Complex stock assessment methods are data- and expertise-hungry, with the annual updates of catch-at-age data and models typically seen as an essential requirement for sound management. But are the heavy commitments of resources required for this level of annual intervention really necessary to achieve efficient long-term fishery management? This question is addressed through a retrospective analysis of management performance over the last 20 years for four North Atlantic fish stocks. The assessments for two of these stocks have exhibited fairly strong retrospective patterns. The actual assessment advice for these stocks was provided based on complex assessment methods making use of age data. The outcomes are compared with what could have been achieved with much simpler catch control rules based upon age-aggregated survey indices alone. Even for the stocks whose assessments exhibit retrospective patterns, these simple rules can achieve virtually equivalent catch and risk performance, with much less interannual TAC variability, compared with what actually occurred over the past 20 years.