Why Sturgeons were planted in Klamath Lake Oregon

Klamath Lake is a relatively shallow but large lake in Southern Oregon. For many years, the waters have been home to many different fish species, most notably red-band trout, short-nosed suckers also known as Klamath Mullet, and a common trash fish locally known as chubs, though technically Klamath Roaches, closely related to Tui Roaches. There are also bluegill, bass, bullhead catfish, and a number of other fish species; however, the story of the sturgeon was primarily due to the Klamath Roach.

Each year, the water in Klamath Lake warms up since it isn’t a deep lake, algae flourishes, especially with agricultural runoff and fish die for many reasons, including lack of oxygen. Most of the dying fish were the Klamath roach. That isn’t the worst part of it, however. Hundreds of thousands of the prolific roaches were being washed up on the beach in one of the best neighborhoods near the lake, namely Lakeshore Drive.

This obviously caused a literal stink as they rotted, and the only way to deal with it at the time was to hire crews to pick up the dead fish and dispose of them. This wasn’t the best of jobs, and it usually took some time to clean up the mess, especially since more dead fish would simply wash up on shore after others had been disposed of.

Sturgeons have amazing traits. They can survive in warm water, they have a long life span, and they function as underwater vacuum cleaners, eating nearly anything, including decaying flesh. If they can, they will also eat living fish, if the fish is found in profusion. They are slow to populate and grow; yet, those benefits prompted the importation of sturgeon into the lake. The thought was to try to put a dent in the number of dead fish washing up on the shores.

To say that the project was successful would be a huge understatement. The fish did grow, and they did populate. They also did substantially make a difference in the seasonal kill-off of fish in the lake and limit the number of dead fish that washed up on the shore.

To this day, the number of sturgeon in the lake isn’t great. Yet, a sturgeon caught at the mouth of the Williamson River was over 14 feet long and weighed in excess of 1900 pounds. (It was released after weighing and measuring. Because it is an endangered species, Oregon no longer keeps official records of the size and weight of record specimens.) This shows pretty well that they have adapted to the lake and have plenty to eat there.

The purpose of the sturgeons in Klamath Lake hasn’t changed a great deal, and they are still doing the job they were intended to do. At the same time, they occasionally give fishermen a tremendous thrill. As fast as Klamath roach will populate the water, there isn’t a shortage of food in the foreseeable future.

For lack of a better way of putting it, sturgeons were planted in Klamath Lake to get rid of dead chubs. Seldom has such an endeavor been as successful. The sturgeons in the lake continue to be quite useful, and probably will for a lot of years to come. Certainly, those people who have lived on Lakeshore Drive for a long time are generally thankful for the effort.