If you want to start a lively discussion among ice fishermen, toss out the question of which is a more important asset for ice fishing – a sonar unit or an underwater camera. Either piece of equipment is a great tool to increase your catch, learn more about fish and add to your enjoyment. But what’s a guy or gal to do if you can’t afford both? Here’s the good news! Since the introduction of underwater cameras to the market, the technology has improved, the devices are smaller in size and the prices have dropped. It is now possible to afford both a sonar unit AND an underwater camera, or even invest in a Sonar/Camera combo.
Here are the benefits of investing in an underwater camera:
- A sonar device only tells you that fish are below you, but it does not tell you what kind of fish they are. This is very beneficial if you are targeting a certain species, crappies for example. You may find there are only bluegills below. You can then decide to wait for crappies to move in, change your bait to better catch bluegills, or change your location. There are an endless number of scenarios where specie identification will help you fish smarter. With a camera you can go from acting on hunches to acting on facts.
- A sonar device leaves a fish’s reaction to your bait to guesswork. Here is where you can really learn a lot about fishing tactics. How do fish react to different colors, the size and shape of lures, types of bait or various presentations? Are fish approaching your offering slowly or are they attacking it recklessly? Are they more prone to bite a passive presentation or does erratic jigging trigger a hit? The answers to all these questions are revealed with use of an underwater camera. When you correlate this information to time of the year, water depth and clarity, time of day, weather conditions and species of fish, you may find patterns that you can exploit and enjoy more productive fishing both now and in the future.
- A camera will positively identify the substrate and structure. Are you fishing over sand, gravel, rocks or muck? What type of aquatic vegetation is below? Is there structure nearby? Are you on the edge of a weed line or drop-off? With an underwater camera you can move from speculation to certainty.
- Cameras are extremely entertaining, especially if you have young ones along. Revealing the underwater mysteries is captivating for young and old alike. But if little tykes are tagging along, there is no better way to get them to sit still and pay attention to the fishing rather than making snow angels on the ice.
- Some cameras allow you to record video. You can build a library of your fishing exploits for fun, sharing or later study.
FishUSA offers a dozen underwater cameras from MarCum, Aqua-Vu, and Vexilar at different price points. A good entry-level model that is affordable and functional and can fit in your pocket is the MarCum Recon 5. Not much larger than your smart phone, it is packed with technological features. The LCD display provides a clear view and you can switch from color to black and white depending on water clarity conditions. You can position the camera to face down, out or up to satisfy your viewing requirements. This unit comes with a charger and you can expect 6-hours run-time on a single charge. The MarCum Recon 5 Plus has the same features as the Recon but is equipped with a built-in DVR that allows you to take screenshots, record to an external micro-SD card, play-back video, and delete footage with ease.
At the high end of the price spectrum is MarCum LX-9 Digital Sonar/Camera System. For the professional guide or dedicated ice fisherman, the LX-9 gives you the best of both sonar and a camera in one unit. The user-defined on-screen LCD displays digital depth, battery voltage, range, sensitivity and 12-level interference rejection. Customize your window views to include water-column vertical, vertical zoom, flasher-dial and traditional wide screen displays. The sonar footprint scans at any depth with either 8º or 20º transducer cone angles. The LX-9 comes with 75-feet of cable and a rechargeable 12-volt 9-amp battery, automatic charge and a deluxe padded soft case.
An underwater camera is one purchase you won’t regret. Add to your enjoyment and catch more fish through the ice! Isn’t that what ice fishing is all about?