Accurate aging of juvenile salmonids using fork lengths

Fisheries Research
By: , and 



Juvenile salmon life history strategies, survival, and habitat interactions may vary by age cohort. However, aging individual juvenile fish using scale reading is time consuming and can be error prone. Fork length data are routinely measured while sampling juvenile salmonids. We explore the performance of aging juvenile fish based solely on fork length data, using finite Gaussian mixture models to describe multimodal size distributions and estimate optimal age-discriminating length thresholds. Fork length-based ages are compared against a validation set of juvenile coho salmon, Oncorynchus kisutch, aged by scales. Results for juvenile coho salmon indicate greater than 95% accuracy can be achieved by aging fish using length thresholds estimated from mixture models. Highest accuracy is achieved when aged fish are compared to length thresholds generated from samples from the same drainage, time of year, and habitat type (lentic versus lotic), although relatively high aging accuracy can still be achieved when thresholds are extrapolated to fish from populations in different years or drainages. Fork length-based aging thresholds are applicable for taxa for which multiple age cohorts coexist sympatrically. Where applicable, the method of aging individual fish is relatively quick to implement and can avoid ager interpretation bias common in scale-based aging.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Accurate aging of juvenile salmonids using fork lengths
Series title Fisheries Research
DOI 10.1016/j.fishres.2016.09.012
Volume 185
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Leetown
Description 8 p.
First page 161
Last page 168
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