Fish and Aquatic Conservation

In The News

photo of a volunteers at Leavenworth Fisheries Complex
Photo: Visitor services manager Julia Pinnix (front row, center) stands with the invaluable group of volunteer hosts at the Leavenworth Fisheries Complex.

Hatchery Volunteers are the Hosts with the Most!

By Julia Pinnix, Visitor Services Manager, Leavenworth Fisheries Complex

I’ve spent over thirty years welcoming visitors to their public land. One of the most important things to me is making sure there are friendly folks ready to help when people arrive. With a staff of two to cover visitor services at three hatcheries and a conservation office, and an estimated 150,000 visitors, that’s just not possible. So we recruit hatchery hosts to help, providing an RV pad in exchange.

Volunteers are some of my favorite people. They are the backbone of communities. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, 30% of Americans volunteer, and nearly 80% of them donate to charity; volunteers donate twice as often as non-volunteers. 40% of parents volunteer. 20% of volunteers support education or youth service. And they are often some of the friendliest people around. Our hosts sure are! Doug and Jody Moshier came to Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery in 2018 as hosts, and returned again this year. Both are retired teachers from Ohio. They are at ease with large groups of visiting students, and equally comfortable chatting with adults.

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photo of a close-up of a young lake trout
Close-up of a young lake trout reared at Iron River National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin. Photo by Katie Steiger-Meister/USFWS.

3 Million Lake Trout Go the Distance

April 2020

More than 3 million lake trout and 250,000 lake herring are settling into their new homes in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron this month. Their journey from the national fish hatcheries where they were raised to the Great Lakes highlights our employees’ commitment to our conservation mission and the American public we serve.

We at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service annually stock millions of fish into the Great Lakes and other lakes and rivers around the country. In fact, since 2017, the Service has released more than 362 million fish nationally to benefit conservation and angling. This is part of the administration’s ongoing effort to further opportunities for anglers and to recover our most at-risk species. But this year things changed. A handful of weeks before lake trout and lake herring were scheduled to depart the national fish hatcheries where they were raised, we received new travel restrictions and safety precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The changes left hatchery managers scrambling for a way to protect the health of employees and the public while getting more than 3 million fish into the wild.

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photo of a pacific lamprey swimming in a stream
I love a nice cool, clean stream to come home to! Photo credit: Jeremy Monroe

Creature Comforts – I Like Being “Stuck” at Home, Probably Because I am a Pacific Lamprey

April 2020

Hello humans! Wait, please don’t let my looks put you off – I am a nice guy once you get to know me. I know, I might not seem as cuddly as some of the other critters asking for your attention but just give me a chance. I think we can help each other! I am literally “stuck” at home right now, and like you, I need certain elements in my environment to help me thrive. If you learn about and help protect my home, I might be able to teach you a thing or two about going with the flow during challenging times – I outlasted the dinosaurs after all!

Allow me to tell you a bit about myself and my often-misunderstood species (Entosphenus tridentatus):

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photo of photo of Gila trout river
Gila trout seek cover especially in the middle of the day. Photo credit: Jim Strogen

Native species returned to East Verde River

by Jim Strogen, Roundup contributor Apr 14, 2020

A native fish species is being returned to Rim Country streams.

Recently, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) stocked Gila trout in the East Verde River for the first time.

Actually, that is not entirely true. AZGFD stocked about 30 Gilas last year to determine their movement and then compared that data with rainbow trout movement.

Game and Fish plans to stock the East Verde weekly with Gila trout from the Canyon Creek Hatchery throughout the spring and summer.

The fish are one of two threatened Arizona native trout species. They were historically found in many of the streams in Rim Country.

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photo of a boy fishing
Fishing at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Joanna Gilkeson/USFWS

Service Proposes Historic Expansion of Hunting and Fishing Opportunities

April 8, 2020

U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt announced today a historic proposal for new and expanded hunting and fishing opportunities across more than 2.3 million acres at 97 national wildlife refuges and 9 national fish hatcheries. This proposed rule is the single largest expansion of hunting and fishing opportunities by the Service in history. The Service will seek comments from the public on the proposed rule for 60 days, beginning with publication in the Federal Register on April 9, 2020.

