Americans pour out billions of dollars every year to the sport of fishing hoping to hook the elusive big one without really knowing just how many big ones may or may not lurk beneath the water’s surface. Recently, a team of biologists set out to find an answer to that question along with many more, and their findings shocked local fishermen in Alabama as dozens of zombie bass floated to the surface of the lake.
Using a special technique called electrofishing; biologists were able to momentarily stun the fish. Electrofishing works using a special apparatus that has two fiberglass arms attached to a metal pole that hangs over the boat’s bow and into the water. Three metal cables hang from the pole’s end that is connected to a humming generator by an insulated wire. With the generator running, one of the biologists steps on a pedal that sends a low electrical charge of six amps from the generator through the metal cables and into the water. The charge goes out and down as far as eight feet. Fish and other wildlife that are caught in the charge’s field become stunned and motionless. Once stunned, the zombie bass float slowly to the surface of the water.
Biologists then were able to collect the zombie bass in nets, pull them aboard, and place them in special aerated holding tanks. One by one, approximately 200 zombie bass were examined and studied. The biologists weighed each fish, wrote down their measurements and checked them for parasites and other illnesses. Moments later, the effects of the electrical shock wore off, the fish sprang back to life, and the biologists released them back into the water.
Nine local fishermen accompanied the biologists on their expedition and were shocked as more and more zombie fish floated to the surface of the water in the Alabama lake. One fisherman, Bernie Fuller, was amazed saying he had learned a lot through the experience such as seeing where the fish were located in the lake. He said he had no idea just how many big ones were actually in Wheeler Lake. He had always thought there were fewer and smaller fish lurking below the surface than what he actually witnessed float to the top.
Biologist John Justice explained the reason for electrofishing. It allows the biologists to collect valuable data about fish in North American lakes. Not only does it allow them to know how many fish are in the lake, it also tells them how big the fish are and gives other very valuable information about how to best take care of and manage the lakes. For example, data collected allow the biologists to determine if the water level in the lake is correct, if the water flow is sufficient, if the lake needs to be stocked, and if they need to adjust the catch limits.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) say electrofishing is wrong and that it should stop. They argue that fish feel pain much the same way as newborn babies do and that electrofishing hurt the fish.
Justice countered PETA’s argument saying that electrofishing is a far better practice than what they had used in the past. Prior to electrofishing the only way biologists had to study the fish was to corner them into a cove, seal it off trapping the fish, and then pour a chemical known as rotenone into the water. While this technique worked and they were able to collect and study the fish, many died. However, by using the electrofishing technique, none of the nearly 200 fish were harmed. Instead, zombie fish simply floated to the surface of the Alabama lake, they were studied, and then they were released unharmed.
By Donna W. Martin