Fishing Made Easier with Electronics
A few years ago fishermen went out and tried to catch fish without the aid of many of the electronics available today. For many modern fishermen, casting without a depth finder in easy sight is like casting blindfolded. You can check the depth of the water, see structure that holds fish, and even see the fish themselves with a good depth finder. With other modern equipment, you can find specific locations and even mark a spot electronically and return to it.
Depth finders show you the bottom and everything in between by using sonar technology. Displays range from a flashing light spinning around a dial to liquid crystal displays and paper charts. Some depth finders are weak and show only depth, others are so strong you can watch a quarter-ounce jig going up and down at thirty feet under the boat.
Transducers are the antennae of the depth finder that send out and receive the signal. They show what is directly under them. Place the transducer near the back of the boat for the view there or place it on your trolling motor to see what's directly under where you're standing.
A flasher is the most basic kind of depth finder. A light spinning around a dial lights up each time an echo is returned from an object below, and you can learn to interpret these flashes. They will show you fish, objects on the bottom, and even how hard the bottom is. It does take some study to learn how to read a flasher.
A paper graph depth finder has a metal stylus that moves across a paper chart as the paper moves. It leaves a mark on the paper each time an echo is received, giving you a permanent record of what's under the boat. Graphs are usually more powerful with stronger signals than flashers and easier to read since you can study the paper.
The most popular depth finders today are liquid crystal display units. A screen shows a picture much like the paper graph; the screen changes or scrolls just like the paper graph but isn't stored. These depth finders can be set to show small fish pictures when they receive echoes from an object not connected to the bottom. This can be misleading since many things other than fish might send back such an echo.
Depth finders are a must on almost any kind of fishing boat if you plan on fishing anything but visible cover. They show you hidden spots that fish like, and good ones will actually show you the fish. You can also find schools of baitfish. Learn to use one to improve your fishing. They work well in both fresh water and salt water.
For years a compass was about the only tool fishermen used to find their way from one place to another. Line-of-sight triangulation was used to mark fishing spots. In open water, finding a brush pile or reef that you had fished before required a lot of luck.
In recent years several devices have become available to give fishermen amazing tools for navigation and locating spots. Loran was one of the early ones, but Global Positioning System (GPS) has become the way to navigate. This system uses satellites to locate your exact spot with a receiver. It's so accurate you can mark a brush pile in the middle of a lake, then go back to it later and arrive within a few feet of it.
Hand-held GPS units are so accurate they contain maps that show you where you are and where you're going. You can put in courses as you go, and return along the exact same course. These units show speed and will even estimate your time of arrival when navigating to a point. You can get hand-held units for about $200 and units that mount to the boat and work with your depth finder for $500 to $1,000.
Many lake and marine maps have GPS coordinates on them to help you locate fishing spots. Drop-offs, underwater humps, and rocks are marked in fresh water and reefs, wrecks, and other fish-attracting spots are marked in salt water. You can add your own spots to the ones given on the maps and charts.