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As the name suggests, electrofishing surveys use electric current to "stun" fish in a specific area of a lake, causing them to surface long enough for biologists to collect biological data. A short time later, the fish recover from the shock and swim on their way.
This spring, electrofishing survey results from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation showed that even small lakes under 1,000 acres produced high numbers of bass during the survey. In fact, American Horse Lake in northwest Oklahoma produced the highest numbers of bass at 168 surveyed per hour.
Other data provided in the spring electrofishing survey is the number of bass over 14 inches that are surveyed per hour and the heaviest bass recorded from each lake. Though factors like inclement weather or prolonged high water levels can prevent biologists from surveying some lakes from year to year, the data collected provides useful information for biologists and for anglers planning their next getaway. The full 2009 report can be viewed online at wildlifedepartment.com.
Sportsmen can watch electrofishing firsthand by signing up to attend one of several fisheries field trips during this year’s Oklahoma Wildlife Expo. The field trips take place at Guthrie City Lake, located near the Expo grounds at the Lazy E Arena, just north of Oklahoma City. Field trip participants will board a boat for a one-of-a-kind seminar that shows them how fisheries biologists manage lakes for angling.
Fisheries biologists with the Wildlife Department will perform management demonstrations such as electrofishing and trap netting.
According to Bill Wentroth, northcentral region fisheries supervisor for the Wildlife Department, participants can learn how these and other practices are used to help develop management plans for fisheries. "It helps them get some perspective on how we manage the lakes in Oklahoma as well as the different gear we use," Wentroth said about the field trips.
Biologists employ different methods of data collection depending on the species they are studying as well as the time of year. For example, springtime electrofishing is especially effective for surveying black bass, as bass spend more time in shallow water during the spring than at other times of the year and are therefore more susceptible to electric shock. During the summer, bass may be too deep in the water for electrofishing to effectively survey large numbers of fish. Saugeye are more vulnerable to electrofishing in the fall, and other species, such as crappie, can be captured and surveyed through methods such as trap netting. Crappie tend to perceive the nets as underwater structure and are likely to concentrate in such areas, making them easier to catch and survey.
According to Wentroth, field trip participants will not only learn what methods are used to collect data in the field, but also will gain an understanding of how the information is used to manage the state’s fisheries for better angling. They also will learn why biologists study the ages of fish and will get a chance to try their own hand at aging fish.
Those interested in taking the field trip must pre-register by Sept. 24 or before available slots are filled. Space is limited, and sign-up is on a first-come, first-served basis. Field trip times include 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26, and 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 27. Pre-register by calling Carol Lee, fisheries division secretary for the Wildlife Department, at (405) 521-3721 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Registration will close Thursday, Sept. 24 at 4:30 p.m.
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