Technology improvements and our fisheries

Today’s sophisticated electronics have created a lot of excitement as well as some concern in the fishing world.

We’ve come a long way from the old green box flasher depthfinder. Today’s electronics are truly fishfinders, giving us a remarkable visual of what’s under the boat, to the side and even around it.

And most recently, the forward looking sonar is akin to a Peeping Tom, providing us a look into the bass’ world that we’ve never had. You not only can see the bass and watch them react to your lures, but you can differentiate between bass and other species.

As cool as these technological advances are, there are some who wonder if we’ve gone too far and worry that they will make fishing too easy and impact fish populations in the future.

But will they? Let’s wait for the facts to play out.

I remember the days when depth finders and trolling motors became popular among bass anglers. Those same concerns were expressed, and there was talk of restricting their usage.  

Fortunately there were no restrictions, and as we all know, they have had no effect on fish populations. In fact, many of our lakes are better today than they were years ago.

Anglers have done a great job of self regulating the sport through catch and release, size limits and bag limits. We take care of our fisheries.

The fish may adjust too, especially as anglers send more sonar “pinging” sounds through the water. There is enough evidence that bass can feel those sonar signals, and on pressured lakes, will become wary when electronically rigged boats venture nearby.

I saw that back in my guiding days on Lake Conroe. I had to turn off my electronics and stay off my trolling motor on some structure known to hold bass.

With many anglers running as many as five electronics on their boats today, will the bass on heavily fished lakes adapt accordingly?

Remember when Lee Livesay won at Lake Fork earlier this year? He turned off his electronics, pulled his trolling motor out of the water and used his shallow water anchors to keep him in position as he cast to prespawn bass. He caught three bass in the 9-pound class and finished with 112 pounds, 5 ounces.

I spent time on the water with aspiring pro Cody Huff, a young man who has embraced the electronics age. He showed me the power of the forward-looking sonar and how he could pick off bass and cast directly to them.

However, there was one bass that remained wary of us. We tracked him for a couple hundred yards, and he always stayed 30 to 40 feet ahead of us. He would turn and move away but always stayed the same distance. I’m convinced it was the electronics and perhaps the trolling motor he sensed.

My point is the fish may adjust to us. They always have.

Is it possible that these new tools will create overfishing, as we’ve seen in some cases in the ocean? That would be bad, but it hasn’t in the past.

The electronics may offer more fishing enjoyment for those who don’t want to make 2,000 casts and would rather wait until they see a fish on the screen to cast for it.

Conversely, there will be those who reject it because they enjoy casting to the unknown and savor that perfect cast that connects them to a big fish. 

It’s premature to jump to assumptions that the new fishing technology will be embraced by everyone and could hurt a fishery.

Too little is known at this point to be concerned with something that could add more enjoyment to your time on the water.