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Survival and growth of suckers in mesocosms at three locations within Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon, 2018

May 7, 2021

Executive Summary

Due to high mortality in the first year or two of life, Lost River (Deltistes luxatus sp.) and Shortnose suckers (Chasmistes brevirostris sp.) in Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon rarely reach maturity. In 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began the Sucker Assisted Rearing Program (SARP) to improve early life survival before releasing the fish back into Upper Klamath Lake. Survival and growth rates were compared for fish in mesocosms among three potential release or in-lake rearing sites, and in a pond at the SARP rearing facility. Fish used in this study included a mix of Lost River, Shortnose, and Klamath largescale suckers reared at either U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or Klamath Tribes fish rearing facilities. These sites were Shoalwater Bay (SWB), Rattlesnake Point (RPT), and Cove Point (CPT). Ninety-nine to 103 suckers tagged with passive integrated transponders (PIT) were placed into each mesocosm for up to 80 days and up to 103 days in the SARP pond. Cessation of movement, as determined by passive detection of tagged fish on remote antennas, indicated mortality. Dissolved-oxygen saturation, temperature, and pH were tracked hourly in each mesocosm. All the suckers placed into the SWB mesocosm died during an extreme hypoxia event. These fish were replaced with another 120 PIT-tagged and 2 untagged hatchery-reared Lost River suckers from the Klamath Tribes Fish Research Facility (KTFRF), of which, all but two died during a second extreme hypoxia event. It was determined that SWB was an unsuitable site for summertime release or rearing of juvenile suckers in 2018. The summer survival rate was ≥86 percent at CPT, RPT, and the SARP pond. Suckers in the SARP pond grew slightly slower and gained less weight relative to increases in length than suckers held at RPT and CPT. All suckers sampled at the start of the study from both the SARP facility and the KTFRF, when water temperatures averaged approximately 18–22 degrees Celsius (°C), were infected with low levels of the gill parasite Ichthyobodo sp. Ichthyobodo sp. was detected on only 1 of 16 suckers sampled from CPT, RPT, and the SARP pond in late September or early October when water temperatures were approximately 16–19 °C, indicating fish were able to shed the parasite in cooler temperatures. Water quality conditions at RPT and CPT were adequate for in-lake rearing of SARP suckers in 2018. Due to interannual differences in water quality conditions, these sites may not be suitable in all years. Future research focused on the suitability of RPT, CPT and other potential sites under in years with varying conditions would be beneficial for improving sucker in-lake rearing practices. Additional research could help to elucidate how size at entry into the mesocosms affects sucker survival.