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Tuesday, February 7 • 8:40am - 9:00am
Technical Session. Development of a Standardized Protocol for Use of Fin Rays in Estimating Age of Muskellunge

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AUTHORS: Derek P. Crane, Coastal Carolina University; Jeff L. Hansbarger, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources; Michael L. Hawkins, Coastal Carolina University; Dan A. Isermann, USGS-Wisconsin Cooperative Fishery Research Unit; Jeffrey M. Kampa, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; Kevin L. Kapuscinski, Lake Superior State University; Jonathan R. Meerbeek, Iowa Department of Natural Resources; Michael P. Rennicke, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; Timothy D. Simonson, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

*Authors Hansbarger through Simonson contributed equally to this project and are listed alphabetically.

ABSTRACT: Accurate and precise age estimation are essential for understanding Muskellunge population characteristics such as growth and mortality. Counting annuli on cleithra is believed to provide accurate age estimates for Muskellunge, but removal of cleithra requires sacrificing fish. Previous research suggests that counting annuli on sectioned fin rays may be a reliable, non-lethal technique for estimating age of Muskellunge < age 10; however, this method has not been validated using modern annuli viewing techniques on fin rays from known-age fish and standardized methods for collecting and preparing Muskellunge fin rays have not been developed. Standardization of collection and preparation procedures will result in more consistent estimation of Muskellunge ages, and subsequently, more accurate estimates of muskellunge population characteristics. To develop standardized procedures for processing fin rays for age estimation of Muskellunge, we investigated the effects of section width (0.8, 1.0, 1.2 mm), section location (base vs. 1 cm from the base) and anal fin ray number (3 vs. 4) on accuracy and precision of age estimates using a sample of 84 known-age fish from Iowa (age range = 3-21 years). Age estimates from paired samples of pelvic and anal fin rays were also compared to determine the effects of fin location on accuracy and precision of estimates. Ongoing research is using the developed protocol to estimate the accuracy and precision of age estimates based on fin rays from a larger sample size that covers a broader geographic range.

Tuesday February 7, 2017 8:40am - 9:00am CST
Grand Ballroom B