Effects of Lake Surface Elevation on Shoreline-Spawning Lost River Suckers

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Abstract: We analyzed remote detection data from PIT-tagged Lost River Suckers Deltistes luxatus at four shoreline spawning areas in Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon, to determine whether spawning of this endangered species was affected by low water levels. Our investigation was motivated by the observation that the surface elevation of the lake during the 2010 spawning season was the lowest in 38 years. Irrigation withdrawals in 2009 that were not replenished by subsequent winter–spring inflows caused a reduction in available shoreline spawning habitat in 2010. We compared metrics of skipped spawning, movement among spawning areas, and spawning duration across 8 years (2006–2013) that had contrasting spring water levels. Some aspects of sucker spawning were similar in all years, including few individuals straying from the shoreline areas to spawning locations in lake tributaries and consistent effects of increasing water temperatures on the accumulation of fish at the spawning areas. During the extreme low water year of 2010, 14% fewer female and 8% fewer male suckers joined the shoreline spawning aggregation than in the other years. Both males and females visited fewer spawning areas within Upper Klamath Lake in 2010 than in other years, and the median duration at spawning areas in 2010 was at least 36% shorter for females and 20% shorter for males relative to other years. Given the imperiled status of the species and the declining abundance of the population in Upper Klamath Lake, any reduction in spawning success and egg production could negatively impact recovery efforts. Our results indicate that lake surface elevations above 1,262.3–1,262.5 m would be unlikely to limit the number of spawning fish and overall egg production. Received May 16, 2014; accepted January 29, 2015




Burdick, S. M., Hewitt, D. A., Rasmussen, J. E., Hayes, B. S., Janney, E. C., & Harris, A. C. (2015). Effects of Lake Surface Elevation on Shoreline-Spawning Lost River Suckers. North American Journal of Fisheries Management, 35(3), 478–490. https://doi.org/10.1080/02755947.2015.1017124

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