Efficiency of electrofishing in turbid lowland rivers: implications for measuring temporal change in fish populations

Jarod Lyon, Tomas Bird, Simon Nicol, Joanne Kearns, Justin O’Mahony, Charles Todd, Ian Cowx, Corey Bradshaw

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    61 Citations (Scopus)


    To quantify how electro fishing capture probability varies over time and across physiochemical and disturbance gradients in a turbid lowland river, we tagged between 68 and 95 fish·year-1 with radio transmitters and up to 424 fish·year-1 with external and passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags. We surveyed the site noninvasively using radiotelemetry to determine which of the radio-tagged fish were present (effectively closing the radio-tagged population to emigration) and then electrofished to estimate the proportion of available fish that were captured based on both this and standard mark-recapture methods. We replicated the electrofishing surveys three times over a minimum of 12 days each year, for 7 years. Electrofishing capture probability varied between 0.020 and 0.310 over the 7 years and between four different large-bodied species (Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii), trout cod (Maccullochella macquariensis), golden perch (Macquaria ambigua ambigua), and silver perch (Bidyanus bidyanus)). River turbidity associated with increased river discharge negatively influenced capture probability. Increasing fish length increased detection of fish up to 500 mm for Murray cod, after which capture probability decreased. Variation in capture probability in large lowland rivers results in additional uncertainty when estimating population size or relative abundance. Research and monitoring programs using fish as an indicator should incorporate strategies to lessen potential error that might result from changes in capture probabilities.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)878-886
    Number of pages9
    JournalCanadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014


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