The Tuition of Cameras by Jason Mitchell The education we get from

The Tuition of Cameras by Jason Mitchell The education we get from
The Tuition of Cameras by Jason Mitchell
The education we get from being able to watch our presentation and watching how fish respond is invaluable.
Having the mental picture of how the presentation or lure looks in the water, how the fish approach the lure and
what actions caused particular reactions from the fish sets some anglers apart. Anglers who have this education
have a huge advantage. There are several ways to get this education. When I was a kid, I would lay on the ice
with my jacket pulled over my head so I could look down the hole. I would lie on the ice mesmerized until I was
so wet and cold that my body started to have a tingly
burning sensation.
On some water, the visibility is such where anglers can
look down the hole and watch fish, watch the
presentation. Spear houses dark houses and even
portable Fish Traps with dark enough fabric to block out
light enable anglers to peer into the under-water world
below. Many kids who grew up in northern Minnesota for
example can recall staring in wonder down a spear hole
as fish swam by. Spending this time staring underwater
no doubt makes an angler more adept at how fish
behave. Having the mental picture helps us put all of the
pieces together regarding location, bottom compositions,
weed varieties, fish movements and finally, how fish
approach and react to a presentation.
There are many fisheries and parts of the Country where
good visibility allows for anglers to “sight fish.” By using
a dark house, anglers can look down the hole and watch
fish. Fishing successfully in ultra clear water takes a few
adjustments for example many anglers will wear dark
clothing so that they blend in with the inside of their dark
houses so they aren’t as likely to spook fish. Some
anglers also leave some slush in the hole to mask
movement. Some anglers like to drill larger holes
specifically for sight fishing so that they can see to the
sides much further. While anglers typically watch the
fish, many anglers will still use a Vexilar as an early warning as fish will often show up on the Vexilar before you
can see them below the hole. The real beauty of sight fishing however is the education regarding the nuts and
bolts of your presentation.
Line twist, memory and the wrong jigging motion can keep finicky pan-fish from sucking in a jig. By being able
to watch the motion or rocking on the jig that is necessary to eliminate lure spin and being able to watch how
fish respond, positioning themselves inches from the hook and ultimately eating the jig, this education serves
anglers very well. In fact I dare say that this education has created some of the best pan-fish ice anglers I have
ever met or fished with.
What an underwater camera does is allow you to buy this education. What you will learn about how fish eat and
how fish move by using an underwater camera is invaluable. I believe this information can make you a better
angler. There is a lot of bad information however about how to use underwater cameras effectively. There has
also been a negative stereotype regarding the durability of underwater cameras. To be fair, many of the
underwater cameras on the market have been low quality price point cameras. In a nutshell, the ice fishing
industry took monitors and lenses from other industries and tried to package these components into a
waterproof housing at the cheapest possible price point. The result was equipment that seldom lasted more
than a year or two. The underwater cameras that are available today from Vexilar are a horse of a different
color in that they are dependable and are of much higher quality for today’s demanding ice angler. In fact, the
Vexilar Scout is the only camera specifically designed for underwater use where the focal point on the lens has
been adjusted for the distortion of water, thus the picture quality is greatly enhanced.
There are however many myths about underwater cameras. For cameras to work, you still have to have good
water visibility and a combination of good natural light. Most cameras have lights on the lens but for actual
fishing applications, I see fewer fish (walleye, pike, perch, pan-fish) when the lights are on. Murky, turbid or
stained water also makes underwater cameras ineffective. The most notable example of stained water not being
conductive for underwater cameras is Lake of the Woods. Even shallow water that is turbid is not very good
conditions for cameras. Now there are situations where you might be able to see a foot or two underwater but
typically, you need better visibility preferably seven to twenty feet for cameras to shine. Why do you need such
good visibility? Because the further away you can put your lens from your presentation, the more functional
cameras become.
For pan-fish, down viewing where the lens is pointed straight down and fished down the same hole in which you
are fishing is a very effective and functional technique. This down viewing technique shines with pan-fish
because pan-fish can be reeled right up the cord. With heavier fish, down viewing is not as effective because
they tangle up the cord so if you are targeting walleyes or larger fish, you will have to drill a second hole and
point the camera lens at your presentation.
The advantages of down viewing are efficiency. You can fish with one hole and you can almost immediately find
your lure as you don’t have to twist or turn the camera lens. The higher you can hang the camera lens above
the zone where you are fishing, the better as you can see a much wider or larger area below. Optimum height
above your jigging area is five to seven feet. What I have found when I have to drop the lens closer to the
bottom is that the area I am looking at shrinks but also as the lens gets closer to the bottom, many fish become
hesitant to swim right below the lens. They will swim up and peck at it but it becomes difficult to get fish to
swim right below. This phenomenon becomes really apparent as the sun gets low and visibility drops and the
camera lens has to get inched closer to the bottom in order to see your jig as the water darkens.
With walleyes in particular, it is important to hang the lens far enough away where you don’t tangle with the
cord. For horsing fish up or away from the cord, I like to use braided line like Northland’s Bionic Braid and we
often use a fluorocarbon leader. This combination is tough and effective. For viewing, cameras often work best if
they are used inside a shelter or at least shaded somehow from the sun. For fishing outside, what often works
the best is to use the black and white mode and turning up the contrast.
One of the biggest lessons cameras will teach you are that fish often hit the wrong end of a jig or spoon and
that you can actually turn the hook towards the fish as they approach. You can also swing at fish that suck in
the jig but don’t move a spring bobber or signal any type of strike. On really tough bites, anglers using cameras
can pick off fish when nobody else is catching. Cameras also enable you to sort through the size of fish where
you can play keep away with smaller fish.
There is no doubt that there is a time and place for hunkering down over fish, rolling up your sleeves and using
the detail a camera can show you to figure out difficult fish. Obviously, not every fishing situation is conductive
for underwater cameras but I do believe that when you don’t or can’t use a camera, the lessons learned will
continue to serve you well. Underwater cameras can really compliment modern sonar systems like the Vexilar
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