The technological marvel of underwater cameras in modern ice fishing
My first underwater camera was a Vista Cam. It was basically a very small, very cheap, black-and-white television – not a flat screen but a cathode ray tube – with a small camera on a 60-foot cord encapsulated in a housing.
This all ran on a small 12-volt battery for about three hours and provided a detailed glimpse into the watery world below. Touted as a fishing aid for ice anglers, this inexpensive underwater camera option did a fair job of allowing the angler who was jigging through an 8-inch hole to see exactly what was going on right below them.
Now let’s move into today’s world of underwater cameras: High-definition touchscreens show camera depth, water temperature and direction on 125 feet of cable. The resolution is so clear that one could describe it as stunning when viewing in water with good visibility.
With this kind of technology right at an angler’s fingertips, it would seem like the fish have no place to hide. Not only can ice anglers know exactly what they have under their holes, they can see the fish bite before they even feel it.
The cameras are amazing on open water, too. Some days I just take my camera out to a spot that I know should be productive and I drop it down to survey the structure and see what species are using the spot. A person can glue himself to that screen for hours if he’s not careful.
Has my use of the underwater cameras increased my success? Exponentially. Let me give you a couple of specific examples.
On Chequamegon Bay on Lake Superior, some cribs were sunk to provide fish habitat. I located the GPS coordinates for the cribs and took a boat ride out to them one day. Using the sonar, I mapped out the edges. Using the camera, I could see exactly what was happening beneath.
The cribs had been resting on the bottom for 15 years and had filled with silt. From this silt, cabbage was growing nearly to the surface. Around the edge of each crib, it was mainly a sand bottom with some rocks and rubble strewn about. Walleyes were hugging bottom on the sand surrounding the cribs. Smallmouth bass and pike were on the edge and just inside the cabbage on the outer edges of the cribs. Deep inside the vegetation were sunfish and crappies, species that rarely get any attention on Chequamegon Bay. Some cribs proved to hold more fish than others and in the middle of summer they all produce well.
Another example of the camera steering me in the right direction was on Mille Lacs ice fishing for walleyes. We had drilled a number of holes over some rock on the east side. In one hole, I could see a silhouette in the background. Holes were drilled in the direction of the object, which turned out to be a large boulder surrounded by smaller rocks on one side, sand on one side, and a short but sharp drop-off on the deeper edge. It was a hotspot that produced all day for three days. I never would have found this without the camera.
Some might say using an underwater camera to locate fish is cheating. I say the camera is just another tool to enhance the fishing experience. When we go fishing it’s obviously more fun when we catch fish. I’m all about having fun, so I believe using a camera is an undeniable addition to up my entertainment quotient when I’m on the water – hard or soft.