US Long-Term Ecological Research Network
NIGHT SEINING
 
Night seining is conducted to achieve relative abundances of small fish species such as minnows, darters, sculpin, and young gamefish species on a yearly basis. Seining is most effective on small fish at night, due to reduced net avoidance, and is one of the most effective methods of catching small fish species.
 
A.     The seine used is 12.2 m long by 1.2 m deep, consisting of two 5.5 x 1.2 m wings surrounding a 1.2 x 1.2 x 1.2 m central bag. The wings are made of 6.4 mm stretch measure knitted delta-strength nylon mesh, and the bag is of 3.2 mm delta strength nylon mesh. The entire net is tarred. The two wings and the opening to the bag have weighted foot ropes and buoyed head ropes. The seine is pulled via two PVC or steel poles on either end of the seine.
B.     Seine sites consisted of 66 meters of shoreline. This was subdivided into two 33-meter seine hauls. Stakes were placed to mark the beginning and end of each haul, with the first stake lettered A and the fourth (final) stake lettered D.
C.     Our convention is that the first haul (identified as "site #-1") is the one segment at the left end of the site, as one faces the site from the lake.  There are 6 seine sites per lake and 2 hauls at each site totaling 12 hauls per lake.
D.     The seine crew approaches the site from the lake by boat in such a way as not to pass over the area to be seined. The seine is deployed using as little light as possible. Two people, working 8 meters apart when possible, pull the seine on a course parallel to the shore line. The outside or deep person should never exceed a depth of 1m. The inside or shallow person keeps as close to shore as possible without steeping onto dry land. When the shallow person is about 8 meters from the end of the haul he/she moves very slowly, allowing the deep person to swing around toward the end of the 33m subdivision; both seiners should reach this point at the same time. The seine is quickly landed by crossing the poles and drawing the lead line together. The lead line is kept on the lake bottom while the wings are drawn in. When the bag reaches the poles it is picked up by the 4 corners. Fish are collected from the bag and processed before the crew goes on to the next haul.
 
 
TRAMMEL NET
 
The trammel net is used to sample fish species present near the bottom at the thermocline/substrate interface. This area is utilized by a number of fish species, and is an important area of the lake due to the large change in temperature in a relatively short distance. As in the terrestrial environment, the thermocline acts as an ecotone and several fish species which require very different physical environments may exist in relatively close proximity. So achieving yearly fish abundances in this habitat is also important in determining long term trends in fish abundances.
 
A.     The trammel net used is 30.5 m long and 1.1 m deep. It consists of two outer nets of 170 mm square 32 kg test mesh multifilament nylon with an inner panel of 51 mm stretch mesh 9 kg test multifilament nylon. The three nets are connected at the leaded foot line and the buoyed head rope.
B.     The trammel net is set on the bottom, along a line perpendicular to the shoreline and crossing the thermocline. This can generally be accomplished by setting the shallow end in about 3 meters of water, and running the net out perpendicular to shore. Fish are picked out of the trammel net as it is brought back into the boat. The trammel net is set by the day crew at two sites in each lake, and fished for approximately 24 hours at each site.
 
 
FYKE NETS
 
Fyke netting is a very common method of sampling a wide size range of fishes which use littoral zone habitat. At different times of the day and/or season, many different fish species utilize the littoral zone area for feeding, digesting, and mating purposes. Sampling the abundances of fish species in this area, thus, is also very important in determining yearly changes in fish abundances.
 
A.     To monitor yearly changes in littoral fish abundances, fyke nets are deployed at six sampling sites in all 11 LTER study lakes.   A separate set of three fyke nets of similar dimensions are used for the Northern Highland lakes and the Madison lakes.   Each fyke net is approximately 12 m long and consists of two rectangular aluminum frames 98 cm wide by 82 cm high and four 60cm steel hoops, all covered by 7 mm delta stretch mesh nylon netting with a center vertical bar.  An 8 m long by 1.25 m deep leader net made of 7 mm delta stretch mesh nylon netting is attached to a center bar of the first rectangular frame (net mouth). The second rectangular frame has two 10 cm wide by 70 cm high openings, one on each side of the frame's center bar. The four hoops follow the second frame. Throats 10 cm in diameter are located between the second and third hoops. The net ends in a bag with a 20.4 cm opening at the end, which is tied shut while the net is fishing.
B.     Each fyke net is set in shallow water perpendicular to shore such that the net mouth is covered by about 1 meter of water when possible. When the net is properly set, the lead is perpendicular to shore, vertical and not twisted, the mouth of the net is upright and facing shore, and all the hoops are upright. When the net is pulled in, the hoops and frames are gathered together and lifted into the boat. The net is positioned over a live well with the net mouth upward. One frame at a time is lifted and any fish present are shaken down into the next chamber, until all the fish are in the bag, which is emptied into the live well. Three fyke net sites are set per day (for two days), each with a single net in the middle of a 100m site, for a total of 6 fyke net sites per lake.
C.     Due to the soft bottom, and small size of the bog lakes, minnow traps and fyke nets are the only gear used to sample the fish community of these systems. The fyke nets are suspended by placing floats at the apex of each hoop, and on the top of the opening frames. This is done to prevent the nets from sinking into the soft sediments at the bottom of the bogs.
 
