In collaboration with the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Geological Survey began a consistent monitoring program for endangered Lost River suckers (Deltistes luxatus) and shortnose suckers (Chasmistes brevirostris) in Clear Lake Reservoir, California, in the fall of 2004. The program was intended to develop a more complete understanding of the Clear Lake Reservoir populations because they are important to the recovery efforts for these species. We report results from this ongoing program and include sampling efforts from fall 2008 to spring 2010. We summarize catches and passive integrated transponder (PIT) tagging efforts from trammel net sampling in fall 2008 and fall 2009, as well as detections of PIT-tagged suckers on remote antennas in the spawning tributary, Willow Creek, in spring 2009 and spring 2010.
Trammel net sampling resulted in a relatively low catch of suckers in fall 2008 and a high catch of suckers in fall 2009. We attribute the high catch of suckers to low lake levels in 2009, which concentrated fish. As in previous years, shortnose suckers made up the vast majority of the sucker catch and recaptures of previously PIT-tagged suckers were relatively uncommon. Across the 2 years, we captured and tagged 389 new Lost River suckers and 2,874 new shortnose suckers. Since the program began, we have tagged a total of about 1,200 Lost River suckers and 5,900 shortnose suckers that can be detected on the remote antennas in Willow Creek. Detections of tagged suckers were low in both spring 2009 and spring 2010. The magnitude of the spawning migration was presumably small in both years because of low flows in Willow Creek; detections were similar to a previous low-flow year (spring 2007) and much lower than previous years with higher flows (spring 2006 and spring 2008).
The size composition of fish captured in fall trammel net sampling over time suggests that the Lost River sucker population probably has decreased in abundance from what it was in the early 2000s. Shortnose suckers are smaller than Lost River suckers, and we are unable to infer any trend in abundance for shortnose suckers because it is impossible to separate recruitment of small fish from size selectivity of the trammel nets. Nonetheless, the substantial catch of small shortnose suckers in 2009, especially females, indicates that some new individuals recruited to the population.
Problems with inferring status and population dynamics from size composition data can be overcome by a robust capture-recapture program that follows the histories of PIT-tagged individuals. Inferences from such a program are currently hindered by poor detection rates during spawning seasons with low flows in Willow Creek, which indicate that a key assumption of capture-recapture models is violated. We suggest that the most straightforward solution to this issue would be to collect detection data during the spawning season using remote PIT tag antennas in the strait between the west and east lobes of the lake.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Monitoring of Adult Lost River and Shortnose Suckers in Clear Lake Reservoir, California, 2008–2010