How do I select the right electrofisher?

Smith-Root Staff October 08, 2020

Selecting the right electrofisher depends on multiple factors. You will need to consider your goals as well as the environment you will be working in, including water depth, water conductivity, stream width, fish species, and data capture necessities.

Backpack Electrofishers

Backpack electrofishers are predominantly used in wadable streams, especially streams with riffles and changes in elevation. The backpack electrofishers are lightweight and operate from a battery, whereas older style generator powered backpacks are loud, pose significant risk of burns, push fumes into the faces of your crew, and run a high risk of breakage if submerged in water when accidentally falling.

Smith-Root makes three different models of backpack electrofishers. The choice you make depends on several key factors. A good thing to know is that no matter which backpack model you choose, the accessories (anode pole, anode ring, rat-tail cathode, and battery) are compatible across the three models, meaning you can mix and match accessories with other Smith-Root backpacks.

LR-20B Backpack Electrofisher

The LR-20B backpack electrofisher is the lowest cost backpack electrofisher on the market that provides market leading 400 Watts of power, while also giving you independent control over Waveform, Duty Cycle, Frequency, and Duty Cycle. The electrical settings on the backpack offer a robust piece of equipment that will work in all freshwater environments, while offering easy to use dials to allow for quickly adjusting from one setting to another. The electrical settings on the dials are more coarse than the other backpack electrofishers; therefore, if you are concerned about a sensitive species, or work with endangered or threatened species, perhaps an alternative backpack electrofisher is more suitable for your needs.

What we hear: “The LR-20B is simple to use because it only has three dials. I only work on a few sites a year, so the cost and capabilities were a match for me.”

LR-24 Backpack Electrofisher

The LR-24 backpack is the #1 most purchased electrofisher in the world, ever. Hands down. This piece of equipment was ahead of its time when introduced and continues to revolutionize the field of electrofishing. The Smith-Root exclusive “Quick Setup” function allows users to simply place the electrodes in the water to allow the backpack to quickly assess the water conditions and set appropriate electrical settings. Therefore, LR-24 users rapidly get to work without having to worry about creating their own electrical settings. The LR-24 also allows for users to store electrical settings to aid in quickly recalling successful configurations from similar sites. Further, the LR-24 has fine tunable electrical settings, allowing users to dial in on optimal settings for the particular environment and species that they are after, which is ideal for sensitive species, like trout, salmon, eels, darters, sculpins, lamprey, catfish, and more. Finally, the LR-24 backpack electrofisher is the only electrofisher ever certified by Intertek, an independent testing facility that certified the electrofisher with an ETL listing, signifying the superior safety and efficacy of the LR-24 electrofisher.

What we hear: “The LR-24 is incredibly versatile because of the digital interface, Quick Setup, storable settings, and custom backpack harness. We have a lot of these in our agency because they continue to work more than 15 years after we purchased them. No other piece of technology in our fleet continues to be used as often and continue to function as good as the day we bought them as the LR-24.”

Apex Backpack Electrofisher

The Apex backpack electrofisher is the newest and most intuitive and scientific backpack electrofisher on the market. On-screen assistance and click-of-a-button help screens take the guess work out of remembering what Voltage, Duty Cycle, Frequency, and Waveform mean or what they should be set to. The backpack tells you what to set things to and then graphs the outputs on the screen as you electrofish to give you the confidence that things are going smoothly. Further, should a problem arise, the Apex is the only backpack on the market that provides onscreen suggestions on how to quickly and effectively overcome your issue. The Apex also packs an extra punch by being the most versatile because it has the widest electrical output settings of any backpack electrofisher on the globe, including up to 1,200 Volts, 1,000 Hertz frequency, and 400 Watts of Power. The Apex backpack electrofisher is also the only backpack electrofisher to have GPS technology integrated and all electrical inputs and outputs georeferenced and recorded every second you are electrofishing. This exclusive capability allows for rapid USB downloads of electrofishing data for rapid standardization from site to site and easy creation of maps in free mapping software, like Google Earth, for stunning displays of your electrofishing transects.

