(English) Validity of age estimates from muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) fin rays and associated effects on estimates of growth

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Accurate age estimates are critical for understanding life histories of fishes and developing management strategies for fish populations. However, validation of age estimates requires known-age fish, which are often lacking. We used known-age (ages 1–25) muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) to determine the precision and accuracy of age estimates from fin rays. We also determined whether fin location (anal or pelvic), fin ray number, and preparation methods affected accuracy and precision. Lastly, we determined whether von Bertalanffy growth parameters estimated from fin ray ages were similar to parameters estimated from known ages. Precision and accuracy of age estimates from anal and pelvic rays were similar and estimates were relatively precise (coefficient of variation = 8.5%) and accurate (mean absolute difference from known age = 0.85 years) for ages 4–15, but ages were overestimated for younger fish and underestimated for older fish. Growth models based on estimated age were similar to models based on known age. Anal and pelvic rays offer a nonlethal alternative for age estimation of muskellunge ages 4–15 and for producing reliable estimates of growth.