Genoa National Fish Hatchery Conserving the nature of America

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Conserving the Nature of America

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

Virtual Fishing Week

May 16, 2020 - May 24, 2020

In partnership with the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge - La Crosse District and the Allamakee County Conservation Board, Genoa NFH is hosting a Virtual Fishing Week May 16-24. Each day will feature a different theme with information tidbits and activities.

Participating in Virtual Fishing Week is easy! Just download a Fishing Week Bingo Card and follow us on Facebook to complete the activities. Alternately, you can follow the outline of the weeks’ activities below to complete your bingo card. For more activities, download the Junior Ranger Let’s Go Fishing Activity Booklet and complete the activities as outlined below or as suggested each day of Fishing Week on our Facebook page.

We hope you will join us for our virtual fishing week and find some time to get out and fish! Fishing at the hatchery is not allowed, please find a fishing spot close to your home. Please remember to follow CDC guidance to prevent the spread of infectious diseases by maintaining a safe distance between yourself and other groups.

A woman and three boys sit along the edge of a pond. Two boys hold fishing poles.
A family fishing. Photo by USFWS.

May 16, 2020: Be a Safe and Responsible Angler

Fishing is fun – just ask any of the 40+ million people that fish each year. It’s also a great way to spend quality time outdoors with family and friends. Keep these fishing safety tips in mind for a fun and successful day out on the water. New to fishing? Check out Take Me Fishing for more fishing tips and tricks!

Fishing Safety Tips:

  • Wear a Personal Floatation Device, also known as a PFD, while wading or boating.
  • Let someone know your plan. Where are you going and when do you plan to return?
  • Bring a first aid kit and other emergency supplies.
  • Use insect protection measures, such as repellents.
  • Protect yourself from the elements. Dress for the conditions and use sunscreen.
  • Check local weather conditions before and during your trip.

Responsible Fishing Tips:

  • Pack out your trash, including monofilament line and hooks which can harm wildlife.
  • Only keep fish you intend to eat. When practicing catch and release, be gentle so the fish can live to be caught another day.
  • Be sure you have your state fishing license with you and know your states fishing regulations. Fish only in permitted areas and obey posted signs.

Bonus Activities: Complete Activity 1 Let’s Go Fishing and Activity 4 The Junior Angler Way in your Junior Ranger Let’s Go Fishing Activity Booklet.

May 17, 2020: Knot Tying and Casting

Ross from the Allamakee Conservation Board, shares his easy-to-follow steps on how to cast a closed faced spin casting fishing rod, how to tie a clinch knot, and how to tie a palomar knot. Follow us on Facebook to see his short demonstration videos.

How to easily cast a closed face spin casting fishing rod:

  1. Hold the fishing rod in your right hand with the hook or lure about 1 foot from the end of your rod. Press and hold the button on the reel. If you release the button to soon your lure will fall to the ground.
  2. Holding the button, slowly bring the rod tip behind your shoulder. Watch the rod tip as you bring it back.
  3. Bring the fishing rod forward and release the reel button when the rod tip is at about the 11 oclock position. Point the tip of the fishing rod at the intended casting area. This will ensure accuracy.

4 easy steps for tying a Clinch Knot:

  1. Pass end of the line through the eye of the hook or swivel
  2. Pull about 6 inches of line through and double it back against itself. Twist five to seven times.
  3. Pass end of the line through the small loop formed just above the eye.
  4. Moisten and pull tag end and main line so that coiled line tightens against the eye. Trim excess.

A Palomar Fishing Knot in 4 easy steps:

  1. Double about 6 inches of line and pass through the eye of the hook
  2. Tie a simple overhand knot in the doubled line, letting the hook hang loose. Avoid twisting the lines.
  3. Pull the end of the loop down, passing it completely over the hook.
  4. Moisten and pull both ends of the line to draw up the knot. Trim excess.

Bonus Activities: Complete Activity 3 Fish and People and Activity 6 Get to Know the Gear in your Junior Ranger Let’s Go Fishing Booklet.

May 18, 2020: Fish Identification

Today is all about fish identification. Did you know that there are over 119 species of fish that live within the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge?! Learn more about commonly caught fish, then try your hand at fish identification by “Naming that Fish!”

Ranger Katie, from the Upper Mississippi River Wildlife and Fish Refuge, has put together a “Name that Fish” activity sheet for you to try! Or you can follow our Facebook Page and take a guess at her posts throughout the day. Once you’ve tried your hand at “Naming that Fish!” take a peek on the answer sheet to see if you were correct!

Bonus Activity: Complete Activity 2 Meet a Fish in your Junior Ranger Let’s Go Fishing Booklet.

