Federally endangered Lost River sucker (Deltistes luxatus) and shortnose sucker (Chasmistes brevirostris) were once abundant throughout their range but populations have declined. They were extirpated from several lakes in the 1920s and may no longer reproduce in others. Poor recruitment to the adult spawning populations is one of several reasons cited for the decline and lack of recovery of these species and may be the consequence of high mortality during juvenile life stages. High larval and juvenile sucker mortality may be exacerbated by an insufficient quantity of suitable or high quality rearing habitat. In addition, larval suckers may be swept downstream from suitable rearing areas in Upper Klamath Lake into Keno Reservoir, which is seasonally anoxic.
The Nature Conservancy flooded about 3,600 acres (1,456 hectares) to the north of the Williamson River mouth (Tulana Unit) in October 2007 and about 1,400 acres (567 hectares) to the south and east of the Williamson River mouth (Goose Bay Unit) a year later to retain larval suckers in Upper Klamath Lake, create nursery habitat, and improve water quality. The U.S. Geological Survey joined a long-term research and monitoring program in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy, the Bureau of Reclamation, and Oregon State University in 2008 to assess the effects of the Williamson River Delta restoration on the early life-history stages of Lost River and shortnose suckers. The primary objectives of the research were to describe habitat colonization and use by larval and juvenile suckers and non-sucker fishes and to evaluate the effects of the restored habitat on the health and condition of juvenile suckers. This report summarizes data collected in 2009 by the U.S. Geological Survey as a part of this monitoring effort.
The Williamson River Delta appeared to provide suitable rearing habitat for endangered larval Lost River and shortnose suckers in 2008 and 2009. Larval suckers captured in this delta typically were larger than those captured in the adjacent lake habitat in 2008, but the opposite was true for larval shortnose suckers in 2009. Mean sample density was greater for both species in the Williamson River Delta than adjacent lake habitats in both years. Larval suckers captured in the restoration area, however, had less food in their guts compared to those captured in Upper Klamath or Agency Lakes.
Differential distribution among sucker species within the Williamson River Delta and between the delta and adjacent lakes indicated that shortnose suckers likely benefited more from the restored Williamson River Delta than Lost River or Klamath largescale suckers (Catostomus snyderi). Catch rates in shallow-water habitats with vegetation within the delta were higher for shortnose and Klamath largescale suckers than for larval Lost River suckers in 2008 and 2009.However, catch rates at the mouth of the Williamson River in 2008 and in Upper Klamath Lake in 2009 were higher for larval Lost River suckers than for larvae identified as either shortnose or Klamath largescale suckers. Shortnose suckers also comprised the greatest portion of age-0 suckers captured in the Williamson River Delta in 2008 and 2009. The relative abundance of age-1 shortnose suckers was high in our catches compared to age-1 Lost River suckers in 2009 in the delta and adjacent lakes, which may or may not indicate shortnose suckers experienced better survival than Lost River suckers in 2008.
Age-0 and age-1 suckers were similarly distributed throughout the Williamson River Delta in 2008 and 2009. Age-0 suckers used shallow vegetated and unvegetated habitats primarily in mid- to late July in both years. A comparison of catch rates between our study and a concurrent study in Upper Klamath Lake indicated that Goose Bay was the most used habitat in 2009 and the Tulana Unit was the one of the least used habitats in 2008 and 2009 by age-0 suckers. Catch rates for age-1 suckers, however, indicated that bo
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Distribution and condition of larval and juvenile Lost River and shortnose suckers in the Williamson River Delta restoration project and Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon