There is no doubt that today we live in an electronic world. Advances in technology have vastly changed the way we operate in all aspects of our life from entertainment to business and everything in between. Fishing enthusiasts have benefited greatly from fish finders, GPS technology, mapping software, underwater cameras, and a vast array of fishing apps for your smartphone.
While you don’t need this equipment to get out on the ice and have fun, many people find electronics to be an integral part of their ice fishing experience. In keeping with the times, the Lac du Bonnet Ice Fishing Derby will now allow electronic devices to be used during the derby.
Here are some examples of electronic device types that can be used to help you fish. Devices range in price, but with so many options available you will be able to find something that doesn’t break the bank.
Flashers and Fish Finders
Probably the most common and most effective piece of electronics an ice fisherman can have is an ice fishing flasher. While the spinning wheel of flashing lights can be confusing to some at first, interpreting an ice fishing flasher is actually quite simple. A flasher is nothing more than a portable sonar unit. A transducer is placed in the water and impulses are sent through the water to the bottom and back. Objects within the sonar beam and the bottom are reflected back to the flasher screen as bands of colour, the larger the object the more colour and width is reflected on the screen. A flasher allows a fisherman to see the bottom and his hook or jig in real time as well as any fish approaching within the beam. The bottom is reflected as a large thick band of colours and the jig as a thin line of colour. As a fish approaches your bait, it is reflected as a thicker band with more colours than your hook. As the lines converge together if the fish does not take the hook a fisherman can raise, lower, or jiggle his hook to test the reaction of the fish and temp it into biting.
In addition to the standard flasher, portable LCD sonar units for ice fishing are available as well. This gives the fisherman the traditional look of an LCD fish finder like they are use to on a boat. This type of display provides a historic look of what has happened in the sonar beam as it scrolls across the LCD screen. For this reason, it does not give that instant feedback that a flasher does. Some of these units do however allow to change the screen to a flasher mode option to allow for the real-time look under the ice.
For those of you that cannot live without your smartphones or IPads, there are even ultra-portable transducer pods that send a WiFi signal, up to 100 yards away, to your phone or tablet. The pod floats on the water and can be cast out or floated beside your boat in the summer time or in your ice fishing hole in the winter. Ice fisherman can fish one hole while they watch for activity under another.
While a flasher or portable sonar unit gives you an on-screen interpretation of what is happening under the ice, an underwater camera can allow you to actually see a fish react to your bait and see the strike. Underwater camera technology has greatly advanced in recent years and has become more affordable to the general public.
Manufacturers now offer cameras that come in portable packs with their own screen, cameras that transmit a signal to your phone or tablet and even cameras that connect to your fishing line to watch your lure for anything following it. Some cameras come with recording capabilities to allow you to enjoy viewing videos later at home on your computer, thus learning more about how fish react to your offerings. While water clarity and the amount of available light at deeper levels greatly influences the obtainable results most cameras will give a view of at least a couple of feet in most lakes even here in Manitoba. Some cameras also have LED or IR lighting to help assist in viewing.
GPS and Mapping Systems
Fish relate to structure. Knowing the depths in the area you are fishing can help to locate structure and fish. Many Sonar Units have GPS mapping systems built in them. You can also buy map datum for your handheld GPS. Unfortunately, though, the availability of depth charts for lakes in Manitoba and the rest of Canada can be limited so make sure you check to see what lakes are included in the package you are buying.
For those of you that don’t want the expense of a GPS/Mapping unit, check out the Navionics Boating App for iOS and Android Platforms. This app uses your phones’ built-in GPS to show your location over the same lake map datum of expensive GPS chart plotters. The app can be downloaded and used for a free trial period. The full program and map data can be obtained for a relatively small yearly fee. Whether fishing in the summer or winter, this app is worth checking out. The small fee is well worth the knowledge of the water you are on. It can help ice fisherman catch more fish. Summer boaters may even save a prop, bottom end, or other costly repairs. A word of warning to users, this app does seem to have a large drain on battery life. Ensure you have a way of charging your phone while using it.
Other Smart Phone and Tablet Apps
In addition to using your phone or tablet as part of a sonar, camera, or GPS/Mapping system there is a wide variety of apps available for download to help the fisherman. Solunar Tables give to the best fishing days each month and the best times each day according to the cycles of the sun and the moon. There are Apps for knot tying, fly tying, lure selection, and species identification. Some Apps will give species of fish that exist in any given lake, based on angler logs and photos uploaded by other users. Here in Manitoba, there is even an App for the Master Angler program to allow you to enter a picture of your trophy and make your application to the program from right out on the ice. It also keeps track of all your entries, records, and access to the records all Master Angler entries of all anglers.
Remember if using your phone and tablet out on the ice- fishing holes are big, phones are small. Slippery cold hands seem to help attract holes and phones to each other!