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Whether for muskies, walleyes, or panfish: Fishing technology – good or bad?

Posted on August 12, 2013

Tim LesmeisterI was at an event recently where technology became the topic of conversation among a retired resort owner and fishing guide, and me. Straddling 80 years of age this veteran guide told stories of how he row-trolled muskellunge on lakes in Wisconsin where motor trolling big lures for these huge pike is illegal. It is still illegal and he appreciates that.

I could not fathom why someone wouldn’t want to incorporate the latest electric motors, whether on the bow or transom, to troll a breakline or weed edge using the latest side-imaging sonars. The ability of to strain a certain depth with any lure is simplified by this technology that basically calls for pressing a couple of buttons on a control pad and then letting the electric motor do the work.

My lack of comprehension led to a history lesson. Guides made their living putting pilgrims onto huge muskies and there is an art to row trolling. Novice muskie anglers could never get past the learning curve and achieve success with this technique in the short time they had on the water. Turn new technology over to these rookies and you put the old-timers out of business. You create a class of anglers who never earned the ability to achieve success without the use of technology.

Shortly after this conversation I toured the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wis. There is an amazing amount of fishing history in these buildings and I recommend every person who has ever held a rod and reel in their hand should visit this wonderful place. There is an evident evolution to the sport of angling. Seeing up close the lures that were invented 60, 70 even 80 years ago is amazing. Boat motors today are no comparison to what they were 100 years ago. It would seem that fishing always has been spurred on by improvements in technology, and today is no different.

Yet, there are lures that were around before I was born that are still in use today. Certain plugs and spoons that were used by anglers coming back from the second World War are still on the shelves at the bait shop. Well, not the same ones, but models that are exactly like those sold back then that are still produced in mass quantities today.

So, I still think technology is good for the sport. But, I will bow to the wishes of the old guide who wants to keep row-trolling the only form of trolling legal on some of his favorite lakes. There are plenty of places where we can use new technology to bypass the knowledge base that can take years to acquire. Until the winds of change modify the regulations that protect certain bodies of water from the waves of science that attempt to encroach, let there be sanctuaries for those that earned the opportunity to fish unfettered in a realm they mastered.