May 19, 2020: Aquatic Habitats

Think like a fish! Could you survive by finding food and protection within the water?

Survival Tip #1: Just like in aquariums, fish like to have structures to swim around and hide within their habitats. Aquatic plants, manmade bridges, natural rocks, and fallen trees provide these structures. Often times, people like to fish near these hiding areas yet as a fish, is structure enough to survive? Would water or wind currents affect your preferred habitat?

Survival Tip #2: Currents matter. As a fish, would you chose the calm backwater habitat of a river? Often these places protect fish from faster and exhausting river currents and provide places to hide. Low tree limbs, rocks in the water, and slow water movement help protect fish yet for these reasons fishing can be tricky and productive. Can a stronger current be helpful to a fish?

Survival Tip #3: Find the food! At a river bend habitat, the water’s current pushes nutrients and debris to the outer edge of the bend. Fish feed and gather near protective structures in the calmer waters in these bends. As a fish stuck between a rock and a fast river current, where would you go?

Survival Tip #4: Not all fish are salmon during the breeding season! Most fish prefer not to be in strong currents because it takes energy to swim against the water’s flow. Islands break the force of oncoming water (and winds) therefore, calming the water current behind them. In a lake, pond, and rivers, rocks also provide protection for the fish from winds and strong water flows.

There’s numerous places a fish can live yet their habitat must provide protection and meet the needs of particular species of fish. Learn more about a specific fish, such as a blue gill, catfish, or walleye. Learn about their habitat needs and how some fish can thrive in specific locations while others can’t. By learning how a fish feeds and use its habitat, the better your opportunity to catch them or a least appreciate how they live!

Bonus Activities: Complete Activity 5 Types of Fishing and Activity 8 Angler Tips in your Junior Ranger Let’s Go Fishing Booklet.

May 20, 2020: Freshwater Mussels

Mussels are nature’s freshwater version of marine clams like those you can find on the beach. Technically, a freshwater mussel is a bivalved mollusk that lives in fresh water.

Mussels constantly pump water to feed and breathe. They filter out suspended particles in the water. Detritus, phytoplankton, zooplankton, diatoms, bacteria and other microorganisms are all filtered out of the water by mussels. This makes the animals exceptionally vulnerable to water pollution and degradation of the aquatic ecosystem.

Freshwater mussels have an unusual and complex mode of reproduction, which includes a brief, obligatory stage as a parasite on a fish. During the breeding season, females lay eggs and brood them inside specialized chambers in their gills called a marsupia. Males release sperm into the open water, which is then drawn into the females through their siphons. The sperm fertilizes the eggs. Inside the female mussel, fertilized eggs develop into microscopic larvae known as glochidia. Mussels need to “infect” a host fish with glochidia to complete the reproductive process. Once the glochidia are released from the female, they must attach to the gills or the fins of the right fish host and encyst to complete development.

Learn about the reproductive strategies of 12 native mussels by playing a few rounds of Mussel Life Cycle Go Fish! Or create your very own luring Plain Pocketbook mussel!

Bonus Activity: Complete Activity 9 Tic-Tac-Go Outside in your Junior Ranger Let’s Go Fishing Booklet.

May 21, 2020: Aquatic Invasive Species

What are Aquatic Invasive Species?

Aquatic invasive species or AIS, sometimes called exotic, invasive, nonindigenous or non-native, are aquatic organisms that invade ecosystems beyond their natural, historic range. Their presence may harm native ecosystems or commercial, agricultural, or recreational activities dependent on these ecosystems. They may even harm our health.

People have helped spread species around the globe for centuries either intentionally or unintentionally. Intentional introductions involve the deliberate transfer of nuisance species into a new environment. An example of this would be someone who dumps the contents of their home aquarium into a lake. Unintentional introductions occur when invasive are transferred accidentally. For instance, zebra mussels can be spread when ballast water used for ship stability is exchanged.

In fact, aquatic nuisance species can be spread many ways including ships, boats, barges, aquaculture, aquatic recreation including fishing, hunting, boating, diving, etc., water gardening, seaplanes, connected waterways and many other pathways. Through these and other means, thousands of terrestrial and aquatic invasive species have been introduced into our country, costing us billions annually.

Examples of aquatic nuisance species include:

  • zebra mussels
  • Chinese mitten crabs
  • hydrilla
  • Eurasian watermilfoil
  • nutria
  • sea lamprey
  • Asian carp
  • New Zealand mudsnail

Some of these organisms seem to have little impact while others are devastating. Here are two examples of harmful species:

Zebra Mussels

Brought here from Europe in ships’ ballast water; zebra mussels were first discovered in the Great Lakes region in 1988. Zebra mussels have inflicted tremendous damage to native ecosystems and to facilities using water, like power plants and municipal water suppliers. Millions of dollars have been spent by water users, to control and eradicate zebra mussels.

