THE USE use of electronics for fishing has been going on for decades, with depth finders being used for at least three quarters of a century, so it's surprising that the use of these aids hadn't become more common a lot earlier.
Aside from the depth and fish finders, the GPS units are probably the most common and put to best use of any of the other electronic units. It's so easy to find your old fishing grounds that you've marked with your GPS and to also mark certain holes during that have been the most productive so you can return to them time after time.
Also, during low light periods or snow storms, getting back to shore to your point of entry is made so much easier by following the directions of your GPS unit. And it is a great safety investment to be able to guide rescue squads to the scene of an accident or people in need of immediate help from a health issue.
It's pretty safe to say that a majority of ice anglers have GPS units. But it's also pretty safe to say that many are left at home in a drawer with some hunting gear or other gear in storage.
With several parties out on the ice, what better arrangement than having cell phone contact with each other, both for safety's sake but also for providing fishing information to each other?
Right now, the big thing is flasher-fish and depth finder units. The perceived advantage of these being that the marking of fish is in the now, as these units will light up with a target and not change the location until the fish moves, either up, down or sideways. The machines that scroll the bottom do mark fish's depth and show that these fish have been in the cone of the signal, but it's not exactly in real time.
This may have some disadvantages over the flasher units, but is it worth not using your scroll-type unit that you have on your boat (if it's portable) is debatable, especially concerning what kind of ice-caught fish you are targeting? If it's panfish, such as crappie or yellow perch, you may be at a slight disadvantage, but with some use and learning how to interpret what your scroll-type unit is telling you, it may not be worth the quite large investment in a flashing unit.
The flasher is not just a great unit for panfish. We've heard plenty of stories of anglers seeing a large flashing signal well above and suspended over where most of the panfish are marking. The smartest of these people have moved their baits or fished their lures at the same depth that the larger signal is marking and have caught some incredible fish, such as large brown and rainbow trout and, where legal, landlocked salmon. These fish are not always oriented to swim and feed near the lake's bottom.
Once thought to be the answer to the ice anglers prayers, waterproof video units that have to be lowered on a cable down to where the fish are and actually capture a real-time image of the fish can be both unwieldy and also have been known to spook fish out of the area. But like much other fishing gear, it's the old saying of "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." Many people who own these underwater video units have set them aside for using the depth and fish finders but some of the others that have the video units wouldn't give them up for anything.
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News.