TVA biologists 'zap' fish to help determine Chickamauga water qu - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

TVA biologists 'zap' fish to help determine Chickamauga water quality

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The Chickamauga reservoir is a boater and fisherman's paradise and the Tennessee Valley Authority wants to make sure it stays that way.

TVA spent the morning performing water quality tests that involved giving some fish a little shock.

TVA says the quality of the water is essential to supporting healthy fish populations. Wednesday, TVA scientists went electrofishing, shocking the fish to the surface and Channel 3 tagged along.

"We're looking at water quality trends throughout the valley," says Dennis Baxter with TVA.

A team of TVA biologists is doing a 'check-up' on the fish that live in Chickamauga Lake.
 
"Just like you if you were stressed, you're more likely to get sick. Same thing with fish," says Baxter.

Dennis Baxter is the manager of river and reservoir compliance monitoring for TVA.
 
"It is important to the fishermen because poor water quality means poor fishing," he says.

Besides fishing, clean water is good for everyone, period.
 
"This water not only affects this region right here but it also flows down stream."

To help determine the water quality the biologists need to examine the fish closely.

 "We use an electrofishing boat, to put an electrical current in the water," says Baxter.

It is just a zap and does not hurt the fish.
 
"What that does is momentarily stun the fish, where we can net the fish, put them in our live well. And then we weigh and measure them, look for abnormalities, like parasites or disease, and then we return them back to the water."

They also comb the bottom of the lake to examine benthic invertebrates or aquatic bugs.

Baxter says there is a lot more science than one might think to maintaining healthy waterways. He takes pride in his job of measuring oxygen and chlorophyll levels and doing the fish 'check-ups.'
 
"If there's, for some reason, the health of the reservoir is getting bad, we communicate with the state and other federal agencies and then they can use their programs and take action to correct the issue, if there is an issue," says Baxter.

TVA performs these tests on all reservoirs across the state every two years.
 
Baxter says he is still compiling his findings but he expects Chickamauga Lake to maintain its overall rating of 'fair' that it has received in years past.
 

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