My Internship with the SCDNR’s Freshwater Fisheries Team

by Zach Crum

I showed up at the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources’ Rock Hill Fisheries Office not knowing what to expect. The Region Two fisheries group (only four full-time employees!) covers a thirteen-county area, from York County all the way to the Pee Dee region, with a lot of water to keep them busy year-round. I spent time on Lakes Wylie, Wateree, and Monticello; the Black and Little Pee Dee Rivers; and a handful of lakes in the SCDNR State Lakes Program. I worked with biologist Robert Stroud and technician Preston Chrisman in the Rock Hill office, and we routinely worked with biologist Jason Marsik and technician Gatlin Edge from the Florence office.

Zach Crum holding a smaller flathead catfish. Photo was taken during an electrofishing survey on the Little Pee Dee river with Jason Marsik and Gatlin Edge of Region Two.


Most of my time this summer was spent
electrofishing. You are on the front of a boat leaning over a railing with a twelve-foot-long dip net. The Honda generator on the boat puts electric current into the water, and fish get stunned and float to the surface, where we quickly net them up and place them into a livewell to recover. After an electrofishing run is completed, we take lengths and weights from each fish and release them back into the water for a future angler to catch again. This is the primary sampling method used by freshwater fisheries professionals to get information of various fish populations. This information can be used to alter or add fishing regulations (things like bag limits and minimum length limits) or to determine if the stocking of more fish would help improve the fishing for South Carolina’s anglers.

Early in the summer, we spent a lot of time electrofishing small impoundments in the SCDNR’s State Lakes program. We collected some huge largemouth bass, as seen in the attached pictures! After this was concluded, we then spent a few weeks working on the trails that go around these State Lakes. We picked up dozens of bags of trash, cut fallen trees off of the trail, and used saws and weedeaters to clear out new bank fishing access points.

Zach worked alongside fisheries biologists Robert Stroud and Preston Chrisman during the spring electrofishing survey on South Carolina’s state lakes. In this photo he proudly holds up two bass at Chester state park , both fish weighing about 5 pounds.

The second half of the summer was mostly devoted to a new study being conducted on the Black River with us assisting lower coastal, Region 4, personnel in their study. We did the standard electrofishing samples to see what species were there and how healthy their populations looked, and we also conducted low-frequency electrofishing runs to look at the catfish populations, with us mainly concerned about the spread of the flathead catfish and its impact on gamefish populations.

All of these various tasks made my twelve-week internship go by very quickly, and I am very grateful to have had a good bit of fun working with Region Two. At the start of my internship, I had no idea how many different job duties fisheries professionals must do as part of their day-to-day work. My professors in school never mentioned that sawing huge fallen oak trees, weedeating through greenbriar and poison ivy, picking up bags and bags of trash, building fish attractors out of discarded PVC pipe, or riding around in a boat checking marker buoys would only make up a week in the life of a freshwater fisheries employee! And I picked up some new skills that I’ll use for a lifetime. 

 

 

 

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