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July 2013 edition of Fish Busters' dealing with the use of electrofishing to sample fish, Florida freshwater fish camps and fishery careers.
July 2013 edition of Fish Busters' dealing with the use of electrofishing to sample fish, Florida freshwater fish camps and fishery careers.

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Florida Fish Busters’ BulletinJuly 2013
 An electrifying way to study fish
By Bob Wattendorf 
Not everyone can step up to the bowof a boat, lean against the railing, step ona pedal and start netting fish as they floatup to the surface. However, biologists usevarious styles of electrofishing boats orbackpack shockers to collect fish forscientific analyses and to help manage thefishery.Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) fishery biologistshave college educations and special training to operate this equipment safely. Forsome professionals, it is one of the more enjoyable perquisites of the job. Just to beclear, it is illegal for any angler to fish with electricity. Only fishery biologists canuse this method when conducting scientific sampling.Electrofishing boats use a generator tocreate an electric current to shock fish in away that temporarily stuns them. Thecurrent flows out in an electrical fieldbetween booms that hang off the front of the
Electrofishing boats use a generator andsophisticated electronics to create a current thatstuns fish, allowing biologists to net them. Booms and the hull of a metal boat serve aselectrodes.
boat and the metal hull of the boat itself. The electric field does not kill the fish butcan actually attract them toward the booms, before temporarily stunning those thatswim within 6 to 8 feet. Biologists then scoop up the fish in knotless nets and placethem in an aerated live well to recover.The electricity’s effects on the fish aretypically minimal. Several factors contributeto how long the fish remains stunned,including the size of the fish, the species,water temperature and conductivity, howclose the fish is to the booms and how longthe current is applied. In most cases,stunning occurs within a few seconds of the fish entering the electric field and lastsless than a couple minutes once the fish is removed from the electric field.Biologists typically identify the fishby species, count and measure them,including their length and weight.Depending on the study, blood samplesmay be taken, stomach contents examinedand tissue samples collected to determinemercury and pesticide levels, or the fish’sgenetic makeup. Occasionally biologists transport some specimens to the lab orhatchery for further examination or for breeding purposes. Scientists may also
 Because the effects of electrofishing are temporary,biologists use this method to tag bass for release,and collect hatchery brood fish. Data collected during electrofishing is of majorvalue in evaluating the health of fish and the fisheryand thus inform scientists about options to presentto the public for managing public waters.
harvest a few to examine their otoliths, or earbones, which, once cut and groundinto thin slices, show growth rings that reveal their age.In the field, biologists also collect data that can be used in conjunction with thefish data to evaluate the fishery and determine how best to manage the resource.For instance, they record water clarity, conductivity, dissolved oxygen andtemperature, along with other information about the type of plants, specific locationand substrate (for example, mud, gravel or sand). This is useful to determine whycertain fish may be present or absent and to compare samples from year to year orwith different water bodies.Electrofishing can be much less damaging than methods that entangle or trapfish, such as seines, gillnets, wire traps or trawls, which may injure or kill them. Itis an urban myth that electrofishing harms the eggs of female fish. In fact,biologists use electrofishing to collect brood fish to take to hatcheries to use asparent fish.Electrofishing is one of the main tools that Florida’s fish biologists use todetermine how healthy the fish population is in a particular pond, lake, river orcanal. They then use that information to try to ensure the fish and their habitatsare taken care of and to make fishing more enjoyable. For instance, it can helpdetermine if specific habitat restoration efforts, stocking programs or conservationmeasures were successful or if measures are needed to enhance angler enjoyment.Information from electrofishing and other sampling methods, including anglercreel surveys – where we talk to anglers to determine what they caught – provide

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