What we hear: “The Apex backpack electrofisher is the advancement in electrofishing that science has been needing, but didn’t know it. From top to bottom, oldest to youngest, seasoned to green, every biologist in our agency is able to more easily understand and use the Apex electrofisher than any other electrofisher in our inventory. Simply put, the interface and design are incredibly intuitive. Plus, the ability to download our data, map our efforts, and demonstrate our standardization capabilities makes our scientific results more powerful and meaningful. We didn’t know we needed this piece of equipment and its built in capabilities until we had it and used it. Electrofishing is fun again.”

Apex Control Box Electrofisher

The Apex Control Box Electrofisher packs the same incredible interface as the Apex Backpack Electrofisher, and is ideal for any boat or barge electrofishing. When your waterbody is a bit larger and you need extra power capabilities to create a larger electric field, the Apex Control Box Electrofisher is the ultimate choice. The Apex Control Box Electrofisher is revolutionizing boat and barge electrofishing by providing the ability to operate in the most diverse water conductivity environments on the globe. It delivers up to 1,200 Volts, which is highly useful for lower conductivity waters, and up to 80 amps of Current, which is highly useful for higher conductivity water. In other words, low, medium or high water conductivities, the Apex has you covered.

No other electrofisher on the market offers the diversity of outputs, and often you are forced to purchase two of a competitors electrofishing control boxes to still not meet the capabilities of the Apex Control Box Electrofisher. The on-screen assistance and click-of-a-button help screens take the guess work out of remembering what Voltage, Duty Cycle, Frequency, and Waveform mean or what they should be set to. The Apex tells you what to set things to and then graphs the outputs on the screen as you electrofish to give you the confidence that things are going smoothly. Further, should a problem arise, the Apex Control Box Electrofisher is the only boat electrofisher on the market that provides onscreen suggestions on how to quickly and effectively overcome your issue. The Apex also packs an extra punch by being the most versatile because it has the widest electrical output settings of any electrofisher on the globe, including up to 1,200 Volts, 1,000 Hertz frequency, and 400 Watts of Power. The Apex Control Box Electrofisher is also the only boat electrofisher to have GPS technology integrated and all electrical inputs and outputs georeferenced and recorded every second you are electrofishing. This exclusive capability allows for rapid USB downloads of electrofishing data for rapid standardization from site to site and easy creation of maps in free mapping software, like Google Earth, for stunning displays of your electrofishing transects.

Also, if you want to use a hyper-quite invertor generator, the Apex Control Box Electrofisher is the only electrofisher on the market that is independently compatible with this type of generator. Other companies force you purchase additional costly equipment then do some wiring yourself if you would like to use these generators, but the Apex Control Box already has you covered.

Do not forget the fact that the Apex Control Box Electrofisher is the only boat electrofisher that is actively cooled rather than passively cooled. Passively cooled boat electrofishing units from other manufacturers have been demonstrated to get hotter than necessary and minimize capabilities.

What we are hearing: “I have been using my Apex Control Box Electrofisher for 2 years now and it is incredible. I never thought I would say this, but with the data recording along with GPS coordinates, I find myself more excited about driving the boat than I ever was before because now I can demonstrate my path in a map and highlight the standardization I am achieving, rather than guessing or speculating. Since we do a lot of night shocking, I appreciate the different display modes that are awesome in all light conditions to improve visibility. Any time we have encountered any overloading or odd environmental condition, the screen provides a simple suggestion on what setting to change, and we are off and running. Further, the simple plug and go with our super quite invertor generator is a game changer…we can have full conversations on our boat while electrofishing! We transitioned to our Apex from a GPP, and while the GPP served us well for years, we are now in a much better position for conducting science, standardizing our efforts, and displaying our efforts. We love our Apex.”