We’re coming to the end of the Summer of Mishaps here in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Our project was to raise larval sucker fish in floating cages with the hopes that the controlled predator-free, high oxygen environment would improve their survival compared to the rest of the lake. Anyone who has read my blog posts will remember that at first we couldn’t find any adults to get eggs from and had to resort to plan B, collecting larvae from the river during a week of late night fishing. We spent months constructing our cages, only to realize that we needed to rearrange them when we tried to attach our nets. We spent nearly every day checking the water quality in the cages and were prepared to give the cages oxygen via portable aerators but the oxygen would dip on weekends or days off. The hundreds of fish we saw swimming around in our cages turned out to be invasive fathead minnows. When we quickly pulled up one of our nets several weeks ago to check our fish, we saw an estimated ten suckers total and that was before we found that river otters had chewed a hole in every one of our nets and presumably had a fish banquet.
To sum it up, hopes were not high that we would find many suckers when we emptied our cages to tag and release them.
We were wrong.
We only had time to empty one of our nets out of three today because we had eighty-seven shortnose and Lost River suckers. Eighty-seven! Eighty-seven beautiful little fish that we spent all summer raising and nurturing and finally got to release into the wide world of Upper Klamath Lake. I feel so proud. We have four more cages to empty, two at Tule Lake and two at Upper Klamath and for the first time in months, I am optimistic.