Date of Award:

11-2011

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department name when degree awarded

Fisheries Biology

Advisor/Chair:

Dr. Todd Crowl

Abstract

The federally endangered June sucker (Chasmistes liorus mictus), which is endemic to Utah Lake, UT, historically spawned in all significant tributaries flowing into Utah Lake. However, due to a variety of anthropogenic changes, June sucker spawning is now primarily restricted to the Provo River, the largest tributary to Utah Lake. The purpose of this study was to gain a better understanding of the spawning and early life history of the June sucker. My specific objectives were to determine (1) what environmental factors attract or deter June suckers to certain Utah Lake tributaries for spawning; (2) what cues June suckers to migrate upstream to spawn; (3) if June suckers use more than one tributary for spawning; and (4) what limiting factors exist in these smaller tributaries. I performed weekly trap-netting surveys and installed passive integrated transponder tag interrogation systems into five Utah Lake tributaries during the spring of 2008 to determine if suckers were using multiple tributaries for spawning and to determine the timing and number of fish migrating upstream to spawn. I coupled the trap-netting data (staging) and migration data (tributary use) with a suite of biotic and abiotic environmental variables in a random forest model to establish the strongest relationships that exist between fish migration and environmental factors. I found that June sucker were present at the mouths of all tributaries sampled and migrated up three of the five tributaries during the spawning season. The Provo River was the tributary most used. Evidence of reproduction was found in four of the five tributaries by the presence of larval June sucker. The random forest model, for staging, indicated that lower total dissolved solids of the tributaries influenced higher catch per unit effort at the mouths of the tributaries, but explained only 33% of the variance. The random forest model, for tributary use, performed very well, explaining 85% of the variance and indicated discharge was the most important variable for upstream migration. Specifically, the ascending limb of the hydrograph appeared to cue migration and the descending limb cue spawning. I also found the most likely limiting factors in the smaller tributaries are degraded water quality and available spawning habitat. Results from this study show fish are selecting less degraded streams for spawning. Stream restoration projects, in the smaller tributaries, would likely increase the spawning habitat for June suckers and aid their recovery.

Comments

Publication made available electronically December 21, 2011.

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