The underwater camera: not just for ice anglers anymore
Gary Roach and I were cruising across a medium-sized lake near his home when he spun the boat around 180 degrees and started heading back through his wake. Then he abruptly killed the motor and said: “Look at all those crappies,” as he pointed to his sonar screen.
“How do you know they’re crappies?” I asked. They were just blips on the screen. Roach replied, “They’re crappies until they tell me they’re not.”
Roach sent down a jig with a minnow and started vertical jigging. No bites. I had a smaller hair jig on and I got a hit right away. It was a tullibee. I caught a few more before Roach fired up the engine and said, “They’re telling me they’re not crappies. Let’s go find some that are.”
Before underwater cameras, that’s how you knew what your sonar was telling you. You would catch one of the fish showing up on the screen and now you knew what they were. But many times they just wouldn’t bite.
Today instead of sending down a lure, I send down the camera. It saves me a lot of time when the hooks on the screen we think are fish turn out to be vegetation or crud floating off the bottom.
Ice anglers have become enamored with the underwater cameras and are using them en masse. It looks as though now open-water anglers have figured out their value as well and are relying on them for valuable information.
As I wrote earlier, an underwater camera can either verify what you’re seeing on your sonar, or it can inform you that what you see is not what is actually there. I was drifting over a rock hump in Chequamegon Bay on Lake Superior a few years ago and hit a sharp drop-off that looked like it was surrounded by rock. I sent down the camera and discovered a trough that was walled in by grass that was bent over by current, and this resembled boulders. There were some walleyes laying under the grass, but I couldn’t get a jig into them.
Sometimes I don’t even look at the sonar. I just use the camera to search. I do a lot of fishing these days out of Clearwater, Fla., and I’ll take a boat out to one of the man-made reefs that are prevalent in the Gulf of Mexico. The GPS coordinates that are posted get you near the structure, but an underwater camera will get you into fish. On my last trip out to Clearwater Reef the underwater camera put us on a spot that was loaded with mangrove snapper and sheepshead. It was non-stop until we ran out of bait.
I’ve heard anglers complain that cameras require clear water and it has to be deep. That’s not true for me. I use an extension pole to investigate docks in water with just a few feet of visibility. On some of my favorite small lakes I have discovered which docks are fish magnets and which don’t get used.
This is the beauty of the underwater camera. You see, with your own eyes, exactly what is there. There is no question, only answers. Some days I don’t even pick up my rod. I just search and learn and enjoy and appreciate what the underwater world is capable of serving up for this hungry angler.