The surprising big threat to sportfishing
In our modern society technology is advancing faster than ever before. The tools at our disposal as anglers are pretty amazing.
Some would probably have been labeled as the stuff of dreams less than 20 years ago. In many ways it makes our lives ‘better’, although one could debate whether every new piece of tech is actually an improvement.
Even though it has cultural value concerning our society in a broader sense, I do not want to turn this into a social/cultural article and will keep focus on our common interest and passion: sport fishing. Are all these amazing tools improving the way we enjoy fishing? Let’s dive in and investigate.
Big pike spotted using high frequency sonar
Back in the day
Remember the good old days? Just a rowing boat and one rod in your hand. If you had an outboard engine you belonged to the fancy club. A sounder was a luxury and lures were even received with skepticism. Over the years we have evolved from using rowing boats and black and white sonars that would give an exact depth reading and a fairly good indication of fish and temperature, towards modern equipment like side-imaging combined with GPS, live imaging and boats with over 300hp. In the near future the possibilities are almost endless, moving towards the most insane and military precise tools designed to help you identify species, size and live movement.
The near future
I am a fanatic user of technology. In many ways I believe it improves my fishing. It gives me greater insights on where to find the fish, how they migrate and helps me figure out correlations between depth, movement and temperature. I’m able to focus more on my lure presentation due to a trolling engine that is connected to my sonar and GPS. Autopilot that I can control and plot on my map (I use a Humminbird/Minn Kota combo) while having the latest in battery technology to power them throughout the day. Features like side imaging help me out so much to locate baitfish or interesting structures. A traditional sonar only shows a limited amount of info directly under the boat, while side (or forward) facing sonar gives you a view than can stretch for more than 50 meters (on each side of the boat).
We are now at a point in the tech evolution that anything you can imagine will soon be possible, given enough time. Auto-track fish on your sonar so you keep the boat on the fish you want to target? It will definitely happen. Plan your route on the map with the desired depth, speed while automatically controlling the depth of your lures? Already possible with current high-end downriggers that are connected to a mapping system. Based on the live depth it will reel in or give more line so your lure will not get stuck on the bottom. The distance above the bottom is pre-set and it is all custom input by the angler. Photo realistic live feed of fish around your boat? Just around the corner. Want to go even crazier? I bet we can come up with even crazier ideas and I can tell you, given enough time, it will all be possible. But this does all bring up a bigger question: does this all really make our passion, ‘sport’ fishing, better?
A big fish rising from the bottom, inspecting a 3D Burbot trolled with a downrigger while the autopilot does its thing.
Is there any actually any sport in using all our current or future gadgets? Is it just about catching fish? Does part of the allure of fishing disappear when we can just select the fish we want to catch and drop a bait in front of them? Or will this all be the new standard and open new doors to things we never imagined to be possible?
It might just be that all the tech, all the gadgets and thus the increase in fish caught and records smashed, will have a negative effect on our beloved passion. The mystery of it all slowly vanishes. The excitement of that initial take, without seeing the fish… hoping it will be a big one. I fear that tech might kill that passion we all feel, as the game we all play will be more focused around results instead of being out on the water, enjoying nature, cracking the code based on subtle hints that Mother Nature provides us.
Isn’t it so that the journey, the struggle and the setbacks part are all a big part of the final reward? Where is the balance?
Being out there – maybe just as important as catching fish?
No saint either…
Yes, I am biased. I also use a lot of high-tech gear and it helps me get the results I want. I have learned so much with the use of technology and my fishing largely revolves around tech. I am a fan of technology and think I always will be. I strongly believe that we cannot blame the tools – if we have to blame anything it is how we use those tools.
Fat super early spring pike after many hours of trying to crack the code – such a great reward!
I’ve come to a point where I start to reflect on what direction we are heading towards and if this direction will improve how fulfilling a day of fishing can be. I notice more and more that it’s more than just getting results. I try to focus more on other elements that are a part of fishing. Being ‘out there’ is sometimes just as important as catching. The social aspect of it, meeting up with friends on the water and helping other anglers achieve their goals.
There are actually a lot of elements that sometimes outweigh the act of catching a (big) fish. The way a fish smashes a lure in front of the boat. Getting that banger of a photo. Creating cool content while having a laugh with friends. Putting more effort into preservation, trying to minimize damage while still catching fish. Because in the end, that is still what fishing is mainly about.
Exploring new territory is one of the things that keeps driving me to go out on the water.
Impact on new anglers
Another thing to consider is the impact on new, aspiring anglers. During the rise of social media, a common complaint I heard was that new anglers thought certain results are only possible with a big boat, packed with electronics. While it does give you the option to reach spots you normally can’t reach, it’s not a necessity to catch big fish. But, all these new technological developments will only strengthen that belief.
Zander fishing in the night with insane, unimaginable results until a few years ago.
Another impact that is worth discussing is the impact on the fish themselves. When these big fish are targeted specifically and cannot hide anymore, it makes sense that they get caught more often.
One big trend with the latest in fishing technology is targeting big fish during the night. Up until a year or two ago, big zander and pike usually had the cover of night to give them relief from fishing pressure. Thus, at night they are less weary and more eager to grab a potential meal. Anglers that switched from fishing during the day towards fishing in the night got some insane results. I have experienced first-hand how effective this is. On a lake with a lot of fishing pressure during the day, we struggled for years to get decent results. We tried during the night and had the best fishing in years on that lake.
Shady business in the cover of dark
All this has impacts in many ways – one is that they will become even harder to catch over time. As a result, the anglers with the most advanced equipment will gain an even bigger advantage, contributing to the point I made earlier on about new anglers facing an intimidating and seemingly uphill battle. I sincerely hope they don’t get demotivated to go out and give it their best, nonetheless.
Conclusion… for now
Earlier on I stated that I believe that these tools are just that: tools. The way we use them is what matters. When chasing the biggest fish out there, it’s easy to lose track of the other ingredients that make our passion so amazing. Those ingredients can be different for each person out there. For me over the years it has evolved more into being out there, enjoying nature, having a laugh with friends, exploring new waters and trying new lures for Savage Gear. I just love meeting new people and sharing ideas and thoughts.
Whatever your ingredients are, the end result should always be the same: enjoy yourself and have fun! Even if that means catching less or smaller fish. I notice it myself – the ‘big fish no matter what’ mentality isn’t as strong as it used to be. When you’ve been out on the water that much the past couple of years, you tend to decide to stay home a bit more often when the wind is howling and the rain is pouring down the entire day. If it’s not something you will not enjoy, consider is it really worth doing it? Will there be a full counter movement? Probably not. I think, as with many trends, there will always be people (or in our case, anglers) that try to keep it as pure as possible. We see it with trebles, fly fishing, casting versus trolling, etc…
How many will keep it pure or what that definition of pure will be, only time will tell. I will try to keep the balance between results and having fun. Don’t let the results from others on social media make your head spin and lose track of the fun part of fishing – that’s the best advice I can give any of you out there.