Deltistes luxatus

Lost River Sucker

FWS Focus

Overview

Characteristics
Overview

Early records indicate that Lost River suckers were once widespread and abundant in the upper Klamath Basin of Oregon and California. They were a major food source for Native Americans and local settlers in the late 1800s. Canneries were established along the Lost River to process suckers into oil, dried fish, and other products. Currently, the remaining populations of Lost River sucker occupy a few waterbodies in the upper Klamath Basin. The species was listed as federally endangered in 1988. Since 2002, the abundance of this population has decreased by nearly 65 percent. Long-term monitoring indicates that most adults in the Upper Klamath Lake hatched in 1991 which means most of the remaining adult fish are at or near their average expected life span of 25 years.

The Sucker Assisted Rearing Program began in 2015. Although shortnose sucker because of the drastic population declines, but an inability to discriminate live larvae and juveniles means that all Klamath sucker species are collected and reared. The first release of reared suckers into Upper Klamath Lake occurred in the spring of 2018, but the proportion of released individuals that will eventually join the spawning population remains unknown. This program will expand to supplement populations with 60,000 juvenile suckers released annually.

Conservation efforts for the Lost River sucker focus on the re-establishment of a more naturally functioning ecosystem in the Klamath Basin, particularly reducing phosphorus inputs to Upper Klamath Lake. Fencing portions of streams to reduce cattle-caused erosion, replanting streambanks with native vegetation, improving forestry and agricultural practices, and ensuring adequate water levels in lakes and reservoirs also promote recovery of this species. Coordination among land use agencies and private landowners is necessary to constrain further degradation of sucker habitat improve current conditions.

By minimizing the impacts of future modifications to spawning habitat, restoring waters to a more natural state, and augmenting the population through assisted rearing program, recovery of Lost River sucker populations is possible in the Klamath Basin.

 

Scientific Name

Deltistes luxatus
Common Name
Lost River Sucker
FWS Category
Fishes
Kingdom

Location in Taxonomic Tree

Identification Numbers

TSN:

Characteristics

Characteristic category

Habitat

Characteristics
Habitat

Adult Lost River sucker inhabit deeper water of lakes and reservoirs, but use tributary rivers of their home lake for spawning.

Lake
Characteristic category

Life Cycle

Characteristics
Life Cycle

Lost River suckers typically begin to reproduce between six and nine years of age. In Upper Klamath Lake spawning occurs from February through May over gravel substrates less than four feet deep. Suckers travel up tributary rivers to spawn, but historically also spawned along shoreline springs. Females can produce between approximately 40,000 to 200,000 eggs annually, and are broadcast spawners - meaning they release tens of thousands of eggs in the water where two or more males release their milt. The fertilized eggs settle in the cobbles or gravel, where they hatch into microscopic larvae.

Generally, first hatched larval suckers spend little time in rivers but quickly drift downstream into area lakes.  Here, larvae density is generally higher within and adjacent to lakeshore vegetation. Larval suckers quickly grow into one inch long juveniles and occupy shallow habitats for their first year of life, after which they move into deeper lake areas. Juvenile Lost River suckers reach sexual maturity between four and nine years. 

Life Span

Historically known as mullet, the Lost River sucker is a large, long-lived sucker that can reach 53 years of age, and has an average life expectancy of 25 years.

Reproduction

Lost River suckers typically begin to reproduce between six and nine years of age. In Upper Klamath Lake spawning occurs from February through May over gravel substrates less than four feet deep. Suckers travel up tributary rivers to spawn, but historically also spawned along shoreline springs. Females can produce between approximately 40,000 to 200,000 eggs annually, and are broadcast spawners - meaning they release tens of thousands of eggs in the water where two or more males release their milt. The fertilized eggs settle in the cobbles or gravel, where they hatch into microscopic larvae.

Characteristic category

Physical Characteristics

Characteristics
Size & Shape

Lost River suckers are elongated in shape, with bony rayed fins and adults have a large head that terminates in a fleshy and downturned protuberance. The characteristic sucker mouth with large fleshy lips is positioned underneath. Lost River adults average about 2 feet 7 inches in length (although some can be over a yard long).

Weight

Mature Lost River suckers can weigh up to 9.9 pounds.

Color & Pattern

Lost River suckers are a greenish-gold color on the top and sides of their bodies, and silvery to creamy white on the belly.

Geography

Characteristics
Range

Currently, Lost River suckers occupy few waterbodies in the upper Klamath Basin: In Oregon they can be found in Upper Klamath Lake and Lake Euwana (below Link River Dam in Klamath Falls). In California, they can be found within the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge in Tule Lake Sumps 1A and 1B and in Clear Lake Reservoir. 

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