Zebra mussels have had deleterious effects on waterbodies where they become established. Adult zebra mussels feed by filtering large amounts of plankton and detritus from the water. While some aspects of filtering the water are positive, the words “filter” and “clean” are not synonymous. Zebra mussels eat phytoplankton, small zooplankton, large bacteria, and organic detritus by filtering the water and straining out the edible material. Phytoplankton and zooplankton form the base of the aquatic food web and many animals depend on them for survival. By removing this food from the water column, zebra mussels effectively starve the native populations of infested lakes and rivers.

Learn more about Zebra Mussels.

Whirling Disease

Whirling disease is a disease of salmonid fish, the family of fish that includes trout, salmon, and whitefish. The disease is caused by an invasive parasite known as Myxobolus cerebralis. The parasite penetrates the head and spinal cartilage of salmonid fish where it multiplies very rapidly, putting pressure on the organ of equilibrium. This causes the fish to swim erratically (whirl) and have difficulty feeding and avoiding predators. Other physical signs of the disease include darkened tail, twisted spine, or deformed head. In severe infections, whirling disease can cause death.

Whirling disease causes skeletal deformation and neurological damage to salmonid fish. The “whirling” motion of infected fish makes it difficult for the fish to eat or escape predators. The mortality rate is high for salmonid fish, up to 90% of infected populations, and those that do survive are deformed by the parasites residing in their cartilage and bone.

Learn more about whirling disease.

Take the Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers Pledge:

I want to do my part to protect the waters where I recreate and any waters that I might visit. I pledge to abide by the following each time I visit a body of water.

  • Remove any visible mud, plants, fish or animals before transporting equipment.
  • Drain water from equipment before transporting.
  • Clean and dry anything that came in contact with water (Boats, trailers, equipment, clothing, dogs, etc.)

Bonus Activity: Complete Activity 10 Protect and Conserve in your Junior Ranger Let’s Go Fishing Booklet.

May 22, 2020: Fish Recipes

Today is all about eating what you catch! What’s your favorite way to cook fish? Share your favorite fish recipe with us on our Facebook page! Hatchery Manager, Doug, shares his favorite fish recipe below:

Grilled Trout on the Barbie

  1. Prepare your trout as usual by removing the entrails and cleaning off the bloodline, or kidney located against the backbone.
  2. Soak your trout overnight in a salt water brine bath.
  3. If you would really like to remove any fishy taste soak in one quart of water and ½ teaspoon of baking powder for 30 minutes, then rinse with cold water.
  4. Soak your trout in buttermilk for one hour while refrigerating.
  5. Rinse with cold water.
  6. Wrap your trout with butter, spices and lemon juice in Aluminum foil and grill for 5 minutes on each side at 350 degrees F., or until the meat can easily be pulled off the bones.
  7. Serve hot with roasted asparagus.

May 23, 2020: What’s it like to be a Fisheries Biologist?

Have you ever been curious what a fisheries biologist does? Have you ever heard of a fisheries biologist before today? Genoa National Fish Hatchery employs 6 biologists: 2 managers, 2 fish biologists, and 2 mussel biologists. Read the biographies from biologists at the hatchery to learn how they got where they are today!

Bonus Activity: Complete Activity 7 Junior Role Model in your Junior Ranger Let’s Go Fishing Booklet.

May 24, 2020: Be a Water Steward

What can you do to help watersheds and the fish they support near you? Keep reading to learn 4 ways to help your local waters!

  • Stop the spread of invasive species: Clean your boat and other equipment before entering another body of water.
  • Adopt-a-Storm Drain: Reduce water pollution by cleaning a storm drain of trash, leaves, and other debris twice a month!
  • Plant native plants: Native plants help to absorb rain water within your neighborhood’s natural ecosystem and prevent runoff from pollutants traveling to the rivers and wetlands.
  • Prevent trash and future pollutants: Challenge yourself to use less plastics and one-time use materials. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!
Can you name other ways to help keep your local water healthy for fish and other aquatic life? Keep a list of other actions you can take to be a water steward!

Bonus Activities: Complete Activity 11 Pass it On and Activity 12 Continue the Adventure in your Junior Ranger Let’s Go Fishing Booklet.

Congratulations! You’ve made it through our Virtual Fishing Week! Thank you for joining us and we hope you had fun!