News Release

photo of Louella Cable
Louella Cable pioneered fisheries science for women. Photo credit: University of South Dakota Archives

Meet the First Female Scientist in American Fisheries

April 2020

A Google search for “Louella Cable” produces some enthrallingly esoteric results, among the first, a publication available through Amazon: “Plankton (Fishery leaflet) Unknown Binding – 1966”; or a 1967 prototype for digital fish-measuring calipers; or, perhaps, the fish named in her honor – “Cable’s goby” – in 1933.

It’s a somehow fitting tribute to Dr. Cable who was, above all, a devoted aquatic biologist — and the first female scientist hired by the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, the predecessor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in 1927.

“Louella was the consummate scientist,” recalls Thomas Todd, a now retired U.S. Geological Survey fisheries expert who began his life’s work on Great Lakes whitefishes with Dr. Cable after she herself had retired from federal service in 1970.

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photo of eagle nest at Welaka National Fish Hatchery
Nest tree where cams were installed. Photo credit: American Eagle Foundation

Hatchery Eagle Cam

April 2020

The Welaka National Fish Hatchery (FL) in partnership with the American Eagle Foundation (AEF) has a bald eagle nest cam up and running. The Hatchery hosted a Welcome Chat on April 4, so followers could meet two eaglets that are coming and going as well as the AEF-Welaka team. 

View the Web Cam

More on Hatchery and AEF Partnership

photo of Randy Brown a fish biologist who received the Rachel Carson Science Award
Randy Brown. Photo credit: USFWS/Katrina Liebich

Alaska's Randy Brown Receives Rachel Carson Award for Exemplary Scientific Accomplishment

March 1, 2020

The Rachel Carson Award for Exemplary Scientific Accomplishment recognizes an individual and/or team for scientific excellence through the rigorous practice of science applied to a conservation problem. The most recent recipient is Randy Brown, a Fish Biologist based out of our Fairbanks Field Office. 

Randy Brown's years of living a subsistence lifestyle along the Yukon River before becoming a professional fish biologist give him a unique insight into rural users' knowledge, needs, and ways of living in Alaska.

By melding this understanding with his professional work, Randy has designed and conducted numerous projects to address unanswered questions about the distributions, migrations, habitats, and demographic structures of multiple species that are vital to the livelihoods of both subsistence users and commercial fishers.

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photo of a waterfall educational display at Mammoth Spring National Fish Hatchery
Mammoth Spring Fish Hatchery Visitor Center offers displays that are both natural-looking and educational. - Photo by Corbet Deary of The Sentinel-Record

Mammoth Spring National Fish Hatchery highly educational trip

March 1, 2020

Outdoor writer and photographer Corbet Deary is featured regularly in The Sentinel-Record. Today, Deary writes about Mammoth Spring National Fish Hatchery.

Lakes, rivers and streams cutting their way through Arkansas are bountiful with various fish species. However, each body does not produce the same environment. And it just so happens that a portion of the fish calling our state home are dependent upon a very specific habitat.

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photo of frozen raceways at Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery
Frozen raceways at Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery, WA. Credit: Julia Pinnix/USFWS

Fish Tales: Fish survive under ice at hatcheries

By Julia Pinnix | Leavenworth Fisheries Complex | February 28, 2020

Hatcheries in winter are just as busy as in summer, but in different ways. At Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery (LNFH), the eggs of August have transformed, growing through the alevin stage, when they have yolk sacs on their bellies and can’t swim well, into tiny fry.

By the first week of March, 1.2 million of these wee fish will fill 124 tanks in the nursery, and will need to be fed up to seven times a day. It’s chilly in the unheated space, especially with the moving water generating a draft, so I have to wear a coat to spend much time observing.

What’s the worst thing about working at a hatchery in winter? “Monitoring water flows and breaking ice for several nights in a row is the least desirable part about winter conditions, but keeping the water flowing is critical, and most rewarding after a cold snap,” answers Craig Thomas, assistant manager at LNFH.

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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