Old Diary

Genoa National Fish Hatchery

Ok — so I started this blog entry about 2 months ago and I never finished it.  What with travel and the visit with Kathryn I just never had time to get back to it.  But I was very struck by our little visit to the Genoa National Fish Hatchery and I wanted to share what we saw.

“Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”
Henry David Thoreau


a broad view of some of the hatchery pools

Those words come out of the Genoa National Fish Hatchery’s brochure and it speaks to the heart of their mandate.  The hatchery is part of the Upper Mississippi River Wildlife and Fish Act of 1931 — it’s been around a long time — but located where it is (like most fish hatcheries) not many people even know it’s here.  I’d like to do a little something to help change that.


a hatchery sturgeon

This particular hatchery raises 15 species of fish and 15 species of mussels — they are actively producing more species than most other hatcheries in the country.  They produce primarily cold water breeding species, and I was surprised to learn that the also breed mussels!  With ten breeding ponds and enough out-buildings to handle fertilizing eggs and getting the little critters started in life it’s quite an interesting operation.  They welcome visitors and you’re free to make your way around the facility using their self-guided tour map.

Among other species they raise Bass, Rainbow Trout and Sturgeon.  I happen to have more images of sturgeon — they were what were in the culture tanks during our visit, but they operate all year working one species after another.

300 species of Mussels!

I was surprised to find that there are 300 species of mussels in the freshwater rivers of North America. Nor did I have any idea that most mussels need a host upon which to grow their larvae!  Without the right fish, no mussels.  The eggs settle into the gills of host fish and there the mussels grow until ready to drop of; without hurting the host fish.

Mussels have been on the decline in the U.S.  Species numbers are declining about 1.2%  per decade and they are expected to decline faster — in the range of 6.5% per decade in the future.  Genoa has released about 10 million juvenile mussels back into the rivers since 2000!  That’s a lot of mussel!

I hope some of you will put the hatchery on your To Visit List.  It may be small but they do a lot of good work!

Thanks for stopping by!


4 thoughts on “Genoa National Fish Hatchery

  1. Judy Bell says:

    One of my most interesting volunteer assignments was at the Bandon, OR, State Fish Hatchery during December of 2006. That’s when the salmon are spawning, and I almost became an expert at counting and inspecting salmon eggs. 🙂


    • Judy, I know we haven’t been doing this for very long, but there are so many opportunities to experience new and fascinating things while full timing. And as a person fascinated with process I also find it fascinating that … for example … the various branches of the US gov’t operate in such completely different ways, and have policies that sometimes are completely opposite. Thus far we did ONE stint at camp hosting, and now this one about caretaking. I’m sure we’ll find others very different from the couple we’ve come across now. Because this is an open ended position we aren’t even looking around for what may come next — who knows how long we might hang here.


  2. Mrs. P says:

    I have passed by several and wanted to go investigate them a bit but the time just wasn’t right. Next time, I think I will. I have been to a very small private hatchery for a stocked pond designated for young children and that was interesting but as I mentioned, the large state run hatchery is what I am interested in seeing.


    • It’s amazing how happy people in small operations that get little attention are when someone DOES show an interest in their work. The workers at Genoa were bending over backwards to tell us about their operation. And I think most of the time when we have walked into a place off the beaten track and demonstrated real interest we have had really interesting experiences.

      I’m sure you will too!


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