Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Growth, survival, and cohort formation of juvenile Lost River (Deltistes luxatus) and shortnose suckers (Chasmistes brevirostris) in Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon, and Clear Lake Reservoir, California—2021–22 monitoring report

March 11, 2024

Executive Summary

The work reported in this publication provides updated data and interpretation for sampling years 2015 and 2022 of the juvenile monitoring project. The study objectives, background, study area, species description, and methods remained the same or similar throughout the years, while the executive summary, results, and discussion were updated each year. Therefore much of this paper was originally presented in previous reports (Bart and others 2020a, b; Bart and others, 2021; Burdick and others, 2016; Burdick and others, 2018; Martin and others, 2022) and is repeated here for the reader’s convenience.

Populations of federally endangered Lost River (Deltistes luxatus) and shortnose suckers (Chasmistes brevirostris) in Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon, and Clear Lake Reservoir (hereinafter, Clear Lake), California, are experiencing long-term decreases in abundance. Upper Klamath Lake populations are decreasing not only because of adult mortality, which is relatively low, but also because they are not being balanced by recruitment of young adult suckers into adult spawning aggregations.

Long-term monitoring of juvenile sucker populations is conducted to (1) determine if there are annual and species-specific differences in production, survival, and growth; (2) better understand when juvenile sucker mortality is greatest; and (3) identify potential causes of high juvenile sucker mortality particularly in Upper Klamath Lake. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) monitoring program, begun in 2015, tracks cohorts through summer months and among years in Upper Klamath and Clear Lakes. Data on juvenile suckers captured in trap nets are used to provide information on annual variability in age-0 sucker production, juvenile sucker apparent survival, growth, species composition, and health.

Upper Klamath Lake indices of year-class strength suggest that the 2022 age-0 cohort is the lowest since standardized monitoring began. The 2021 cohort, like most cohorts, had moderately low catch rates their first year of life, with a steep drop off during the second year. Although the 2020 cohort persisted through the September 2022 sampling, this cohort was sparsely represented after the first year with no representatives from this cohort captured from July 2021 through July 2022. Despite apparently low fall through spring apparent survival, the relatively large 2019 cohort persisted in our 2020–21 samples, but has not been detected since June 2021. Klamath largescale (Catostomus snyderi) and shortnose suckers were only differentiated from each other starting in 2020. Shortnose suckers dominated the age-1 catch in 2020 and 2022, whereas age-1 Klamath largescale suckers were slightly more prevalent in 2021. Although there were occasionally age-2 and older suckers captured, none of these fish were Lost River suckers. Except for 2015, 2017, and 2021, there were more age-0 Lost River suckers than presumed shortnose suckers in Upper Klamath Lake. However, in all years sampled, there were more age-1 presumed shortnose suckers than Lost River suckers.

Age distribution of suckers captured in Clear Lake indicates greater juvenile survival than in Upper Klamath Lake. Most juvenile suckers captured throughout the years were from the 2016 and 2017 cohorts; however, by 2022 most of these fish were no longer susceptible to standard trap nets and were not as prevalent in 2022 juvenile catches, and these suckers presumedly recruited to the adult population. As the 2016 and 2017 cohorts catches declined, so did the catch in overall numbers of suckers. Excluding age-0 catches, the 2016 cohort catches peaked at age-3 and the 2017 catches peaked at age-2. In 2022, the majority of the catch was composed of age-3 to age-5 suckers. The majority of suckers captured in Clear Lake during this multiyear project were classified as the combination of Klamath largescale suckers and shortnose suckers from the Lost River Basin, from the 2016 and 2017 cohorts. The few suckers identified as Lost River or definitive shortnose suckers were from the 2016 and 2017 cohorts. A lack of age-0 suckers captured in Clear Lake during years with low spawning tributary inflow or lake levels suggested that low water prevented spawning and year class formation. However, recent data indicate that some cohorts with Klamath largescale and shortnose sucker genetics that were not captured as age-0 suckers were detected in later years at age-1 or age-2. This finding indicates that juvenile suckers in Clear Lake may spend one or more years in the tributaries and that these cohorts may primarily be represented by Klamath largescale suckers.

The first 7 years of this monitoring program indicated different patterns in recruitment and survival of juvenile suckers between Upper Klamath and Clear Lakes. Since the monitoring program began in 2015, age-0 sucker catch rates, interpreted as indices of year-class strength, were greatest in Upper Klamath Lake in 2016 and 2019. In those years, Lost River suckers made up the majority of age-0 sucker catches. However, in 2017 and 2020, the age-1 sucker catches from these cohorts were mainly composed of shortnose suckers or suckers with genetic markers of both Klamath largescale and shortnose suckers, indicating a low first year survival for Lost River suckers even when age-0 catches were high. Age-0 suckers do not fully recruit to our sampling gear in Upper Klamath Lake until August, experience high mortality by September, and are almost undetectable in subsequent years. In Clear Lake, suckers are often not captured until age-1 or age-2 and juvenile annual survival appears much greater; however, there does appear to be a drop-off in catch rates as the suckers age and become less susceptible to the fishing gear.

Publication Year 2024
Title Growth, survival, and cohort formation of juvenile Lost River (Deltistes luxatus) and shortnose suckers (Chasmistes brevirostris) in Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon, and Clear Lake Reservoir, California—2021–22 monitoring report
DOI 10.3133/ofr20241013
Authors Barbara A. Martin, John M. Caldwell, Jacob R. Krause, Alta C. Harris
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2024-1013
Index ID ofr20241013
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Fisheries Research Center