Electrofishing Principles and Safety

Electrofishing is an important, commonly used tool for biologists to collect a range of fishery data such as species composition, population estimates, and growth rates. Improper techniques, however, can bias results and be injurious, or even lethal, to humans and the fish they capture. Modern equipment and proper training can improve safety and data collection.

Course Objectives

Attendees will receive instruction on the following topics:

  • Minimizing/eliminating potential harm to fish.
  • Proper electrofishing settings to maximize capture efficiency.
  • Working safely as a team in a variety of environments.
  • Techniques and settings for a variety of target species in different life stages.
  • Operation and safety, including dangers to humans and fish.
  • Electrofishing techniques as they apply to bioassessments, fisheries characterizations, population estimates, or age and growth studies.

Upcoming Courses

Course Format

Day One

Day One will be in our onsite classroom, with instruction focused on the following topics:

Electrofishing in Practice
Assessing the utility of electrofishing as a tool to meet your project objectives
Electrical Theory
What is electricity, how does it work in water, and how does water conductivity play a major role in my success?
Electrofishing Equipment
Evaluation of what gear and equipment is proper for a variety of sampling environments, species, and purposes
Effects on Fish
An in-depth look at past research and the potential effects of sampling on fish
Operation and Safety
Discussion about procedures and protocols to maximize safety for crew and fish
Applied Electrofishing Methods
Experimental design and techniques

Day Two

Day Two will include a demonstration of proper setup of electrofishing equipment. The group will then head to a local stream with backpack electrofishing gear and execute learned techniques and practices for the first half of the day. This portion of the class will provide the students hands on familiarity with equipment operation and an opportunity to apply the information learned in the classroom on the previous day. If additional instruction is desired, instructors can provide individual training in the afternoon.


The course will be taught by a member of Smith-Root's science team.


All attendees are required to have non-breathable chest waders, electrically rated lineman gloves, and proper footwear.

When taught at our headquarters in Vancouver, Washington, we provide backpack electrofishers, nets, bucket, and appropriate permits. If you would like to bring your own equipment to use in the class, please feel free to do so. All equipment supplied must be functional and meet our safety criteria.

If the course is provided at your location, please call about pricing. We require an organizer to provide a classroom with sufficient capacity to seat all participants and an overhead projection screen for a PowerPoint presentation. The class will also need access to a stream, a valid collection permit, and electrofishing equipment (including nets, buckets, etc.) for attendees to practice safe equipment operation and fish collection techniques learned from the class day. All equipment supplied by a host must be functional and meet our safety criteria.

Optional equipment that individuals can bring themselves include a brimmed hat, polarized sunglasses, and lifejackets.

Testimonials from State, Federal, Tribal, and Local agencies, as well as private industry.

“You wouldn't think that folks like me with 29 years of electrofishing field experience would have much to learn. Boy was I surprised how much I learned!”
“The classroom presentation was great and the instructor kept it engaging and very interesting.”
“I thoroughly enjoyed the class and am now confident in my ability to properly electrofish.”
“Excellent training!”
“I now understand the importance of knowing how to properly set voltage, duty cycle, and frequency.”
“I enjoyed that this was taught by a highly qualified fisheries scientist who used practical examples to help me understand electrical terms.”
“Very hands on with applied experience.”
“Starting up the electrofisher and getting it set correctly used to be intimidating. You removed that intimidation factor.”
“This class answered all of the questions that I have had for a very long time, but never knew who to ask.”
“I have taken electrofishing training with other agencies. This training is way better.”

Course Cost

The class at our Vancouver headquarters costs $350 per student or is free with purchase of any new Smith-Root backpack electrofisher. Courses held at other locations will have different costs.

Course Registration

Register Online

Course Instructor

Patrick Cooney, Certified Fisheries Scientist - Director of Electrofishing Science | Communications Director

Have questions? Contact Patrick Cooney, Certified Fisheries Scientist.

Patrick Cooney is a Certified Fisheries Scientist with global fisheries research experience. Patrick’s research sites include the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, desert pools in Mexico, the largest lake in Guatemala, tidal pools in the Bahamas, the Everglades in Florida, warmwater streams in Puerto Rico, salmon aquaculture facilities in California, and coldwater streams in the mountains of North Carolina, all with diverse fish communities.

At Smith-Root, Patrick is responsible for understanding the research needs and scientific equipment demands of aquatic scientists. Relying on two decades of fisheries research and electrofishing experience, he provides expertise to fisheries scientists who utilize technology to complete their research objectives. Further, he certifies hundreds of scientists each year while instructing Electrofishing Training courses around the globe. The fundamentals of the class focus on proper deployment of electrofishing equipment to meet research objectives while ensuring personnel and aquatic organism safety. Patrick also develops and field tests Smith-Root products while leading the electrofishing product development team.

Patrick has a M.S. in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences from University of Florida and a B.S. in Biology and Marine Science from University of Miami. Patrick enjoys hiking in the Columbia River Gorge and writing for the website he co-founded (TheFisheriesBlog.com).