Age and growth data are frequently used to monitor and manage important North American sport fishes like Largemouth Bass Micropterus salmoides. Continental and regional growth standards have been developed for the species to assess fish growth over time and across space. However, Largemouth Bass age and growth data are infrequently collected in Arizona and the reliability of age estimates derived from typical structures (e.g., scales, otoliths) in the Southwest is uncertain. Our objectives were to 1) compare precision and bias of age estimates from scales with those from otoliths and 2) estimate Largemouth Bass growth in several southwestern warmwater reservoirs using otoliths. We collected Largemouth Bass from three Arizona reservoirs (Alamo, Peña Blanca, and Roosevelt) using boat electrofishing in spring 2021. Scales and sagittal otoliths were removed from fish, prepared, and independently aged three times. Differences in precision and bias between scales and otoliths were compared using reader agreement percentages, confidence ratings, average coefficient of variation, and age-bias plots. We used age estimates from Largemouth Bass otoliths to calculate mean lengths-at-age at capture and relative growth indices based on published growth standards in each reservoir. Largemouth Bass scale age estimates were less precise, overestimated ages of younger fish, and underestimated age of older fish compared to otoliths. Growth was lower in Peña Blanca Lake than in the other two reservoirs according to mean length-at-age estimates, and relative growth indices suggested that Largemouth Bass growth in all three reservoirs was above average at younger ages, but less so at older ages. The results from this study add to a growing body of literature supporting the use of otoliths for estimating age and growth of Largemouth Bass.
Estimating Age and Growth of Largemouth Bass in Southwestern Reservoirs Using Otoliths and Scales
Steven J. Ingram, Joshua D. Grant, Zachary S. Beard, Nathan Berg, Anna M. Ringelman, Scott A. Bonar; Estimating Age and Growth of Largemouth Bass in Southwestern Reservoirs Using Otoliths and Scales. Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management 2023; doi: https://doi.org/10.3996/JFWM-23-006
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