Twice every summer, the WRWC checks on the numbers and kinds of fish that thrive in the Woonasquatucket River. We use electrofishing to capture, measure and identify the fish living in the upper and lower parts of the river. The upper river has cleaner water than the lower river because of the rural nature of the watershed there. Monitoring fish in both parts of the river helps us compare the impact of water quality on different fish in cleaner water versus more polluted water. We learn to restore and care for our river through the fish that live there!
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During fish monitoring sessions, volunteers gather at either Whipple Field (upper Woonasquatucket River) or Rising Sun Dam (lower Woonasquatucket River). They use an electrofishing backpack to shock the fish so other volunteers can catch them in nets. The electrofisher sends a small current into the water that mildly shocks the fish, similar to a cattle fence – no pain, just mild stunning. Fish are only stunned long enough to document them. Once volunteers catch the fish, they identify, measure, document and release the fish back into the river, where they perk right back up. Volunteers are trained on-site for that day’s electrofishing, so no previous experience is required. We’ve found these types of fish in the Woonasquatucket River: tessellated darters, fallfish, white suckers, American eels, golden shiners, largemouth bass, crayfish, hogchokers, and more.
The WRWC began fish monitoring on the Woonasquatucket River in 2013. With the help of the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association and Watershed Counts, we developed a standard method for volunteers to do this type of monitoring. We have an EPA approved quality assurance project plan, which means that the info collect on fish can be used by the state. Our fish monitoring program has now become a recognized model for other groups to follow. We can provide information on how to monitor in your community, share our document templates, and loan out our equipment. We frequently assist our neighbors at the Ten Mile and Moshassuck Rivers, and we welcome more requests. Diverse and thriving fish populations indicate a healthier river community, leading to a stronger, healthier environment and economy.