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DNA & Fish Aging

In the past, fish had to be sacrificed for DNA testing. This is no longer the case and now AES uses a simple fin clip for DNA analysis. For adequate DNA analysis, AES recommends testing a minimum of 10 fish. However, depending on your goals, lake size, and lake history more samples may be needed in order to attain a proper analysis.

DNA Analysis

Maintaining a balanced fishery is key when producing a quality fishery. But one of the most critical indices that is skipped by lake owners is knowing the genetics of the largemouth bass. Knowing the genetics of the largemouth bass in your lake provides invaluable information. If you have tried supplemental stocking, etc. and still not getting growth out of the largemouth bass, the genetics of the bass could be the issue.

There are three subspecies of Largemouth Bass that we are concerned with in fisheries management. They are the Florida, Northern, and F1 (cross between the Northern and Florida) largemouth bass. Each of these largemouth bass have their pros and cons. There is also what we call a Fx largemouth bass. This is a bass with a mix of genetics and not considered a pure fish. Bass populations in older fisheries are typically comprised of Fx largemouth bass.

To collect the DNA of the largemouth bass, the inside of their mouths is simply swabbed. These samples are then submitted to Auburn University. The markers that the lab uses are far more sensitive and accurate than previous markers used in the industry. The lab looks at 38 markers (76 alleles) across the genome, so their ability to detect small Florida or Northern bass contributions in an otherwise pure fish is much higher than in the past when fewer markers were used.

Aging

Aging of largemouth bass is an invaluable tool when analyzing a fishery. This data confirms if the bass are growing well or not growing. In certain cases, we can determine at which age the growth of the bass slows and can also evaluate growth at a certain life stage of the bass which can then be compared to the environmental conditions or balance of the fishery at time. For example, was there bad algae blooms, low water level, etc. at that time that affected growth at that time. It is common for lake owners to think all 8-12” bass are young fish and not harvest these smaller bass. However, these small 8-12” bass could be several years of age and not growing at all. Aging the bass helps hit home how poor or how well the bass are performing.

AES ages largemouth bass using their otoliths which is the most accurate method for aging fish, especially in the southeast. The otoliths are a boney (calcium carbonate) structures that is part of the inner ear of the fish. The otolith helps the fish hear and orient themselves (maintain balance) by sensing vibrations in the water. Largemouth bass that are aged, must be sacrificed in order to remove the otolith. The otoliths are then processed and our facilities for age determination.