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 an introduction to the principles of electricity applied to capture of fish, as well as:

  • How to use different kinds of equipment.
  • How to work in a variety of environments.
  • How to work with a variety of target species, or 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.

Course Format

Day One

Day One will be an eight-hour classroom setting, with instruction focused on the following topics:

  • Electrical Theory: what is electricity, how it works in water, and application to capture of fish.
  • Electrofishing Equipment: describing the types of equipment available for different sampling environments, species, and purposes.
  • Operation and Safety: including dangers of electricity, proper accessories, such as clothing, gloves, fish holding and handling.
  • Applied Electrofishing Methods: including equipment selection, use and settings; and, experimental design and techniques for various applications such as population estimates, fish characterizations, etc.

Day Two

Day Two will be a field trip, with backpack electrofishing gear, to a local stream. Fieldwork will be conducted in two groups of up to six students. Each group will spend approximately four hours in the field, including travel. 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.


The course will be taught by a member of Smith-Root's biology department.


Attendance is limited to twelve participants per field day, unless prior arrangements are made for Smith-Root to provide more than one instructor. If the course is provided at your location, we require a classroom with sufficient capacity to seat all participants, with an overhead projection screen for a power-point presentation. We will also need access to, and a valid collection permit for, a nearby stream or lake where attendees can participate in safe equipment operation and fish collection techniques.

When taught at our headquarters, a variety of electrofishing equipment would be used for the field portion. When traveling to your location, however, we can provide only backpack electrofishing equipment. Any additional equipment supplied by a host must be fully functioning and meet our safety criteria.

We require attendees or host organizations to provide chest waders and insulated lineman's electrical gloves. Optional equipment include a brimmed hat, polarized sunglasses, and lifejackets.

Phone: 1-360-573-0202 training@smith-root.com

Course Cost

$350 per attendee or free with purchase of any new Smith-Root backpack electrofisher.

How to Enroll

Interested? Follow these steps to enroll.

  1. Download the Introduction To Electrofishing Course Enrollment Form
  2. Email the completed form to Smith-Root

Class Instructor

Patrick Cooney - Director of Electrofishing Science | Communications Director

Have questions? Contact Patrick Cooney.

Patrick Cooney is a Certified Fisheries Scientist with global fisheries research experience. Patrick’s previous field sites include the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, desert pools in Mexico, the largest freshwater 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 our customers. Relying on more than 15 years of fisheries research and electrofishing experience, he provides expertise to customers/fisheries scientists who utilize technology to complete their research objectives. Further, he teaches multiple courses per year focusing on proper deployment of Smith-Root electrofishing equipment to ensure personnel and study organism safety. Patrick also field tests Smith-Root products and works with product development to bring an end-user perspective to the Smith-Root team.

Patrick has a M.S. in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences from the University of Florida and a B.S. in Biology and Marine Science from the University of Miami.