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IACUC Guideline 11 - Electrofishing Guidelines

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The following guidelines will be followed by all faculty, staff, and students affiliated with the Pennsylvania State University in order to minimize injury and mortality to fishes when utilizing the Electrofishing technique. In general, when utilizing this technique, one should use the lowest practical settings for voltage and frequency while minimizing the time that the fish are exposed to the electrical field.

  1. Direct current (DC) will be used whenever possible. It causes fewer and less severe injuries than alternating current (AC). Only when DC is not effective, even at high voltages, is it permissible to switch to the AC setting.
  2. Regardless of whether one is using AC or DC, field crews will start at a low voltage (ca. 150 v) and a low frequency (30 Hz), if these options are available on the equipment being used. If these settings are ineffective in catching the target organisms, then they can be gradually increased until the minimum effective electrical current is achieved.
  3. Fishes are more vulnerable to electrical fields at high water temperatures. Therefore, if fishes are to be kept alive for laboratory experiments or released, the use of electrofishing gear will be curtailed at temperatures greater then 20.0°C for coldwater species and greater than 30.0°C for cool or warm water species.
  4. Only people trained and qualified in the use of Electrofishing gear will be allowed to perform this technique in the field. Inexperienced persons will be allowed to utilize this technique in the field only when accompanied by someone who is experienced and qualified, and who can teach them on how to use the gear proficiently and safely.


Electrofishing. By James B. Reynolds, 1996. In, "Fisheries Technique, 2nd ed.", (B.R. Murphy and D.W. Willis, Eds). American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD; p. 221-253.

  • Last Approved: Jan 11, 2016
  • Last Revised: Dec 13, 2001