 
CRAYFISH AND MINNOW TRAPS
 
A.     Southern Lakes do set crayfish traps. After a review of ten years of fish data in 2005, it was found that sampling yielded two crayfish for the entire ten years over four southern lakes. Based on this data, the principle investigator discontinued crayfish traps in the southern lakes. 
 
 
GILL NETS
 
In most lakes, there are species of fish which inhabit the pelagic (open water) zone. These fish species can have a large impact on lake ecosystem dynamics when they occur in abundance. To monitor yearly changes in the abundance of pelagic fish species, we sample the deep basin of eight of the LTER lakes with vertical gill nets.
 
A.     Our gill nets are a set of 7 nets, each in a different mesh size, hung vertically from foam rollers, and chained together in a line. Each net is 4 m wide and 33 m long monofilament, in stretched mesh sizes of 19, 25, 32, 38, 51, 64, and 89 mm.  One side of the net is marked in meters from top to bottom. Stretcher bars have been installed at 5 meter intervals from the bottom to keep the net as rectangular as possible when deployed. The bottom end is weighted with a lead pipe to quicken the placement of the net and to maintain the position of the net on the bottom.
B.     Gill nets are set at the deepest point of all southern LTER lakes except Fish Lake. The nets are set for two consecutive 24 hour sets. The nets are set in a straight line, each connected to the next, and anchored at each end of the line. Once the nets are in position, they are unrolled until the bottom end reaches the bottom of the lake, and then tied off to prevent further unrolling.
C.     The nets are pulled by placing each net onto a pair of brackets attached to the side of the boat and rolling the net back onto its float; the fish are picked out as the net is brought up, placed in tubs according to depth. The fish are processed when the net is completely rolled up and before it is redeployed.
 
 
ELECTROFISHING
 
We use a boom style electrofishing system to sample the littoral zone fish community.
 
A.     Three electrofishing transects are done on each lake.  The same transects are used each year. Each transect consists of 30 minutes of current output, with the boat moving parallel to shore in 1-2 meters of water at a slow steady speed.
B.     We use the DC pulse system, with 240 volts at 5-18 amps. Two crew members in the bow of the boat dip up all stunned fish, placing them in the live well for processing at the end of each transect.
C.     Transect lengths vary depending upon the size of the lake. If the end of a transect is reached before 30 minutes has elapsed, time is paused while the electrofisher loops back to the start of the transect. The transect is then repeated for the remaining time. Dip nets are standardized to 10 foot poles attached to 18in. x 20in. tear drop shaped hoops. The nets are made of 7 mm stretch mesh.
 
 
PROCESSING THE CATCH
 
For all collecting methods, the fish are processed as follows.
 
A.     Each individual fish is identified to species. If it cannot be positively identified, after it is processed, it is preserved in 90% ethanol for later identification.
B.     The total length of the fish (measured from nose to end of caudal fins pinched together) is measured in mm.  Two fish are weighed for each fish species in each 5mm size category using the appropriate Pesola spring balance (fish weight registering in the middle range of scale).
C.     For yellow perch, rock bass, and cisco, a scale sample is collected from each weighed fish. This is removed from the side of the fish, above the lateral line and below the origin of the dorsal fin. Scale samples are stored in scale envelopes and labeled with a unique ID number, the date the scale was taken, a lake ID number, the species code, land length and weight. For gill net catches, the depth at which each individual is caught is also recorded.
D.     All data is recorded on hand-held iPaq computers.
E.      Fish from all gear (except gillnets) are held in live wells during processing. Fish are sorted by species into buckets, processed, allowed to recover and returned to the lake. Fish from the gillnets are very rarely alive. If alive, they are usually badly damaged when the nets are raised.
LTER Keywords
Protocol ID
south_fish_sampling1