Most studies of injury associated with electrofishing have focused on salmonids: few have given attention to warmwater fishes. Under controlled laboratory conditions, we treated bluegill Lepomis macrochirus, channel catfish Ictalurus punctatus, and largemouth bass Micropterus salmoides of various sizes to duty cycles ranging from 1.5% to 100%. This range of duty cycles represented continuous DC and pulsed-DC frequencies ranging from 15 to 110 Hz and pulse durations of 1 to 6 ms. At each duty cycle, fish were exposed to power densities in excess of those required to immobilize them within 3 s, and we subsequently determined the incidence of hemorrhage, spinal injury, and mortality. Incidence of hemorrhage averaged 3% (range, 0-25%), differed among species, and was not related to duty cycle or fish size. Incidence of spinal injury averaged 3% (range, 0-22%) and mortality averaged 10% (range, 0-75%); both differed among species and were related to duty cycle, fish size, and interactions among these variables. Largemouth bass was the species most vulnerable to hemorrhage, spinal injury, and mortality, channel catfish the least vulnerable; bluegills exhibited effects that were intermediate. Small centrarchids were especially susceptible to mortality. Fish tetanized by the electrical treatment were more likely to experience injury and mortality than fish that were only narcotized. However, mortality was not related to the injuries studied because hemorrhage and spinal injuries were similar in fish that survived electroshock and in those that died. We suggest that electrofishing with intermediate to high duty cycles could reduce electrofishing-induced injury and mortality to warmwater fish. Additionally, the power output and electrode system should be managed to induce narcosis and prevent tetany and to avoid the large peak powers required to immobilize small individuals.
Additional publication details
Injury and mortality of warmwater fishes immobilized by electrofishing