Aging of Three Species of Florida Catfish Utilizing Three Pectoral Spine Sites and Otoliths

Twenty-one brown bullhead (Ictalurus nebulosus), 25 channel catfish (I. punctatus) and 25 white catfish (I. catus) collected by fish trap were aged by counting annuli from the articulating process (AP), basal recess (BR) and mid-spine (MS) sections of pectoral spines. Five large channel catfish collected from hoop nets were also aged using spine techniques. Attempts were also made to age catfish by counting opaque bands or checks from whole sagittal otoliths and otolith longitudinal and cross sections. Annuli were visible in all pectoral spine sections. Fish older than 3 years showed some erosion of the spine's central lumen, but no annuli were absorbed in any of the fish examined. Ages using BR and MS spine sections were identical to ages using AP sections in all fish examined. When compared to spine ages, aging error for whole otoliths ranged from 29% to 68%. Aging errors in longitudinal sections ranged from 38% to 52%, and in cross sections ranged from 64% to 76%. Data indicated that in Florida it is no longer necessary to remove spines or sacrifice fish in order to age catfish since any spine section provides an accurate age determination.

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