleleaf displaying its mantle
Winged mapleleaf displaying its “mantle,” which will help it infest a fish with its larval young. (Photo by Megan Bradley, USFWS)

Flexing Mussels, Part 3: A morning with the winged mapleleaf moms

December 2019

Many mussel species almost should not exist. Their lives are so precariously dependent on such specific conditions that their continued ability to not only survive but reproduce, generation after generation, is remarkable.

Even minor disruptions to their homes can cause the whole thing to fall apart. Pollution can poison them. They might lose access to a fish species they can trick into carrying mussel babies for a first stage of life, quickly ending any chance of reproduction. Subtle changes in water chemistry, like the ratio of nutrients or ammonia or any number of other components, can weaken the creatures, especially by killing young mussels. Increased sediment can smother them. Climate change can disrupt critical ecosystem connections.

The threats are abundant, but somehow these species have not just survived over the ages, but become successful specialists. It’s why the St. Croix with its 41 species is special, being able to still support such diverse needs.

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photo of children standing in front of a prize table

Participants standing in front of the prize table. Photo credit: Dan Spencer/USFWS

A Fish Infused Fundraiser for Veterans

December 2019

What could be more satisfying than reeling in fish and winning prizes while supporting a noble cause? The Bellevue/Issaquah Chapter of Trout Unlimited provided just such an opportunity over Veterans Day Weekend with their Perch-A-Thon fishing derby on Lake Sammamish (WA).   Similar to a Run-A-Thon fundraiser, participants recruited sponsors to donate money per fish caught.  These anglers then had a four-hour window to catch as many non-native yellow perch as possible, in turn raising funds for “Project Healing Waters”, a non-profit that provides therapy and rehabilitation opportunities for disabled military personnel and veterans through fly-fishing.

The 33 fundraisers, ages five and up, hauled in over 500 yellow perch, which netted over $3,000 for Project Healing Waters! They also contributed to science by allowing U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) staff to collect stomach samples from their catch.  With 150 yellow perch sampled, these stomach contents will shed additional light on the role of these non-native perch on the Lake Sammamish ecosystem.

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photo of Jeremy Red Star Wolf, Chairman of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission
Jeremy Red Star Wolf, Chairman of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, speaks at the grand opening of the Pacific Lamprey exhibit at the Oregon Zoo September 29, 2019. Credit: Johnna Roy/USFWS

Oregon Zoo's Pacific Lamprey Exhibit Showcases the Power of Collaboration Between the Service, Tribes, and Conservation Partners

By Sean Connolly and Johnna Roy | November 2019

Portland, Oregon

When Oregon’s first Pacific Lamprey zoo exhibit officially debuted on World Rivers Day September 29, 2019, the unique fish wasn’t the only thing on display.

So was the power of collective action, the criticality of showcasing how tribal cultural connections intertwine with our region's wildlife conservation efforts, and the synergy of shared values held by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), area Native American Tribes, and the Oregon Zoo.

The “Meet Your Ancient Neighbor” exhibit was collaboratively planned and designed over the past two years by the Zoo, the Service’s Columbia-Pacific Region Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program, and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) and many Pacific Northwest tribes. This fruitful partnership is paying conservation dividends to all partners, with great promise to grow into the future.

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photo of Leah Schrodt recipent of Sense of Wonder award and ARD Will Meeks
PIctured: Leah Schrodt with Will Meeks, Assistant Regional Director - Refuges, Mountain Prairie Region. Photo: USFWS

Sense of Wonder Recognition

November 2019

Congratulations to Leah Schrodt, Interpretive Lead with the Oregon Zoo Partnership, recipient of the 2019 National Sense of Wonder Award. Leah is based out of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office in Portland, spending most of her time at the Oregon Zoo. Leah won the prestigious national Service award on Nov. 14, 2019 at a ceremony in Denver, CO.

A congratulations also to each regional nominee:

The Sense of Wonder Recognition Program recognizes a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee who has designed, implemented, or shown visionary leadership in an interpretive or environmental education program that fosters a sense of wonder and enhances public stewardship of our wildlife heritage.

photo of two womnen admiring the fish they caught
What a catch! Molly holds out her haul during a "reel" good day teaching outdoor skills to the women of the 'WOW' program. Photo credit: USFWS

The WOW Factor: We are Washington Outdoor Women!

