Recently, I spent a fascinating day with MassWildlife fisheries biologists and technicians on Lake Congamond in Southwick. Our task was to collect information on bass in one of the most popular bodies of water for bass fishing in the state. For years, biologists from MassWildlife have been assessing the “bass demographics” of Lake Congamond.
So how does a fish biologist actually catch a sample of fish? A number of fish catching methods are available including the use of rods and reels or fish nets. It may sound bizarre, but the most efficient method is to use a specially equipped boat to shock the fish in the water with electricity. The current is delivered through cables dangling from the bow of the boat (see photo) and from two droppers of cables mounted on booms extending in front of the boat.
The amount of electricity used momentarily stuns all fish within a few feet of the boat, allowing time for biologists to net the immobilized fish and place them in a container on the boat known as a live well. Here is MassWildlife’s Leanda Fontaine netting for fish, with the boom and dropper dangling just in front of her net. The fish recover and right themselves within a minute, sometimes sooner and dart about in the live well. Another biologist scoops up fish in the live well, measures each fish’s length and gives that data to another person filling in a data sheet. Girth measurements of all fish over 150 millimeters are also recorded. The fish is then released back into the lake, unharmed by the experience. It’s a noisy operation due to the generator buzzing away for the electric current. We wear ear plugs, rubber soled shoes and try hard to remember to keep our fingers out of the water!
I had my turn at the bow of the boat with another biologist. Wielding an 8-foot fiberglass pole (you don’t want to handle metal poles in electrically-charged water!) I successfully netted some good-size bass (over 450 mm) as well as a number of fingerlings. (Pictured above is MassWildlife’s Jim Lagacy with a large bass.) Due to my rookie skills some fish got away; other fish only caught the edge of the electrical field and went from belly-up to upright within a second or two and zipped out of reach. Among the fish caught or seen included alewives, killifish, sunfish, perch, bullheads, and even an eel was pulled in for a closer look. The lead fisheries biologist, Richard Hartley, was happy with our take—the bass were a good size and distribution and the schools of alewives we saw were evidence of a good food base for the bigger fish. Other bonuses for the day included sightings of a great blue heron, osprey and eald eagle!
Looking for other places to land a big bass or other fish? This web page will guide you to the waterbodies where multiple trophy fish have consistently been caught.