Damp Shoes and Electricity - Major League Fishing

Damp Shoes and Electricity

November 25, 2009 • Sean Ostruszka • Angler Columns




It was a night you praise the inventor of rain gear.

A couple weeks ago, Mike Steuck of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources invited me and FLW Walleye Tour pro Chris Burns of Davenport, Iowa, out to watch the Iowa DNR do its annual fall electrofishing – aka. shocking.

Having never watched this before, I was pretty excited. I mean, how often does an angler get a chance to watch walleyes suddenly float up all around the boat?

All and all, it was a great time. Steuck explained how the tool used for electrofishing works on the same principle as a police stun gun. Every electrofishing boat is equipped with a generator. In the case of the Iowa DNR, their boats’ generators pump out 220 volts, or enough to power some refrigerators. Attached to the generator is a dropper, which is lowered into the water and releases an electrical field. While water is a great conductor for electricity, the field given off by the dropper only reaches 5 to 6 feet in any direction.

For fish farther away from the dropper, the electricity will cause a slight tingle. However, for fish that swim into the field, it is instant incapacitation. When electricity comes in contact with the muscles of a fish, or any animal, it causes the muscles to contract. And if there is enough electricity, every muscle in the body will contract at the same time, completely incapacitating the fish. While the phenomenon isn’t the most pleasant of experiences, the contraction does no damage to the fish. It simply becomes rigid and, because of its air bladder, floats to the surface. From there, Burns and I got to net them up and drop them into a livewell.

Of course, not everything went smoothly. A weather front moved in the second I arrived in Davenport and didn’t leave until I left (something I found a little eerie). That weather system drenched us all night long. My rain gear took it like a champ. My boots, not so much.

Still, some wet feet were easily worth getting a chance to be on the boat. Here are a few pictures I managed to take that night while hunkered underneath a rain coat.

Slam the hooks!