Inter-annual variability in apparent relative production, survival, and growth of juvenile Lost River and shortnose suckers in Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon, 2001–15

Open-File Report 2017-1069
Prepared in cooperation with the Bureau of Reclamation
By:  and 


Executive Summary

Populations of the once abundant Lost River (Deltistes luxatus) and shortnose suckers (Chasmistes brevirostris) of the Upper Klamath Basin, decreased so substantially throughout the 20th century that they were listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1988. Major landscape alterations, deterioration of water quality, and competition with and predation by exotic species are listed as primary causes of the decreases in populations. Upper Klamath Lake populations are decreasing because fish lost due to adult mortality, which is relatively low for adult Lost River suckers and variable for adult shortnose suckers, are not replaced by new young adult suckers recruiting into known adult spawning aggregations. Catch-at-age and size data indicate that most adult suckers presently in Upper Klamath Lake spawning populations were hatched around 1991. While, a lack of egg production and emigration of young fish (especially larvae) may contribute, catch-at-length and age data indicate high mortality during the first summer or winter of life may be the primary limitation to the recruitment of young adults. The causes of juvenile sucker mortality are unknown.

We compiled and analyzed catch, length, age, and species data on juvenile suckers from Upper Klamath Lake from eight prior studies conducted from 2001 to 2015 to examine annual variation in apparent production, survival, and growth of young suckers. We used a combination of qualitative assessments, general linear models, and linear regression to make inferences about annual differences in juvenile sucker dynamics. The intent of this exercise is to provide information that can be compared to annual variability in environmental conditions with the hopes of understanding what drives juvenile sucker population dynamics.

Age-0 Lost River suckers generally grew faster than age-0 shortnose suckers, but the difference in growth rates between the two species varied among years. This unsynchronized annual variation in daily growth may be an indication that environmental conditions are affecting growth rates of these species in different ways.

The combined evidence outlined in this report and in Simon and others (2012) indicates that years of relatively high age-0 sucker production occurred in the late 1990s through at least 2000, in 2006, and in 2011. Our analysis of annual age-0 sucker catch per unit effort (CPUE), which accounted for zero inflated data and annual variation in sampling gears and locations, indicated that 2006 had the greatest apparent relative production of age-0 suckers ≥ 45 mm standard length (SL) during the time period examined. Midsummer trap net effort by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) was too sparse to examine age-0 sucker CPUE from 2011 to 2013. Relatively frequent catches of age-1 suckers in 2001, 2007, and 2012 corroborated relatively high CPUE for age-0 suckers during 1999–2000, 2006, and 2011, as reported by USGS or Simon and others (2012).

There were several indications in the data that juvenile sucker survival is low from at least midsummer of the first year of life through mid-September of the second year of life. Our estimated index of relative apparent age-0 sucker late-summer survival, which accounted for zero inflated data and variations in sampling gears and locations, was higher in 2009 than in 2004. Our index of apparent age-0 sucker mortality for all other years from 2001 to 2015 was similar among years. Seventy-five percent of age-1 suckers were captured prior to July 17 each year. In 2007, the one year with substantial age-1 sucker summertime catches, the proportion of nets to capture age-1 suckers decreased from July to mid-September. Maximum annual age-2+ sucker CPUE was 0.02 fish per net, 10,000 times less than the maximum annual age-0 sucker CPUE.

Analysis of species data indicated that juvenile Lost River suckers may have greater apparent mortality than shortnose suckers. Lost River suckers made up a smaller proportion of age-0 suckers captured in July each year than would be expected, based on the abundance of adult Lost River suckers relative to shortnose suckers, and higher Lost River than shortnose sucker fecundity. The proportion of age-0 suckers captured that were Lost River suckers decreased from July to September in several years. Only 14 percent of age-1 or older juvenile suckers identified to species over the 15-year time period were Lost River suckers.

Suggested Citation

Burdick, S.M., and Martin, B.A., 2017, Inter-annual variability in apparent relative production, survival, and growth of juvenile Lost River and shortnose suckers in Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon, 2001–15: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2017–1069, 55 p.,

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Executive Summary
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • References Cited
  • Appendixes A–D
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Inter-annual variability in apparent relative production, survival, and growth of juvenile Lost River and shortnose suckers in Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon, 2001–15
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2017-1069
DOI 10.3133/ofr20171069
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Western Fisheries Research Center
Description Report: vi, 55 p.; Data Release
Country United States
State Oregon
Other Geospatial Upper Klamath Lake
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details