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.

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.

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.

When taught at our headquarters in Vancouver, WA, we do provide electrofishing backpacks, 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.

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.”

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.