We evaluate the efficacy of single-pass electrofishing without blocknets as a tool for collecting spatially continuous fish distribution data in headwater streams. We compare spatial patterns in abundance, sampling effort, and length-frequency distributions from single-pass sampling of coastal cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki clarki) to data obtained from a more precise multiple-pass removal electrofishing method in two mid-sized (500-1000 ha) forested watersheds in western Oregon. Abundance estimates from single- and multiple-pass removal electrofishing were positively correlated in both watersheds, r = 0.99 and 0.86. There were no significant trends in capture probabilities at the watershed scale (P > 0.05). Moreover, among-sample variation in fish abundance was higher than within-sample error in both streams indicating that increased precision of unit-scale abundance estimates would provide less information on patterns of abundance than increasing the fraction of habitat units sampled. In the two watersheds, respectively, single-pass electrofishing captured 78 and 74% of the estimated population of cutthroat trout with 7 and 10% of the effort. At the scale of intermediate-sized watersheds, single-pass electrofishing exhibited a sufficient level of precision to be effective in detecting spatial patterns of cutthroat trout abundance and may be a useful tool for providing the context for investigating fish-habitat relationships at multiple scales.
Additional publication details
Evaluating single-pass catch as a tool for identifying spatial pattern in fish distribution