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Electrofishing Nets Big ‘Zombie Bass’ for Researchers

Researchers and fisherman caught some big ‘zombie bass’ using electrofishing to temporarily paralyze the fish.

A small electrical charge is fed into the water from a boat equipped with a humming generator, causing fish large and small to float motionless to the surface during an electrofishing trip last week. The ‘zombie fish’ float on top of the water and then are scooped into the boats holding tank with a net.


Electrofishing nets big ‘zombie bass’ for researchers. Image Courtesy: Associated Press

Anglers and researchers used a weeklong fishing trip at Wheeler Lake near Rogersville, Ala., to measure, weigh, and check the fish for illnesses. Electrofishing helps biologists obtain valuable information about how to best manage the lakes, which are some of the most biologically diverse in North America.

The unorthodox technique of fishing is perfectly safe and the ‘zombie fish’ are put back in the water and swimming away within a matter of minutes.

John Justice, a fisheries biologist with TVA, said fish rarely suffer any lasting effects from electrofishing and snap out of the zombie like state rather quickly. The statistics biologists record shows them what adjustments need to be made to things including water flow catch limits, stocking programs and water levels, Justice said.

By looking at the overall health and condition of the fish we collect we can tell a lot about what’s going on with the fishery,” said Justice.

Electrofishing is quite simple; a pair of fiberglass arms supports a metal pole that hangs off the bow over the water. Three metal cables attached to pole protruding down into the water, and an insulated wire connects the cables to an electric generator at the back of the boat.

An operator stepping on a foot pedal to electrify the water with a 6-amp charge that extends outward and downward as much as 8 feet controls the current flowing from the cables. Fish within the radius of the electrical charge are stunned and float to the surface.

Local fisherman grinned from ear to ear as big bass continually floated to the surface of the lake, which they originally thought contained far fewer big fish.

Bernie Fuller has fished the Alabama Lake for years and never knew there were that many big fish in the lake saying, “I’ve learned there’s a lot of fish in here.” Angler, Roger Morris, giggled like a boy as big bass popped to the surface. “They’re pulling some 3- to 4-pounders regularly and all day we may catch three or four that size,” said Morris.

A total of about 200 bass and crappie were netted during three hours of electrofishing. All the fish caught were put back into the water alive and well.

Electrofishing Nets Big ‘Zombie Bass’ for Researchers.





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