Day 3: Fisheries Camp

May 18, 2016Boaty McBoatface didn’t make an appearance for today’s electroshocking of Stonecoal Lake, but our class and the WV DNR did! This is the third type of electroshocking used to sample lakes and streams. Parallel wire and backpack shocking were done this week as well, but today, we used a boat.

Technically, this is the most dangerous because the cables are shooting 6 amps of electricity into the water, but it was the most fun – strange how that dangerous-is-more-fun theory works. The anode and cathode (the positive and negative tracks for the electricity flow) are those big chandelier-looking cables dangling from the boat. These are lowered into the water, and the fishes’ relaxed muscles are naturally pulled close to these.

But hey, safety is first, so we all donned our PFDs (personal flotation devices) and made absolutely sure not to touch the water. No one died – woo! Two students stood at the front of the boat to scoop up shocked fish, two other students stood behind to empty their nets, and one DNR biologist drove the boat.

District 1 Fish Biologist David Wellman drove my boat, the Three Fishes Squad. There were two 10-minute shocks along the shoreline.

Our haul wasn’t bad, but we were bummed that we missed a ~32″ musky. Luckily, another group caught one that is 41″.

One team caught this 41″ musky – how lucky! PC: Caleb Fazenbacker, WVU senior

When back at shore, we measured the length and weight of each fish. Scales were collected from a few for aging purposes.

day 3 - 17
Three Fishes Squad posed with some shocked fish. From left: Mandy Ondrick, junior; Jillian Clemente, junior; Justin Earle, senior; and Peter Jenkins, junior. PC: David Wellman

Samples were also collected from fyke nets and minnow traps set up the night before our outing. There were more species at the party here than just fish.

After heading back to camp, we pulled some scales and aged fish. It’s like looking at rings on a tree. The otolith can be used in the same way for age. An otolith is a hard part that floats in a fluid-filled cavity in the fish’s head to maintain up and down in the darkness of the water.

A crappie’s otolith under a microscope. PC: Patrick Smith

After wrapping up with aging, our fish house watched “Animal House,” sans the togas. Hey, we still learned about a fish from it – Flounder!