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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—2019 Monitoring Report

December 20, 2021

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 due to adult mortality, which is relatively low, but also because they are not being balanced by recruitment of young adult suckers into known 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) help identify potential causes of high juvenile sucker mortality particularly in Upper Klamath Lake. The U.S. Geological Survey monitoring program, that began 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 apparent production, juvenile sucker apparent survival, apparent growth, species composition, and health.

Upper Klamath Lake indices of year-class strength indicated that the 2019 year-class was the strongest in the past 5 years of monitoring. Low detections of age-1 and older suckers indicate that the 2018 cohort experienced poor survival within the first year of life. Shortnose suckers constituted the smallest proportion and suckers with uncertain species identification constituted the largest proportion of the 2019 year-class. Small numbers of Lost River sucker were captured consistently throughout the sampling season.

The relative abundance of age-0 suckers is not a good indicator of year-class strength in Clear Lake. There were no age-0 suckers captured in Clear Lake during the 2015 and 2019 sampling seasons. Most suckers captured were age-1 Klamath largescale/shortnose suckers, which indicated a relatively strong 2018 cohort. Four-year old juveniles from the 2015 cohort were present in 2019 in Clear Lake. Cohorts that do not recruit to our sampling gear until a year or more of age seem to indicate that (1) a stream resident life history is contributing to the lake population and (2) juvenile suckers occupy the Willow Creek drainage for a full year or more. Although these suckers could be either the non-endangered Klamath largescale or the endangered shortnose suckers, a stream resident life history is consistent with these fish being Klamath largescale suckers. Survival of all distinguishable taxa of juvenile suckers is much higher in Clear Lake than in Upper Klamath Lake, with non-trivial numbers of suckers surviving to join spawning aggregations in most years.