November 8, 2019

Blogger’s note: Molly Good is a biologist for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in our USFWS Washington Fish and Wildlife Office in Lacey, Washington. An avid angler and passionate conservationist, Molly was inspired to share her love of the outdoors with Washington Outdoor Women (WOW), a Washington Wildlife Federation program empowering women through nature. She teamed up with fellow Service biologist Jamie Hanson, and together they shared the ‘WOW’ factor with this group of women. Read on to learn more about their day - you might even be ‘WOW’-ed into volunteering too!

Eager to build my confidence exploring a new area and learn more technical outdoor skills, I stumbled upon Washington Outdoor Women or WOW, a program of the Washington Wildlife Federation, during my first few months of living in Washington. Founded by Ronni McGlenn in 1998, WOW helps women learn traditional outdoor skills and practices that empower them to develop a deeper connection with nature and the outdoors, and also instills in them a strong conservation ethic. Through 30 different courses (e.g., Archery, Backpacking, Big Game Hunting, Dutch Oven Cooking, Fly Fishing, Map and Compass, Outdoor Photography, Survival Skills, Wild Edibles, Wilderness First Aid, and more), WOW volunteer instructors share their own knowledge, experiences, and passion for natural resources and conservation with interested and attentive students.

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photo of Great River Road Interpretive Center at Genoa National Fish Hatchery
Great River Road Interpretive Center at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin. Photo by USFWS.

Regional team earns Department of Energy award for Great River Road Interpretive Center

November 2019

We at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service believe it is important to be a leader in energy efficiency. The Great River Road Interpretive Center at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Genoa, Wisconsin is a recent example of our dedication to showcasing quality public facilities that utilize energy efficient technology.

On June 1, 2018 the Great River Road Interpretive Center opened its doors to visitors for the first time. The interpretive center garnered media attention for its exhibits highlighting significant regional histories including the pearl button industry and the Battle of Bad Axe, but local newspapers and television stations were not the only ones to take notice of the new facility. 

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photo of alligator snapping turtle
The Tishomingo National Fish Hatchery is growing alligator snapping turtles to boost that species’ population. Photo by Garry Tucker, USFWS.

They're growing what? Service hatcheries expand their mission

October 2019

In Virginia and South Carolina hatcheries, biologists keep a close eye on shad and striped bass while taking time to focus on something that will never wear scales: mussels.

And down in Florida, hatchery scientists charged with making sure rivers and streams are stocked with catfish and bass are singing the praises of a tiny bird they’re raising outside their labs.

Over in Oklahoma and Louisiana? Fishery biologists have become experts in the art of raising — and the correct way of handling — alligator snapping turtles.

Mussels, birds, turtles: these creatures, and more, are living at national fish hatcheries across the nation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) which operates the hatcheries, welcomes their presence. After all, preserving species is what the Service does.

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photo of service employee on dock with mussels in floating baskets
Rachel Mair, Mussel Biologist, Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery where mussels from Atlantic slope rivers are being cultured in floating baskets in hatchery ponds. Credit: Matthew Patterson, FWS.

Can tens of thousands of mussels help save the polluted Anacostia River?

October 2019

The volunteers paddled their canoes down the Anacostia River on a recent rainy day, the stench of trash lingering in the air as mud-caked bottles floated on the surface of the murky waters.

Centuries of development around the nation’s capital rendered most of this river too polluted for fishing or swimming. Heavy rains send water rushing from streets and sewers into the Anacostia, dragging debris, bacteria and sediment into the river.

Tucked inside the canoes was the latest hope for turning this river crystal clear: Hundreds of two-inch mussels, piled up in baskets and nestled in gobs of thick mud.

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photo of an aerial view of the Truckee River, Derby Dam and water diversion
Aerial perspective of the Truckee River, Derby Dam and water diversion towards Fallon, Nevada. Photo courtesy of Farmers Conservation Alliance

Back after more than a century

October 2019

In 1905, the same year Albert Einstein introduced E=mc2 to the world, a newly formed U.S. Reclamation Service (now Bureau of Reclamation) unveiled its first large-scale water infrastructure project in Nevada. Commissioned by President Theodore Roosevelt, the Derby Dam was constructed to divert water for irrigation from the Truckee River and Pyramid Lake.

With the dam in place, water flowed towards Fallon, Nevada. The desert turned shades of green and communities expanded, but the shift in water management also took its toll on one of Nevada’s most prized native sportfish, the Lahontan cutthroat trout.

