By Patrick Cooney
While hook and line fishing is the most popular method of catching fish by freshwater anglers, electrofishing is one of the most popular methods used by fisheries biologists. But what exactly is electrofishing, and how is it done properly?
|Boat electrofishing (Photo: Josh Raabe)|
Similar to stun guns used by police to temporarily debilitate people, electrofishing temporarily stuns fish to allow fisheries biologists to scoop them up with nets. Fish are then placed in holding tanks where they quickly recover before being evaluated and returned to the water. Larger streams and rivers require electrofishing units mounted on boats, whereas smaller streams and creeks require electrofishing units carried as backpacks.
|Backpack electrofishing (Photo: Byron Levan)|
Just like the warnings on hair driers, combining electricity and water can be fatal to both humans and fish. To prevent harm, professionally constructed equipment must be used by properly trained personnel.
Safety gear is an important component of electrofishing. Some important gear for boat electrofishing includes: life jackets, rubber gloves, rubber soled shoes, and nets with fiberglass or wooden handles. For backpack electrofishing, non-breathable waders are also a must.
|Life jackets, gloves, heavy duty shoes, and nets with fiberglass handles are a must. (Photo: Josh Raabe)|
As with any technical piece of equipment, there are some common mistakes that could jeopardize the safety of the operators and the health of the fish, or render the equipment inoperable. Watch the video below to learn how to avoid the 5 most common mistakes when backpack electrofishing.
Further uses of electrofishing include electroanesthesia used to sedate fish for handling, and electro-barriers used to keep unwanted fish from invading waterways.
Should electrofishing be a tool you plan on using to evaluate fish populations, make sure to take the proper steps to ensure the safety of your crew and the fish. Check out this course offered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service that explains the principles and techniques of electrofishing.
Boat electrofishing with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.