We report results from ongoing research into the population dynamics of endangered Lost River and shortnose suckers in Clear Lake Reservoir, California. Results are included for sampling that occurred from fall 2006 to spring 2008. We summarize catches and passive integrated transponder tagging efforts from trammel net sampling in fall 2006 and fall 2007, and report on detections of tagged suckers on remote antennas in the primary spawning tributary, Willow Creek, in spring 2007 and spring 2008.
Results from trammel net sampling were similar to previous years, although catches of suckers in fall 2006 were lower than in 2007 and past years. Lost River and shortnose suckers combined made up about 80 percent of the sucker catch in each year, and more than 2,000 new fish were tagged across the 2 years. Only a small number of the suckers captured in fall sampling were recaptures of previously tagged fish, reinforcing the importance of remote detections of fish for capture-recapture analysis. Detections of tagged suckers in Willow Creek were low in spring 2007, presumably because of low flows. Nonetheless, the proportions of tagged fish that were detected were reasonably high and capture-recapture analyses should be possible after another year of data collection.
Run timing for Lost River and shortnose suckers was well described by first detections of individuals by antennas in Willow Creek, although we may not have installed the antennas early enough in 2008 to monitor the earliest portion of the Lost River sucker migration. The duration and magnitude of the spawning runs for both species were influenced by flows and water temperature. Flows in Willow Creek were much higher in 2008 than in 2007, and far more detections were recorded in 2008 and the migrations were more protracted. In both years and for both species, migrations began in early March at water temperatures between 5 and 6 deg C and peaks were related to periods of increasing water temperature. The sex ratio of Lost River suckers detected in Willow Creek was skewed toward males, despite consistently more females having been tagged in fall sampling. This pattern indicates that some tagged female Lost River suckers may be spawning elsewhere in the system, and we intend to investigate this possibility to verify or alter the representativeness of our spring monitoring.
Length frequency analysis of fall trammel net catches showed that the populations of both species in Clear Lake Reservoir have undergone major demographic transitions during the last 15 years. In the mid-1990s, the populations were dominated by larger fish and showed little evidence of recent recruitment. These larger fish apparently disappeared in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and the populations are now dominated by fish that recruited into the adult populations in the late 1990s. The length frequencies from the last 4 years provide evidence of consistent recruitment into the Lost River sucker population, but provide no such evidence for the shortnose sucker population. Overall, annual growth rates for both species in Clear Lake were 2-4 times greater than growth rates for conspecifics in Upper Klamath Lake. However, little or no growth occurred for either species in Clear Lake between 2006 and 2007. Based on available evidence, we are unable to fully explain differences in growth rates between systems or among years within Clear Lake.