Electrofishing gives biologists important tool to gather data

Published online: Aug 03, 2010 News Mark Latti - www.pressherald.com

So what is your ideal bass fishing boat?

click image to enlarge

Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologist Jim Pellerin reaches out to net a smallmouth bass that is momentarily immobililized by an electrical current supplied by the electrofishing boat. The boom and submerged wires in the center of the picture deliver the electrical surge into the water. Pellerin is wearing rubber gloves for protection.

Photo by Mark Latti

I had one in mind, but after "fishing" one night earlier this summer with three fisheries biologists from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, I am thinking about changing that.

This fishing trip netted more than 30 bass, including two that weighed more than 5 pounds, from a freshwater lake probably less than an hour from where you live.

This isn't any ordinary boat, and you certainly aren't going to find it in this week's "Uncle Henry's."

The physical dimensions may seem run of the mill at 18 feet long with an 8-foot beam, but the 5,000-watt generator that surges an electric current through the shallows certainly isn't.

It's an electrofishing boat, and it is quite unlike anything you've ever fished from.

Instead of fishing rods, we lowered two aluminum booms over the water's surface; and at the end of the booms, no sense using fishing lines or lures, we hooked up an electrical cable with an umbrella rig of electrodes to suspend in the water.

As the commercial goes, just flip a switch, and we're there. In this case, flip a switch, and this rig pulses 5,000 watts of electricity through the water from boom to boom, using the hull of the boat as a ground to complete the circuit.

In essence, there is an electrical current that travels through the water about 10 to 12 feet in length between the booms and about 6 to 8 feet in depth.

If a fish is caught in this electrical field, it experiences a forced muscle contraction. Since the current is pulsed, it actually produces a series of forced muscle contractions in the fish, drawing the fish to the boat, which allows biologists to scoop up the fish.

Biologists use this electrofishing boat to catch a lot of fish in a short period of time in order to gather data about a species in a particular water body.

"We try to collect enough information on the bass population so we can make meaningful management decisions as far as regulations and conservation," said Francis Brautigam, Regional Fisheries Biologist for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. "You need to know what you have out there before you can do anything with it as far as enhancing those fisheries."

Read more at http://www.pressherald.com/life/outdoors/electrofishing-gives-biologists-important-tool-to-gather-data_2010-08-01.html

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