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Open-File Report 2009–1043

Prepared in cooperation with the Bureau of Reclamation

Spring and Summer Spatial Distribution of Endangered Juvenile Lost River and Shortnose Suckers in Relation to Environmental Variables in Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon: 2007 Annual Report

Summer M. Burdick and Scott P. VanderKooi, U.S. Geological Survey, and Greer O. Anderson, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


Lost River sucker Deltistes luxatus and shortnose sucker Chasmistes brevirostris were listed as endangered in 1988 for a variety of reasons including apparent recruitment failure. Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon, and its tributaries are considered the most critical remaining habitat for these two species. Age-0 suckers are often abundant in Upper Klamath Lake throughout the summer months, but catches decline dramatically between late August and early September each year, and age-1 and older subadult suckers are rare. These rapid declines in catch rates and a lack of substantial recruitment into adult sucker populations in recent years suggests sucker populations experience high mortality between their first summer and first spawn. A lack of optimal rearing habitat may exacerbate juvenile sucker mortality or restrict juvenile growth or development.

In 2007, we continued research on juvenile sucker habitat use begun by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in 2001. Age-0 catch rates in 2006 were more than an order of magnitude greater than in previous years, which prompted us to refocus our research from age-0 suckers to age-1 sucker distributions and habitat use. We took a two-phased approach to our research in 2007 that included preliminary spring sampling and intense summer sampling components. Spring sampling was a pilot study designed to gather baseline data on the distribution of age-1 suckers as they emerge from winter in shoreline environments throughout Upper Klamath Lake (Chapter 1). Whereas, summer sampling was designed to quantitatively estimate the influence of environmental variables on age-0 and age-1 sucker distribution throughout Upper Klamath Lake, while accounting for imperfect detection (Chapter 2). In addition to these two components, we began a project to evaluate passive integrated transponder (PIT) tag loss and the effects of PIT tags on mortality of age-1 Lost River suckers (Chapter 3).

The spring pilot study built the foundation for future research on post-wintering juvenile sucker distribution and habitat use studies. Only 34 percent of nets set during spring sampling (April 2 to May 29) caught juvenile suckers and catch rates were low (0.038 to 0.405 suckers/hour) and widely distributed throughout shoreline areas. Of 13 suckers sacrificed for identification, only one was determined to be a Lost River sucker. All others were either shortnose suckers or Klamath largescale Catostomus snyderi suckers, but were not identified to species. Suckers caught during the spring averaged 93 ± 2 millimeter (mm) standard length (SL; mean ± SE) and were all estimated to be a year old. Spring catches did not vary in respect to nearness to tributary streams or rivers, substrate type, area of the lake, or distance from shore. On the other hand, a higher percentage of nets caught at least one sucker when they were set within 50 meters (m) of a wetland edge (60 percent) compared to nets set 200 m from a wetland (30 percent) or in other shoreline areas (29 percent). Our results also suggest that in the spring age-1 suckers use habitats less than 2 m deep at a greater frequency than deeper environments, a trend that was reversed in the summer.

Temporal trends in summer catch rates of age-0 suckers generally were similar to those in previous years, with a peak during the week of August 5. In contrast, age-1 sucker catches were relatively high until the week of July 16, but rapidly declined each week for the rest of the sampling season. Age-0 suckers were caught at higher rates than age-1 suckers though the summer, but both age groups were captured at a similar percentage of sites (age-0, 26.5 percent and age-1, 27.4 percent). Age-0 catches were composed of slightly more Lost River suckers (53.2 percent) than shortnose suckers (42.1 percent). In contrast, most age-1 suckers were shortnose suckers (72.7 percent).

Our summer sampling indicates age-0 suckers within Upper Klamath Lake primarily are habitat generalists, whereas age-1 sucker habitat use varied slightly with water depth. Age-0 suckers were most likely to use shallow (1 to 3 m) water widely available in Upper Klamath Lake throughout the summer; age-1 suckers were most likely to use deeper (4 to 5 m) water environments in the summer, which are diminished at lower lake surface elevations. This depth selection for age-1 suckers is similar to that of adult suckers, which are known to concentrate at water depths 3 m or greater.

Despite extensive research on Lost River and shortnose suckers, relatively little information exists on juvenile survival, movement, growth rates, and age to maturity. We therefore evaluated the viability of using Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tag technology for researching these issues. We determined that 12.5 mm PIT tags are a viable option for studying movement and mortality rates of Lost River suckers of at least 75 mm SL. However, any estimates of natural mortality that are generated from PIT tagging studies will need to be adjusted for tagging mortality, which was 9.8 percent in our laboratory experiment and 17.5 percent in overnight field trials, and for tag loss, which was 2.1 percent in the laboratory and 5.0 percent in field trials. Post-tagging necropsies indicated mortality may be reduced if effort is made to improve tagger skill through practice. Therefore, tagging mortality should be reassessed within any natural mortality studies on juvenile suckers that use this technology. New, smaller (8.0 mm) tags also should be assessed to determine their effect on mortality rates.

For additional information contact:
Director, Western Fisheries Research Center
U.S. Geological Survey
6505 NE 65th Street
Seattle, Washington 98115

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Suggested citation:

Burdick, S.M., VanderKooi, S.P., and Anderson, G.O., 2009, Spring and summer spatial distribution of endangered juvenile Lost River and shortnose suckers in relation to environmental variables in Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon: 2007 Annual Report: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2009-1043, 56 p.


Executive Summary

Chapter 1.—Spring Shoreline Distribution of Age-1 Suckers in Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon




Spring Distribution of Age-1 Suckers

References Cited

Chapter 2.—Summer Distribution of Age-0 and Age-1 Suckers in Relation to Environmental Variables in Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon



Results of Data Collection and Analysis

Distribution of Suckers and Relation to Environmental Variables


References Cited

Chapter 3.—Tag Loss and the Effects of Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) Tagging on Mortality of Age-1 Lost River Suckers



Analysis of Data

Results of Tagging Experiments

Tag Loss and the Effects of Tagging on MOrtality of Age-1 Lost River Suckers


References Cited


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