Exercise conditioning decreases downstream movement of pond-reared razorback suckers released into a stream environment
Despite augmentation stocking efforts, wild populations of razorback suckers (Xyrauchen texanus) continue to decline. Endangered razorback suckers are commonly raised in off-channel ponds until maturity (approximately 300 mm TL) and then stocked into the Colorado River or its tributaries. After fish are stocked, they commonly move large distances downstream. We conducted an experiment to determine if downstream dispersal could be reduced through exercise conditioning. Two groups of razorback suckers, exercised and nonexercised, were released into Fossil Creek, Arizona. Prior to release, a subsample from each treatment group was tested in a laboratory flow chamber. Razorback suckers that had been exercise conditioned were able to maintain a position in the flow chamber 2 times longer and at velocities 25 cm · s-1 higher than nonexercised fish. Although the intended method of field data collection via passive-integrated-transponder (PIT) antennas and a remote communication station failed because river otters (Lontra canadensis) preyed upon the released razorback suckers, implanted PIT tags were retained in otter scat. Recovered PIT tags enabled distributional analysis, which indicated that exercised razorback suckers did not move as far downstream from the point of release as nonexercised razorbacks. Exercise conditioning may increase overall fitness of pond-reared razorback suckers, and, consequently, increase the effectiveness of augmentation stocking.