Subject: Fish, Does Lightning Strike Them?

Dagmar Fertl (
Wed, 4 Feb 1998 15:04:45 -0500

     Hi Jamie, wow, what a question.  I asked a meteorologist friend at 
     work about this one.  This is what we came up with.
     Fish can be killed by lightning.  Water conducts electricity really 
     well (that's why they tell you to not play a radio or use a hairdryer 
     in the bathtub or near water).  My friend told me that when she was a 
     little kid, that sometimes kids would go to a nearby creek and catch 
     fish and throw them into the swimming pool during a storm, and they 
     certainly did die when lightning hit the water.  
     We agree with you in one respect that it has something to do with how 
     lightning travels in the water.  As you probably know well, lightning 
     is attracted to metal and anything that is tall.  A swimming pool is 
     reinforced with metal rods under the concrete, so that's probably why 
     those fish in the swimming pool died during a lightning strike.  
     That's also why you're not allowed to swim in a pool during a 
     We know that fish in creeks are in very shallow water and should be 
     zapped by lightning pretty well if it was to hit the water.  We think 
     that those fish probably don't get hit much since there are usually 
     trees or something that would attract the lightning.
     A fish in the open ocean faces a different situation.  Salt water 
     conducts electricity really well (has to do with the minerals and ions 
     in the water).  We guess that when lightning hits the ocean's surface, 
     the charge dissipates very quickly at the water's surface and probably 
     isn't a big threat to the fish.  Also, anything floating on the ocean 
     or standing in it (like a drilling platform or ship) would attract the 
     lightning.  For that same reason, when I go out to sea to do whale 
     research, as soon as we see lightning, we're told that we have to go 
     into the inside of the ship because the ship would probably be easily 
     hit by lightning (as well as any people standing up high on the flying 
     Thanks for your really great question.  I learned a lot myself.  I 
     know this doesn't really answer your question, but I hope it helps.

______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Does Lightning Strike Fish?
Author: at ~smtp
Date:    2/4/98 1:03 PM

Help!  My name is Jamie, and I'm desperately trying to find information for my 
fifth grade science project.  I'm not having any luck using the encyclopedia's 
or books in our library.  My question is:  Why aren't fish killed by lighting? 
I know that game wardens use electrodes to stun the fish during catches to 
chart growth.  I think that the fish must sense the weather change and go 
deep.  I also thought that maybe the way lighting travels in the water might 
have something to do with it.  I live on a 32 acre lake in Tennessee, and we 
never see any fish belly up after a storm.  Help!  Why is this?