We developed and validated methods for estimating the daily age of age-0 channel catfish Ictalurus punctatus. Two clutches of channel catfish eggs were hatched in the laboratory; subsequently, one was stocked in a 186-m2 earthen nursery pond and the other in a 757-L outdoor circular tank. Before stocking, subsamples of fish were collected at swim-up and 3 d after swim-up to evaluate early ring formation. Fish were sampled from the pond and tank on eight occasions ranging from 30 to 119 d posthatch. Distinct differences in early ring formation were found between yolk sac and free-swimming larval stages. Mean ring count and known age were closely related for tank- and pond-raised fish, indicating that daily ring deposition occurred in the otoliths of age-0 channel catfish up to 119 d posthatch. The accuracy of daily age estimation was similar between tank and pond samples, and daily ring counts were considerably accurate up to 60 d posthatch. Pond-raised fish were more difficult to age than tank-raised fish, which we attributed to ring compression resulting from slower growth among pond-raised fish after 30 d. The total length of tank- and pond-raised fish was positively related to otolith size; however, the slopes of the relationships between fish length and otolith radius were different between treatments. Therefore, we could not confirm that the relationship between fish length and otolith size was directly proportional for age-0 channel catfish. We encourage researchers to use this aging technique to determine how abiotic and biotic factors influence early life history characteristics and ultimately the population dynamics of catfishes (Ictaluridae). ?? Copyright by the American Fisheries Society 2008.
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Validation of daily ring deposition in the otoliths of age-0 channel catfish