Migrations for the purposes of reproduction are widely documented across the animal kingdom and are particularly common in fishes and other aquatic organisms (Dingle 2014). One important migration strategy in fishes is potamodromy, which is the movement from one location to another entirely within freshwater (Morais and Daverat 2016). Thurow (2016) estimated that worldwide there are approximately 13,000 potamodromous fish species. Potamodromous species as a group are also relatively imperiled, owing to the loss or destruction of the diversity of habitats often required for successful reproduction and recruitment (Thurow 2016).
The Clear Lake Hitch Lavinia exilicauda chi is an imperiled potamodromous cyprinid that is endemic to a single freshwater lake: Clear Lake, Lake County, California, USA. The species lives to approximately six years of age and attains a maximum size of approximately 350 mm fork length. As juveniles and adults, it feeds primarily on macroinvertebrates, including insects and zooplankton (Geary and Moyle 1980). Formerly highly abundant and a staple food for the Pomo tribes of the Clear Lake region, Clear Lake Hitch abundance is believed to have declined substantially from historical levels (California Department of Fish and Wildlife [CDFW] 2014). Presently, Clear Lake Hitch is listed as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act and has been petitioned for listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
The purpose of this paper is to document fortuitous observations of Clear Lake Hitch spawning and holding in stream habitat to generate baseline information that is needed to manage the species. The observations facilitated addressing the following questions (1) under what water temperature and flow conditions does spawning occur?, (2) what are the major habitat features where spawning takes place?, (3) what are the fundamental aspects of spawning behavior?, (4) what is the immediate fate of eggs deposited during spawning?, and (5) when not engaged in spawning, what type of stream habitat is used by Clear Lake Hitch and do they actively feed?