Claire Corlett

Fish Food, Fish Tanks, and More
Electrofishing Fish Shocking Explained

Electrofishing Fish Shocking Explained


Fisheries biologists with the North
Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission use a technique known as electrofishing
or shocking to sample fish populations in public waters in North Carolina from
the mountains to the coast. To electrofish, biologists use an electrofishing boat equipped with a generator and a special control box to send electrical
current into the water. This current attracts and temporarily
stuns the fish so that biologists can capture them easily with nets. To operate
an electrofishing boat, two people are needed. One person drives the boat, while
the other, the dipnetter, stands at the bow of the boat with a long-handled net
to pick up fish as they are drawn to the electricity. Once in the net, the fish are
brought onto the boat and placed in a recovery tank where they stay for a few
moments. As the fish recover, biologists take them out of the tank to weigh and
measure them. Occasionally a few scales are taken from the fish to learn more
about the fish’s age and growth. Sometimes reward tags are placed on the
fish. The fish are then released unharmed back into the water. Sampling fish with
an electrofishing boat is efficient, quick, and relatively safe if conducted
properly by trained personnel. All Division of Inland Fisheries biologists
have been thoroughly trained in electrofishing procedures and safety
considerations. No one should electrofish without
proper certified training safety. Measures have been built into the boat
to prevent the boats occupants from being electrocuted accidentally. First
and foremost, everyone on the boat is required to wear rubber gloves and
rubber boots. They also wear life jackets at all times. The driver and the dipnetter have separate foot pedals. Both pedals must be pushed down at the same time to send electrical current into the water. If, for some reason, the dipnetter on
the bow of the boat loses his footing and is thrown overboard, the front pedal
is released and the electrical circuit is broken
before he makes contact with the water. By electrofishing biologists can find
out what’s happening underwater without hurting the fish. Electrofishing is an
important management tool that biologists use to determine many things
about a fish community, such as the number of fish, the types of fish, the age
of the fish, and whether the fish are healthy or diseased. Biologists take the
information they’ve gathered from electrofishing to develop management
plans that improve fish populations and ultimately fishing opportunities for
North Carolina anglers.

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