The authors estimated the growth and mortality of larval sunfish Lepomis spp. in backwater habitats of the upper Mississippi River with an otolith-based method and a length-based method. Fish were sampled with plankton nets at one station in Navigation Pools 8 and 14 in 1989 and at two stations in Pool 8 in 1990. For both methods, growth was modeled with an exponential equation, and instantaneous mortality was estimated by regressing the natural logarithm of fish catch for each 1-mm size-group against the estimated age of the group, which was derived from the growth equations. At two of the stations, the otolith-based method provided more precise estimates of sunfish growth than the length-based method. We were able to compare length-based and otolith-based estimates of sunfish mortality only at the two stations where we caught the largest numbers of sunfish. Estimates of mortality were similar for both methods in Pool 14, where catches were higher, but the length-based method gave significantly higher estimates in Pool 8, where the catches were lower. The otolith- based method required more laboratory analysis, but provided better estimates of the growth and mortality than the length-based method when catches were low. However, the length-based method was more cost- effective for estimating growth and mortality when catches were large.
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Growth and mortality of larval sunfish in backwaters of the upper Mississippi River