FishinR - I also am a novice at examining otoliths. I have removed several otoliths but never attempted looking at any of them. Removal can be a little tricky at least for me. Trained people do otolith extraction of 1"-2" fish. I would really like to see that one performed. Lusk should produce a step by step article for the process of extracting otoliths from several fish species. Then do an article step wise about examining the otoliths. Big Bump to the PBoss editor. Get 'er done.
If one would do 50 to 100 from several species, removal would seem to be rand look relatively easy. But if you don't know what you are doing,,, it is not quite so easy. I equate it to playing the piano or an instrument. If you know how it is EASY. If you don't how it seems pretty difficult. "Practice makes perfect". I tend to have a hard time locating the otolith chamber.
I know my perch habits well enough after years of working with them. So for the pellet feeding study, I used 3 obvious age classes of known age FEMALE perch. So I can monitor the ages of the YP basically by size.
Mixes of males and females will grow at different rates. Thus one is not sure of the age class just by looking at and measuring the fish.