Technology has taken, what was once referred to as fishing, down a high speed path, to what is now known as catching, with hardly any time for simply enjoying the experience which includes wildlife, blossoms, smells, and sounds of the nearby stage show that is always a fascinating presentation of our natural world.
We gripe about our children spending too much time online chatting to each other about nothing, but then turn around and paste our noses on a pile of pixels when we ought to be studying the lean of a bobber, the quiver of a rod tip, or the family of newly hatched ducklings following the leader like a string of fuzzy beads.
Attendees at workshops featuring marine electronics, and how best to get the most out of them, nearly always brag up the buttons to push to get to the fish as soon as possible.
And there seems to be no pit stops between upgrades that make the trip to the catching honey hole even faster.
Fishing and golf have taken the same course.
The game of golf used to be a great way to combine natural and learned skills in a pleasant, outdoor setting and honestly call it all exercise. Golfers could play at a fun pace, and the walk from tees to holes and holes to tees was a pretty decent use of muscle power.
Nowadays, hardly a golfer walks the course, instead using his or her shoes only sparingly depending on how far from the golf cart the ball sets.
Accordingly, there’s no shortage of new gear with impressive promises to improve one’s game with greater distance and more accuracy.
And too, grab that phone and the right app powered by GPS and know the exact distance to the flag no matter how far off course the ball flew. Of course, there’s also an employee pushing the pace with a per-minute allowance between golfers.
Geeze! What’s the rush? Skip the app and let’s look at what fishers are buying to speed their chase to the fish.
Just a few decades ago, fishing electronics consisted of some very simple applications of basic sonar signals recorded as flashes on a circular face and following that, came paper charts that rolled across a flat, glass-covered surface that we now recognize as a screen.
The paper was scratched as it rolled by with a wire stylus resulting in a shaded line indicating the bottom surface of the lake.
With careful tuning, an angler could also see arches, or scratches indicating fish.
Awesome stuff, it seemed, with hardly a thought that it could ever get better.
Man, were we wrong. Now fast forward to the powerful electronics available today and just like smartphones have swallowed their ancestral dial phones, so have modern fishing electronics replaced anything so primitive as mentioned above.
Current depth finders, some under-educated fishermen call them fish finders, cannot only read the distance between a boat and any dense object, they can provide vivid images of the underwater structure in all directions, communicate information to other boating aids such as electric trolling motors, auto-steering gadgets, cell phones, laptops and tablets, and well, the list goes on.
Add to that, whatever modern depth finders can do today, it’s only a fraction of what they will be able to do next year and the next after that.
Manufacturers call new editions and models Gen-2 or Gen-3, clever subtitles indicating new and more powerful developments in the same box or even smaller.
It is truly remarkable but so are smartphones which are now nothing short of powerful and speedy laptops.
Shoppers hungry for new fishing electronics should do some serious homework and talk to knowledgeable dealers, keeping in mind that all the new electronics are indeed remarkable but not all are able to communicate with other gadgets in the same boat.
The guy who wants to program his brand new depth finder to record and then steer a route by digitally communicating with his trolling motor cares — or he should.
Shoppers will hear some catchy tech words, which simply mean the ability of one electronic unit to talk to another as in following a charted route, steering the boat or building a map.
This stuff is awesome — and complicated, but doable for most of us. I fully expect a group to fundraise and protest these electronic advancements on behalf of fish everywhere.
Fortunately for the fish, there are still a few hardcore anglers, like myself, who barely have mastery of the on-off switch, let alone downloads and inter-unit communications.
But fortunately for the manufactures of fishing electronics, there are lots more “digitally adept” anglers who want more and better — and they are getting it.
But in the midst of all the gadgets and push buttons let’s all try to remember how enjoyable a day on the water is, limit or not.
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