The trout once roamed the waterways of Nevada, growing as large as 60 pounds and serving as an important predatory fish in northern Nevada. But with changes in water use, populations of the mammoth fish began declining. Operation of the dam reduced water levels in the Truckee River, straining habitat conditions, while the structure itself cut the trout off from spawning grounds on the other side of the dam. By the mid-1960s, the fish had been completely eliminated from Pyramid Lake.

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photo of dam removal
Marion Ice Plant Dam Removal, Middle Fork Holston River, VA. Photo credit: Callie McMunigal/USFWS

Service, Partners to Provide More Than $18 Million for Fish Habitat Conservation Projects in 34 States

October 2019

Through the National Fish Habitat Partnership program, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners are providing more than $18 million to support 83 fish habitat conservation projects in 34 states. The Service is providing $4 million this year, with nongovernmental organizations, state resource agencies, and other partners contributing an additional $14 million.

Service biologists and partners will work on funded projects in priority areas to restore stream banks, remove man-made barriers to fish passage, reduce erosion from farm and ranchlands, and conduct studies to identify conservation needs for fish and their habitats. Anticipated benefits include more robust fish populations, better fishing and healthier waterways. For example, projects this year include a dam removal in Indiana to benefit smallmouth bass, the addition of large wood material to a stream in Maine to benefit wild brook trout, a dam removal in California to benefit endangered salmon, and restoration of degraded estuary habitat to benefit native fish in Hawaii.

News Release

View the full list of projects

More information about the National Fish Habitat Partnership

photo of angler holding a Lahontan cutthroat trout
An angler holds a freshly-caught Pilot Peak Lahontan cutthroat trout at Pyramid Lake. Photo credit: Greg Ritland for USFWS  

5,000 Lahontan cuthroat throat to be placed in Lake Tahoe for first time; Public invited

October 2019

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. - For the first time ever, the Lahontan National Fish Hatchery will release 5,000 large Pilot Peak Lahontan cutthroat trout into their home waters of Lake Tahoe.

Over three days, the 12"-14" sized trout will be placed in the water, and the public is invited to two of those historic, interpretive stocking events during the Fall Fish Festival at Taylor Creek.

On both Saturday, October 5 and Sunday, October 6 at noon, the public can watch the stocking. The event will start at the Taylor Creek Visitor's Center with an interpretive talk, followed by a short walk to the stocking site.

For more information on the Lahontan cutthroat trout and efforts to bring its population back, visit

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photo of Bio Science tech holding a Chinook salmon
Photo: Bio Science Tech with Entiat chinook. Credit: Julia Pinnix/USFWS  

Up to Six Ways to Say ‘Fish On!’ for Entiat National Fish Hatchery Summer Chinook

Sean Connolly, Columbia Pacific Northwest FAC Program and Julia Pinnix, Leavenworth Fisheries Complex, Washington

Record numbers of Entiat National Fish Hatchery, WA, summer Chinook salmon returned again in, creating another fish bonanza for Central Washington anglers and tribes.

Similar to 2018, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s harvest limit for hatchery Chinook was six fish per day. But this season the State also increased the geographic area where they could be caught.

With on-hatchery salmon fishing also officially opening this summer, the public had even more opportunities to catch a salmon known colloquially as the ‘June Hog.’  

Entiat NFH salmon made up 14 percent of the region’s summer Chinook run, notable considering the hatchery releases 400,000 smolts annually and was staffed by two people in 2016 when fish were released.

The hatchery staff’s hard work translated into plenty of Chinook for all. In addition to thousands of fish caught in commercial, tribal, and recreational fisheries, the hatchery also surplussed nearly 1,900 adult fish to area tribes for subsistence and ceremonial use.

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photo of students training in the Young Environmental Leaders Program
Training students in YELP how to access fish passage. Credit/M.Rosten, Buff-Niagara Waterkeeper  

Young Environmental Leaders Program (YELP) Learn How to Assess Culverts

Lower Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office

Lower Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) staff train future fish passage engineers and aquatic biologists. 

Students in the Buffalo-Niagara Waterkeeper’s Young Environmental Leaders Program (YELP) recently learned how to assess fish passage at culverts with varying degrees of passage, and how to develop solutions for mitigating restrictions to fish passage. In addition to this hands-on training, students learned about the mission of and work conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Learn more about the Lower Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office