Once upon a time fishing meant just a kid, a pole, and a worm.
These days, anglers have boats full of bells and whistles—all sorts of gadgets to make sure they don’t come home empty-handed. Deciding what is essential is a matter of preference and budget, as there is no shortage of electronic toys.
A basic starting spot is a fish finder, which uses sound waves to help identify what’s underwater near the boat and then translates those sonar signals into a visual display. A fish finder can give clues about where rocks, ledges, and logs might be, as well as a sense of the depth of the water and the contour of the bottom, and can signal where fish are detected. Fish finders can be portable or mounted, with higher wattage units being more powerful (with faster readouts), and with screens coming in both black-and-white and color readouts. The more pixels the unit has, the better the picture quality will be.
The sonar image can help an angler assess where the fish are and what type they may be, if the user has enough experience to distinguish the size of fish and how they move. An underwater camera can help pinpoint more specifically what species are in the vicinity.
There’s also no substitute for experience. Some folks learn to understand better how to read their fish finders by locating a school of fish, dropping a line, then comparing what they catch with the markings they had spotted on the screen.
Catching the fish, however, is ultimately up to you.
Your phone can teach you how to cast or find a bait shop
The technologically minded can find smartphone applications to aid in fishing—everything from “apps” that demonstrate how to tie knots to those that track weather conditions and moon phases. Some fly-fishing apps provide detailed information for specific rivers and streams.
Need to find a nearby bait or tackle shop? Identify a species of fish? Teach a child (or a curmudgeon) to cast correctly? Keep track of what you caught, when, and where? Yes, there’s an app for that.
A GPS can find fish and help in an emergency
Some anglers use GPS units (global positioning systems), which can be valuable in navigating the waters, particularly in foggy or rainy weather or darkness. They also provide a measure of safety in emergency settings, as a means of pinpointing an exact location for a rescue crew. Some use the GPS devices to mark the place where they put the boat into the water (to aid in the return trip) and to log the coordinates of where they actually caught fish—in the hopes that returning to that sweet spot might be fruitful on the next fishing day.