Electrofishing, Preparation

Selecting A Site

When selecting a site suitable for backpack electrofishing, you should consider the following…

  • Water should be no deeper than 0.8m (hip depth), and this should taking into account any soft sediment that the operator may sink into.
  • For effective fishing with a single anode backpack, the watercourse should be around 10 metres maximum width.
  • The flow of water should not present a safety hazard or be capable of causing an operator to loose their footing.
  • In emergency, does the site have good reception for a mobile phone call, and is access easy and clearly signposted for emergency vehicles or rescue personnel.
  • Is there public or animal access to the site – if so, you should display suitable warning signs (stating “Danger: Electric Fishing In Progress”), or erect barriers to restrict access to the area you are working in.

Do not attempt to use your backpack fishing system from a boat or in water deeper than 0.8 metres.

Selecting Equipment

You should select the equipment required according to the nature of the site and the conditions at the time of operations.

When choosing any equipment or items of clothing you should ensure that any part of it that can come in contact with water it is made from a non-conducting material, especially handles, toggles and zips.

Wooden handles, some ropes or other wicking materials may be classed as conductive if they become waterlogged. This could present an electric shock hazard to the user or surrounding personnel.


In general…

  • Clothing worn for electrofishing activities should be chosen to suit the environmental and geographical conditions of the fishing site.
  • Clothing items should not be too long, such that they trail in the water as this could interfere with the generation of the electric field and present a current path and electrical hazard.
  • Clothing should not have any buckles, buttons or other features that could snag on cables or other equipment in use.
  • Unprotected metallic zips that could present a current path if they enter the water during fishing operations.

For Chest Waders and Dry-Suits…

  • Check waders and dry suits must be made from a non-conductive material.
  • Do not wade in water deeper than hip height, as the backpack is not designed for use in such situations.


  • Operators and support personnel should always wear rubber boots in good condition.
  • Any studs on footwear (to prevent slipping) must not penetrate the sole of the boot, and negate its insulating properties.

Safety Equipment & First Aid

  • Life jackets are recommended for any situation where you may be working in water that is greater than knee depth, or there is a risk of immersion and drowning.
  • A whistle should be carried (with agreed and understood signals) where members of the operating team are working sufficiently far apart to impede verbal communication in an emergency.
  • A standard first aid kit should always be carried as part of the equipment used.
Other Equipment

For fishing and survey work you will probably also need…

  • Additional nets.
  • Fish containers and Buckets.
  • Rucksack or other carrying bag.
  • Measurement boards.
  • Stop nets
  • Water conductivity meter (for assessing initial operating settings).

Selecting A Team

For safety, when electrofishing, a team should normally contain three members: an operator, and two assistants who will catch and remove fish from the water in the proximity of the anode, and perform any adjustments to the backpack controls.

Selection and training of team members is critical to ensure electrofishing activities are performed in a safe manor. Please refer to the “Personnel” safety considerations when choosing team members.

At least two of the team member should be experienced users of the system.
If you plan to use two member teams, you should ensure team members have fully understood the risk associated with the activity and watercourse, are both experienced and suitable emergency procedures and communication methods are established.

Electrofishing work should never be undertaken by any single person!

Should accident or injury occur, there should always someone else present to isolate equipment, perform first aid, and summon medical assistance if required.

Preparing For Use

In addition to the general points discussed on the “Safety Considerations” page…

  • Ensure all equipment has been prepared (generators refueled, battery packs are fully charged, etc.) before use in the field.
  • Brief all team members on the risks of electrofishing, safety and emergency procedures. Ensure suitable warning signs and barriers have been erected if spectators or animals are present.
  • When on site, perform a visual inspection of all the equipment. Check housings, cables and connectors are free from detritus and defect. Do not use equipment if it appears to be damaged or defective in any way.
  • Setup your fishing apparatus as described in its relevant manual – the guidelines discussed on the “electrofishing procedure” page may provide some help when choosing operational settings.
  • Ensure there is clear and unobstructed access to the Stop buttons on the fishing apparatus.
  • Ensure the equipment is mounted securely…
    • For backpack machines, it is securely worn by the operator, and harnesses and buckles are correctly fastened
    • For bankside and boat mounted systems, the equipment is placed on a suitable flat and stable surface, and lashed down if appropriate.
  • Do not energise any Anodes (press the trigger) until all team members have acknowledged that they are ready for operation, and the electrode is fully submerged in water.

E-Fish (UK) Limited gratefully acknowledge the information supplied by the UK Environment Agency from which sections of the content of this article have been reproduced or adapted.
Please Note that the content of these pages is for general information purposes only and does not constitute ‘advice’. Readers should always consult their specific product documentation, and seek the advice of an appropriately qualified professional before undertaking any electrofishing activity. For further information, please refer to our “Disclaimer” page.