Electrofishing Lights: The Key to Nighttime Fish Surveying

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Electrofishing Lights: The Key to Nighttime Fish Surveying

Electrofishing at night has great success because the fish naturally come into the shallow waters, where they are easier to see and capture. One of the most important tools to electrofishing, or general fish surveying, at night successfully is proper electrofishing lights. The electrofishing lighting that best suits your setup can vary depending on if you are going from a boat, wading with a backpack or electrofishing via tote and barge. 

The cover photo on this blog post features 8x Swamp Eye HD Electrofishing Lights (originally designed for commercial fishing, flounder gigging, and bowfishing).

What Makes a Good Electrofishing Light?

The Best Electrofishing Lighting for Boats

Lights for Backpack Electrofishing

Tote and Barge Electrofishing Lights

What Makes a Good Electrofishing Light?

While water conductivity is one of the most important water characteristics to look out for while electrofishing, another characteristic that's easy to dismiss (until you're on the water) is water clarity

Swamp Eye HDs: the Best Electrofishing Lights for Boats

Photo Credit: New Mexico Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Electrofishing Boat with 4x Swamp Eye HD Electrofishing Lights.

Water Clarity

Water clarity is a tough battle no matter what. The easiest way to conquer the battle is to adjust your electrofishing lighting to the water clarity you're experiencing. How does this work? Well - warm white light does a better job at increasing visibility in muddy water, while cool white light increases visibility in clear water. This is due to the way the different color temperatures reflect on the suspended solids in the water column. Here are some of the leading causes of poor water clarity:

Causes of Poor Water Clarity

  • Tidal movements
    • Falling tide can result in stirred up muddy water, rising tide is typically associated with clearer waters. 
    • Low tides are typically muddy, high tides are typically clear.
    • Only a select few electrofishing setups are capable of working in high conductivity (saltwater) environment. 
  • Wind speed
    • High winds result in more waves and a stirred up water column, resulting in muddy water.
    • Low winds results in less waves and a calm and more clear water column, making it easier to see fish.
  • Temperature
    • High temperatures can trigged algae blooms, resulting in muddier water.
    • Low temperatures minimize growth potential, resulting in clearer water.
  • Bottom makeup
    • Rock or sand bottoms result in less suspended solids in the water column, making for clearer waters.
    • Mud bottoms result in more suspended solids in the water column, making for muddy waters.

Predicting water clarity can be a tough job - even more difficult than the weatherman predicting what the weather is going to do. You might do all the research necessary and still be surprised by the end results once you're on the water. That's why it's important to have electrofishing lights that can adjust as the water clarity adjusts; giving you the best opportunity to see more fish throughout the night. 


Durability is a top concern for electrofishing boats. These boats are built for business - and they need to work flawlessly or it cuts into the bottom line.

I once spoke with a conservation officer who used to use cheap knock-off brand amazon lights on their electrofishing boats, primarily because his department was on a shoe-string budget.

8 months passed and all 8 lights failed - it cost them countless trips and many hours in frustration trying to figure out how to get some extra life out of the lights. Problems varied from internal components coming loose due to bouncing on waves to moisture filling the housings to bad connectors and more; needless to say it was easy for him to get approval to order better lights. 

Electrofishing Light Bar ruined with Condensation

The DNR officer chose the Swamp Eye HD Lights - and here are some of the reasons that lead him down that path:

Aspects of Durability (as seen in Swamp Eye HD Lights)

  • Strong internal PCB structure with seamless reinforcement
  • Aircraft aluminum housing treated for saltwater and UV resistance
  • Reinforced internal solder joints
  • Tinned marine grade wire with injection molded ends to minimize corrosion
  • Explosion proof lens cover that literally held up to a boat hitting a telephone pole on the open water. This was an accident sent to us by a customer, we don't recommend you do this! 

Durability can be measured not by how bright or versatile a light is, but how well it holds up after 1, 3, 5, even 10 years down the road. 

The Best Electrofishing Lighting for Boats

Durability is crucial for finding the best electrofishing lights for boats. It's a tough beast to handle because there are standards that have to be met in order for the light to hold up to boat abuse.

