Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Juvenile Lost River and shortnose sucker year-class formation, survival, and growth in Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon and Clear Lake Reservoir, California—2017 Monitoring Report

March 24, 2020

Executive Summary

Populations of federally endangered Lost River (Deltistes luxatus) and shortnose suckers (Chasmistes brevirostris) in Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon, and Clear Lake Reservoir (hereinafter referred to as Clear Lake; fig. 1), California, are experiencing long-term declines in abundance. Upper Klamath Lake populations are decreasing because juvenile suckers are not surviving and recruiting into the adult population. Most juvenile sucker mortality occurs within the first year of life in Upper Klamath Lake. Annual production of juvenile suckers in Clear Lake appear to be highly variable and may not occur at all in very dry years. However, juvenile sucker survival is much higher in Clear Lake, with some suckers surviving to join spawning aggregations. Long-term monitoring of juvenile sucker populations is needed 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; 3) help identify potential causes of high juvenile sucker mortality particularly in Upper Klamath Lake; and 4) monitor for successful juvenile survival in Upper Klamath Lake.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) began a summer juvenile sucker monitoring program in 2015 to track cohorts over time in Upper Klamath and Clear Lakes. The juvenile sucker monitoring program involved using trap net data at fixed sites to determine the status of juvenile suckers. Annual variability in apparent age-0 sucker production, juvenile sucker survival, and growth were tracked. Using genetic markers, suckers were classified as one of three taxa; shortnose (combinations of shortnose and Klamath largescale suckers), Lost River, or suckers with genetic markers of both species (Intermediate [Prob]). By using catch data, we generated taxa-specific indices of year-class strength, August–September apparent survival, and overwinter apparent survival. We also examined the prevalence and severity of afflictions such as parasites, wounds, and deformities.

The Upper Klamath Lake year-class strength indices for both Lost River and shortnose suckers were slightly lower in 2015 and 2017 than in 2016. The ratios of age-0 Lost River suckers to age-0 shortnose suckers captured in August in Upper Klamath Lake were low in 2015 and 2017, given that adult Lost River suckers are more abundant and more fecund than adult shortnose suckers. This may indicate lower egg, larval, or juvenile survival or poorer spawning success for Lost River suckers than shortnose suckers in these two years. Apparent relative age-0 survival indices for Lost River suckers from August to September in Upper Klamath Lake were greater in 2015 (0.29) than in 2016 (0.16) or 2017 (0.14). Age-0 shortnose sucker catch rates increased between August and September in 2015, possibly indicating new individuals of this species were still recruiting to the lake between the two sampling periods. August to September relative survival indices for Upper Klamath Lake shortnose suckers were 0.35 in 2016 and 0.00 in 2017.

We predicted year-class strength would be greater in Clear Lake in years when high spring-time lake elevations and instream flow allowed adult suckers access to spawning habitat in the Willow Creek drainage. Instream flows and lake elevations were sufficient to allow adult suckers to access Willow Creek during the 2016 and 2017 spawning seasons, and age-0 suckers were detected in Clear Lake both years. Higher lake surface elevations and instream flows in 2017 than in 2016 were not associated with higher year-class strength indices in 2017 than in 2016. Low lake surface elevations appeared to limit access by adults to Willow Creek during the 2014 and 2015 spawning seasons and age-0 suckers were not detected in Clear Lake during these years. Nineteen shortnose suckers from the 2014 cohort were captured in Clear Lake in 2017. A 2015 cohort of shortnose suckers was captured as age-1 in 2016 and as age-2 in 2017. The most likely explanation for increasing catch rates of the 2015 cohort is that the higher Willow Creek flows in 2016 and 2017 facilitated the movement of stream-resident suckers, spawned in 2014 and 2015 downstream into Clear Lake. Due to uncertainty in the genetic identification of non-Lost River suckers, these fish are equally likely to be Klamath largescale or shortnose suckers (Hoy and Ostberg, 2015).

Publication Year 2020
Title Juvenile Lost River and shortnose sucker year-class formation, survival, and growth in Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon and Clear Lake Reservoir, California—2017 Monitoring Report
DOI 10.3133/ofr20201025
Authors Ryan J. Bart, Summer M. Burdick, Marshal S. Hoy, Carl O. Ostberg
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2020-1025
Index ID ofr20201025
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Fisheries Research Center