TVA biologists ‘zap’ fish for health survey in Wheeler Reservoir

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

WHEELER RESERVOIR, Ala. (WHNT) - Experts with the Tennessee Valley Authority spent the day electro-fishing in the Wheeler Reservoir near Joe Wheeler State Park.

It's exactly what is sounds like: stunning the fish, causing their muscles to tense and air bladder to close then bringing them to the surface unharmed. It's a way to monitor fish and aquatic life health in the Tennessee Valley region.

"We look over them for any general issues," explained TVA Fisheries biologist Kurt Lakin. "We see if his tail is okay, see if he has any fin rot or fungus or legions. We will look in his mouth to see if he has any parasites. Then we will go ahead and we will weigh them, measure them, then we will release them out the back of the boat."

TVA biologists have surveyed the reservoir this was for the past 22 years. They check the same spots for trends every two to three years.

"We are looking to see what the fish community looks like as a whole and how healthy they are," said Lakin.

Crews also check the bottom for insects, and test them over time.

"The bottom of the reservoir is a very important ecosystem for the survival of fish in the area," explained Susan Malone, another longtime biologist with TVA.

From data they've collected over the past two decades, they look for trends in the Tennessee Valley's reservoirs.

"We've actually seen positive trends in water quality," explained TVA aquatic biologist Dennis Baxter. "So, water quality is getting better and the fishery is robust and healthy."

One unavoidable issue is invasive species, including Zebra muscles and Atlantic Needlefish. Baxter said they are here to stay because there isn't much they can do to eradicate them safely.

"The whole fish community will adjust to these invasive species," he said.

TVA crews of anglers and biologists survey about 70 sites on almost 40 reservoirs.