Fish Netting, Sampling, Surveying Boat with Swamp Eye Gen 2X Light Bars

The above photo was provided by Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Fisheries Biologist, featuring their fish surveying boat with 4x Outrigger Outdoors Swamp Eye Gen 2.X Light Bars.

Conquering water clarity is equally crucial to helping you see more fish in various water conditions. You need an electrofishing light that is efficient and can run all night long, is high brightness, and is capable of adjusting to rapidly changing water conditions.

In order to increase visibility when electrofishing in muddy water;

  • Warm white (~2000k color temperature) is best for penetrating through the water rather than reflecting off the suspended solids in the water column.
  • If the water isn't super muddy - you might only need something in the spectrum of 2500k-3500k.
  • Similar concept to how fog lights work on your car. 

In order to increase visibility when electrofishing in clear water;

  • Bright cool white light (~6000k color temperature) that will flood a large area with a ton of light output.
  • There are little to no suspended solids in the water column when it's clear, so there is nothing for this bright light to reflect off of that would make it difficult to see.
  • Similar to turning on your vehicles "brights" on a clear night.

In order to increase visibility in any water clarity;

You combine these two features together, which is exactly what the Swamp Eye HD is capable of.

Swamp Eye HD's are electrofishing lights that can adjust from a deep warm white (2000k color temperature) to a cool white (6000k color temperature) and anywhere in between. This means you can increase visibility in really muddy water, real clear water, or even in-between to water that isn't real muddy but not real clear either. 

Electrofishing with Swamp Eye HD Boat Lighting

The photo above is 6x Swamp Eye HD Lights mounted to a Flounder Gigging Guide Service's boat, which is built and used similarly to most electrofishing boats. As you can tell, they are very bright!

Swamp Eye HD Boat Mounted Electrofishing Lights

  • Adjustable color output from warm white to cool white for clear or muddy water
  • Newly redesigned for maximum efficiency, capable of outputting an improved 24,000 lumens at only 160 watts power draw.
  • Compatible with 24V DC (battery) or 110V-120V AC (generator)
  • Building block wire harness makes wiring, setup, and adding lights to your setup in the future a breeze. Easy installation does not require an electrician.
  • Originally designed and manufactured for commercial fishing purposes, the housings are built to withstand the harsh environment while out on the water. 

 Contact us today to learn more about how we can outfit your electrofishing boat.

Electrofishing Boat with Swamp Eye LightsVisit the Swamp Eye HD Electrofishing Light product page.  

Lights for Backpack Electrofishing

The challenge with backpack electrofishing is finding a light that can be used above or below water, is portable, and provides a bright flood to see the fish around you. 

Backpack electrofishing is basically wading and scooping up fish with a net. The same thing is done when wading and gigging for flounder, but you're using a flounder gig to stab the fish rather than a net to scoop them up. 

The brings us to the development of our Mini Swamp Eye Submersible series of lights. 

Mini Swamp Eye Submersible Electrofishing Lights

  • Capable of running above or below water
  • Can run on small 12V DC portable deer feeder batteries
  • Come standard in warm white (2000k) for muddy water or cool white (6000k) for clear water.
  • Small, compact and extremely lightweight yet very bright at 36 watts and 6,000 lumens of output. 

Here's a photo of the Mini Swamp Eye Submersible in action - it's used for flounder gigging here, but can similarly be used for backpack electrofishing. These small lights can run for long durations on small 12V deer feeder batteries and are capable of providing a wide flood when used above or below water. 

Backpack Electrofishing Lights - Mini Swamp Eye Submersible

Visit the Mini Swamp Eye Submersible product page to learn more.

Tote and Barge Electrofishing Lights

If you're tote and barge electrofishing at night, the setup you choose is going to depend on the power system you are running. Most tote and barge setups come included with a generator or maybe a 12-24V battery system - so it's best to consider an option that is power flexible for either battery or generator.

Swamp Eye Electrofishing Light Bar

  • 24" long, low profile light bar capable of easily mounting to the front of the tote and barge setup to provide ample light while electrofishing.
  • Color adjustable from warm white to cool white for clear or muddy water
  • Power flexible, compatible with 12/24V DC or 110/120V AC
  • Provides wide flood beam that outputs 12,000 lumens. 

Swamp Eye Electrofishing Light Bar

Visit the Swamp Eye Light Bar product page to learn more.

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