Age and Growth of Black Bass in Eastern Lake Ontario and the Bay of Quinte as Sampled Through Competitive Angling Events
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This three year study (2012-2014) investigated the age and growth parameters of two economically important recreational fish species, Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu) and Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides). Age and length data were obtained for both species through sampling at competitive fishing events held on Lake Ontario and the Bay of Quinte. Scales, dorsal spines, and otoliths were used to determine age in both species. The results of this study found that scales and dorsal spines were effective aging structures for fish up to an age of 9 in Smallmouth Bass, and 7 in Largemouth Bass. As previously demonstrated, otoliths were found to be an effective aging structure at all ages. A comparison of the aging structures for tournament bass indicated that scales would be an effective aging structure for most tournament caught Smallmouth Bass, while otoliths would be required to effectively age tournament caught Largemouth Bass. Growth was determined through back calculation of length-at-age. Growth in Lake Ontario Smallmouth Bass was found to be greater than growth in Largemouth Bass, which is in contrast to findings of growth studies on other North American bass populations. Growth in present day Smallmouth Bass also exceeds growth of historical Smallmouth Bass from Lake Ontario. The results of this growth study indicate that there has been a recent change in the ecology of Lake Ontario Smallmouth Bass populations that makes it unique relative to other North American populations. The potential of competitive fishing tournaments as an assessment tool for recreationally important fish populations in large water bodies is demonstrated through this study. Although tournaments are biased towards the older fish in a population, data obtained through tournaments can provide information about an important component of the population that is not well represented with other sampling approaches. Using this information, fisheries managers are able to more fully understand and better manage recreationally important fish populations for sustainable use.