Sonar equipment takes a lot of that guesswork out of the equation, but if you’re not on a bass boat then you’re probably not using it unless you buy a handheld fish finder like the iBobber or Deeper, which have received somewhat mixed reviews from anglers for their accuracy.
One device that I’ve found to be extremely popular — particularly with ice anglers — through watching hours of YouTube videos on the subject is the use of underwater cameras, and two of the more popular brands tend to be Aqua-Vu and Marcum. These give you a live video feed of what’s taking place in the water below you, and can be especially helpful if the bites you’re getting are barely noticeable, as you can actually see the fish taking the bait in many instances.
I first decided to purchase a cheaper brand of fish finder to give me an idea of depth at the heated dock at Lake Shawnee, opting for a Venterior VT-FF001. It did a fine job of showing the depth of fish and if there was any structure, but it didn’t give me a clear enough idea of the number of fish or size. As it turns out, there’s a good chance what I was seeing as fish on the fish finder may have just been large gizzard shad that congregate under in the structure under the dock.
I decided to pony up for the Aqua-Vu Micro Underwater Camera with DVR, one of the cheapest cameras that Aqua-Vu offers that still records video. It was worth every penny. I was able to clearly see structure, what sort of fish were in my location and how many there were. You would be shocked at just how much 10 feet can matter when trying to find fish.
The first day I tried it out, I found an enormous school of crappie sitting right underneath me — literally thousands — and yet, would you believe, I couldn’t coax a bite out of any of them. I included some photos of that trip — don’t mind the time and date stamp on the screenshot, I haven’t updated it from the factory settings yet. The same time during the next day, the same spot was completely empty except for a large school of shad. Yet, at a spot about 10 feet to the right, I found a good group of crappie hugging tight to a sunken Christmas tree. Merry Christmas, indeed.
In a separate column next week, I’ll tell you all more about that fishing trip, which ended up being a wild one.
If you’re not worried about being able to record your footage, you can get the same quality of camera for $199.99 with the Micro II, or you can spend a little bit more than the DVR version to step up to the 7-inch color LCD screen. On the higher end, Aqua-Vu offers a 10-inch HD touch screen with live camera depth, water temperature and camera direction display. That little beauty will run you a cool $999, but the image quality is much higher and worth the money if you have it.
All of the Aqua-Vu cameras include the option to use infrared lighting, which is helpful when fishing in low-light conditions. The micro series camera’s IR settings aren’t adjustable, however, and the small microplankton swimming through the water can often fill the screen in moving water, making it a bit difficult to see in the distance.
Ironically, the lower end models have much better battery life, with mine getting about six hours and the larger versions getting up to 11.5 hours on the lower end (the HD7i) and just 2.5 on the higher end (HD10i and HD10i Pro). Probably the best bang for your buck would be the HD7i Pro, depending on what you need from the camera. It includes a seven-inch, 720p HD screen; depth, temperature and direction displays; a 120-degree field of view; seven hours of battery life and a super-bright monitor that can be easily seen even during sunny days.
For more information or to get your own Aqua-Vu camera, check out http://www.aquavu.com/.