Klamath Falls, Ore. – Endangered sucker fish in the Klamath Basin are getting some extra help this spring.
The fish were released into the Shoalwater Bay area by Alan Mikkelsen, an advisor to the Secretary of the Interior.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Biologist Evan Childress explains: “We are conducting the first release of reared endangered suckers here in Upper Klamath Lake.”
Mikkelsen elaborated on the effort. “What’s going on here is an attempt to stabilize and ultimately increase the population of suckers in the lake.”
While there are plenty of young and old sucker fish in the lake, there are few adolescents.
Childress says no one knows exactly why. “We’re not getting new individuals that join the adult spawning population…exactly what’s causing that disappearance is not totally clear.”
The dozen or so fish released Tuesday were caught as larvae in the Williamson River, and raised in a ‘nursery’ on Lower Klamath Lake Road.
“Over the next two weeks, we’ll be releasing about 2,500 fish that have been raised at ‘Gone Fishing’.” Notes Childress.
Mikkelsen adds: “We hope to get to 100,000 fish as quickly as possible.”
A statement from the Klamath Tribes indicated that they felt this was a step in the right direction, but it was also a little bit too little, too late.
Alan Mikkelsen says he understands. “We have to start somewhere, and nobody believes that this is anywhere near the numbers that we need.”
Mikkelsen said it felt good to release the fish. “I actually felt really, really good, because I release, I catch and release a lot of fish – normally, they are steelhead and salmon.”
The Klamath Tribes claim the sucker fish are on the brink of extinction, and have called for higher lake levels to protect the fish.
That could limit irrigation supplies for farmers already facing drought conditions.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is earmarking $300,000 a year through the end of 2023 to support sucker fish restoration efforts.
KOTI-TV NBC2 reporter Lyle Ahrens moved from Nebraska to Klamath Falls in the late 1970’s. He instantly fell in love with the mountains, the trees and the rivers, and never once regretted the move.Lyle’s job history is quite colorful.
He’s managed a pizza parlor; he’s been a bartender, and a “kiwifruit grader” at an organic orchard in New Zealand. A Klamath Falls radio station hired Lyle in the mid 90’s as a news writer and commercial producer. In 2004, Lyle joined the KOTI/KOBI news operation.Lyle notes with pride that he has a big responsibility presenting the Klamath Basin to a wide and varied audience.
“The on-going water crisis has underscored the fact that the people and the issues in the Klamath Basin are every bit as diverse as the terrain. Winning and keeping the trust of the viewers, as well as the newsmakers, is something I strive for with each story”.
When he’s not busy reporting the news, Lyle enjoys astronomy, playing guitar, fixing old radios and listening to anything by Sheryl Crow.