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Shocking Bass for Science

By Ron Wilson


An onboard generator produces electricity that runs to the front of the boat. The electrical field produced goes down about 6 feet into the water. Fish are attracted to the electrical field and are temporarily stunned, allowing fisheries personnel to capture them with long-handled dip nets.
An onboard generator produces electricity that runs to the front of the boat. The electrical field produced goes down about 6 feet into the water. Fish are attracted to the electrical field and are temporarily stunned, allowing fisheries personnel to capture them with long-handled dip nets.
The benefit of electrofishing for largemouth bass at night is that the fish have a natural tendency to move into shallower water under the cover of darkness.

Nelson Lake in Oliver County is distinct. It has long been labeled the best largemouth bass lake in a state where walleye rule and northern pike have, since 1969, unknowingly shouldered the renown of being the state fish.

Nelson’s unique stature is a byproduct of the Milton R. Young Station, a coal-fired power plant in Oliver County that has produced electricity for a half-century. Even during the leanest months here on the Northern Plains, warm water released from the facility creates a year-round open water environment, which allows largemouth bass a longer growing season than anywhere else in the state.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department manages the fishery, which means on an annual basis from about mid- to late May, fisheries biologists conduct an electrofishing survey to determine, among other things, the predator/prey balance in the lake.

The photographs that follow document the nighttime electrofishing operation that has long played a significant role in managing this popular largemouth bass fishery.

Ron Wilson is editor of North Dakota OUTDOORS. Story and photos reprinted with permission from North Dakota OUTDOORS.