Sagittal otoliths are the preferred aging structure for Micropterus spp. (black basses) in North America because of the accurate and precise results produced. Typically, fisheries managers are hesitant to use lethal aging techniques (e.g., otoliths) to age rare species, trophy-size fish, or when sampling in small impoundments where populations are small. Therefore, we sought to evaluate the precision and accuracy of 2 non-lethal aging structures (i.e., anal fin spines, dorsal fin spines) in comparison to that of sagittal otoliths from known-age Micropterus salmoides (Largemouth Bass; n = 87) collected from the Ocmulgee Public Fishing Area, GA. Sagittal otoliths exhibited the highest concordance with true ages of all structures evaluated (coefficient of variation = 1.2; percent agreement = 91.9). Similarly, the low coefficient of variation (0.0) and high between-reader agreement (100%) indicate that age estimates obtained from sagittal otoliths were the most precise. Relatively high agreement between readers for anal fin spines (84%) and dorsal fin spines (81%) suggested the structures were relatively precise. However, age estimates from anal fin spines and dorsal fin spines exhibited low concordance with true ages. Although use of sagittal otoliths is a lethal technique, this method will likely remain the standard for aging Largemouth Bass and other similar black bass species.
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Vol. 16 • No. 2