Klamath Falls, Oregon - Bureau of Reclamation biologists found the largest number of juvenile Lost River and shortnose sucker fish since fish salvage operations began on the Klamath Project. Reclamation crews have been salvaging fish, including the endangered suckers, from area canals since the late 1990s. The efficiency of salvage efforts in the A Canal were dramatically improved after the A Canal headworks were reconstructed and a fish screen was installed in 2003.
In late October each year, the A Canal headworks are shut, and fish left in the forebay upstream of the fish screen are salvaged, sorted, tagged and released back into Upper Klamath Lake. The annual tally has ranged from 12 to 250 salvaged over the last 12 years. This year, 732 juvenile Lost River and shortnose suckers were salvaged. While most of the suckers were hatched in 2014 or 2015, about five percent were of a size considered to be at least two years old, the rarest juvenile sucker age class in Upper Klamath Lake.
The fish screening process begins with a trash rack in front of the headworks that catches large debris. Large fish that approach the trash rack turn away from the bars into an eddy and swim away from the headworks. Fish less than two inches wide slip through the A Canal trash rack, swim through the forebay and are funneled into a pipe system that returns fish upstream or downstream of the Link River Dam, depending on the time of year.
“We were pleased to see the two-year-old suckers,” Klamath Basin Area Manager Therese O’Rourke Bradford said. “Although it’s still a dire situation for sucker populations, it’s the first positive news regarding the suckers in a long time.”
The juvenile suckers collected during the 2015 A Canal salvage effort were tagged and transported to Hagelstein Park, a spring-influenced area along the eastern shore of Upper Klamath Lake that is a traditional spawning ground and nursery area for these species. Reclamation funds U.S. Geological Survey scientists who detect tagged suckers and monitor fish movements and year-to-year survival rates for both species.
The Lost River and shortnose suckers are native to the Klamath Basin of southern Oregon and northern California. They are a long-lived species that spend their lives mainly in lake habitats. They were listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1988.