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Fish in a Flash

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Fish in a Flash



Friday, February 22, 2008

By David Figura / Outdoors editor




Rob Goffredo says he took his wife ice fishing and at one point told her to jerk her line even before she felt a fish bite. She laughed at the advice, but it was probably right.


The reason? Electronics.


Goffredo was using a Vexilar flasher unit to track her lure and any fish coming at it or around it.


"Electronics have made ice fishermen far more efficient," said Goffredo, head of the fishing department and pro staffer at Gander Mountain's Cicero store. "Instead of just opening a hole and wondering if there's any fish there, you just lower the transducer in the hole and you know everything that's going on. The depth, whether there's fish, weeds.


"It's like playing a video game."


Dick Hyde Jr., team leader in the fishing department at the Bass Pro Shops store in the Fingerlakes Mall, said those using electronics while ice fishing on North Bay on Oneida Lake have been "slaughtering" the walleyes this winter.


"It won't be like that always, but most guys are getting their limit within an hour," he said.


Electronics have been around for several decades, but the current crop of electronic offerings seem to eliminate a lot of the guesswork on the ice. The equipment breaks down to four categories:


Flasher units:

These devices use flashing lights on a clock-like face to show the water depth, your lure and any fish in the immediate area. It's color-coded, with anything directly beneath the hole appearing in red (including the bottom). Anything nearby is green. As a fish gets closer, the flashing light changes to orange and then red. It's accurate and it's the closest thing to a "real time" image of what's down there


Liquid crystal units:

These work on the same principle as a fish-finder or depth-finder on a boat. You get a more elaborate picture, with a view of the bottom, contours, fish, etc. - but it's not TV. There's a delay. The fish you see on the screen (if they're swimming) may not actually be there when you lower your lure. The more expensive ones have Global Positioning Satellite features.


Hand-held GPS devices:[b/]

If you want to remember a previous hot spot or a location you scouted from your boat during warmer weather, just punch in the coordinates. It's another way to eliminate the guesswork.


Underwater cameras:

You can lower a fish-shaped camera attached to a cable down into the hole and see what's there on a small TV screen. Some use blue and red lights to help you see. Others use infra-red light.


Goffredo says sometimes he puts both an underwater camera and a flasher in a hole. He uses the camera with 50 feet of cable to find rock piles, weed lines and bottom structures.


"Last Wednesday, I was out for two hours and caught 24 perch," he said. "I credit the Vex. Each time the fish would shut off, I'd simply find them again. I cut 10 holes, caught all 24 out of three."


Hyde says the beginner, looking at all the electronic offerings, has some choices to make.


"You can get an underwater camera for $99," he said. "When you take children, nothing keeps them more interested than watching the camera and seeing the fish swim around."


Hyde said an essential to fishing with electronics, particularly in cold weather, is to bring a spare battery.


"Cold weather knocks a battery in the shorts," he said, noting that an eight-hour battery can be reduced to 4-5 hours.


Not everyone uses electronics.


Bob Bush, of Lyncourt, was out Monday morning fishing the DeRuyter Reservoir and nearly caught his limit of 50 sunnies and bluegills. He was using a chartreuse "dot" lure, tipped with a couple of spikes (tiny grubs). He said he routinely catches his limit of panfish while ice fishing and has never used electronics.


It's a matter of just knowing the water you're fishing, Bush said, having fished the same waters during the spring and summer. He's memorized the weed lines, the drop-offs and the rock piles in the lakes he fishes. He said even if you're using electronics, you still have to find the "humps" on the bottom.


"I like all the small lakes around here - Tully, Eaton Brook, DeRuyter, Erieville Reservoir, along with Big Bay on Oneida Lake," he said. "My father used to say 90 percent of the fish are in 10 percent of the water."


Bush conceded that a lot of times he goes out and cuts a lot of "dry" holes in the ice.


"They may be on one weed line today, and another tomorrow," he said.

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