There were no bolts of lightning as Mike Johnson and Ramsey Langford of Metro Parks, Serving Summit County, waded into the Tuscarawas River on Saturday morning at Firestone Metro Park.
The pair applied a mild electric shock to fish that were then scooped up in nets as they floated atop the water. The stunned fish were transferred to tanks on the shore for an informal show-and-tell program. The fish later recovered and were released back into the river unharmed.
Johnson, chief of natural resources for the park district, told about a dozen members of Friends of Metro Parks that some school groups are prepared for lightning bolts zapping the fish when told the fish would be shocked.
He said Langford was carrying a car battery in a special backpack that can produce up to 250 volts of electricity, enough to temporarily stun any fish within 8 to 10 feet.
The humans, wearing protective rubber waders, are unaffected by the electric shocks.
The electricity is actually safer on the fish than nets would be, Johnson said.
The Johnson-Langford show produced a variety of fish: largemouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish, white and hog suckers, pumpkinseed sunfish, a red-eared sunfish and yellow bullheads (a type of catfish).
There were also several large carp, including one 10-pounder that drew envious looks from anglers fishing on the river bank in the park.
That section of the Tuscarawas River west of Firestone Country Club and below the dam is known to be home to about 25 species of fish, Johnson said. The quantity of fish found was also good, he said.
Johnson’s audience was impressed by the fishy show.
“It was interesting to see how healthy nature is in an urban area like this,” said Kevin McCauley, 37, of Akron.
Added Laura Shank, 29, of Cuyahoga Falls, “I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s neat to see what’s in our backyard.”
She admitted that she was especially impressed by the suckers. “They are really cute,” she said.
Said Mary Lou Gault, 82, of Cuyahoga Falls, “This is absolutely fascinating.”
She petted a carp and a yellow bullhead with slimy skin and barbs.
“I was curious,” she said. “I don’t fish, but doing something like this is definitely a good idea ... It lets you know what’s really happening.”
Fred Fricker, 73, of Akron, said the program “was very worthwhile ... It was something I’ve always wanted to see.”
The program was part of a new educational series: “Discover Your Parks.”
It is a behind-the-scenes look at park district operations organized by Friends of Metro Parks, a non-profit park support group.
The first outing was a July canoe trip at Silver Creek Metro Park in Norton. Guided hikes through future parks and prairie burns are among future activities that are planned.
On Oct. 13, the group is conducting a guided members-only tour of the sandstone ledges at Liberty Park in Twinsburg, Twinsburg Township and Reminderville. Participants will also look at plans for a new nature center.
The goal of the new initiative is to raise awareness and interest in the friends’ group and to attract new members, especially younger members, said spokeswoman Bridget G. Ambrisco. “We want to grow and to take it to the next level,” she said.
The group has about 450 members and hopes to get to 500 members by Dec. 31, she said.
Its main project is Outside Is In, a 24-hour outdoor education program involving sixth graders from Akron public schools. The 582 youngsters all spent 24 hours at Camp Y-Noah in the city of Green.
For more information, call 330-865-1027 or go to www.friendsofmetroparks.org.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.