Electronics Are Great But Silence Is Golden

My two fishing buddies and I were having a great time on Lake Fairfield. After the bass quit biting in the reeds, we turned our attention to the red fish and hybrid stripers that had been stocked into the warm waters of the small power plant lake. After tying on the biggest rattle traps in our boxes, we turned on the flasher and started trolling through the roaming schools of monsters. Sammy would watch for the fishes to start moving up from the depths on the little round machine, as the flashes moved closer to the top he would yell “Get ready boys, here they come!”. Those old flashers were simple but accurate, sending a pulse to the bottom of the lake and waiting for a return ping only interrupted by the passing fish below. I still use my flasher in conjunction with my fish locater, whether out of pure comfort or sappy nostalgia, it enhances my view regardless.
There was a time when we learned the bottom of the lake by the feel of what our line was doing. We couldn’t see where the fish were hiding, when they were biting the bait, or when they would run off. But we had “feel” in our lines and learned experience in the visible topography and it required a lot of patience. We could tell where the drop-offs were, feel the roadbeds, tell exactly how the bank sloped and how much. The size of the trees often told us if a creek or old water tank was hidden below us, a quick study of the shoreline helped us visualize what was happening on the bottom of the lake. As time progressed, we came to use and trust our electronic screens more and with confidence, this has opened a whole new world to the average fisher often propelling them from average to awesome as the systems got more accurate and the fisher more tech savvy.
My 1st Lowrance was a paper graph, I kept rolls of graph paper in my boat to feed the machine as it drew pictures of the subsurface world below. Deadly accurate, nothing could escape the powerful signal. Much like today’s amazing LCD screens and transducers we could spot detailed bottom features and fish, we could also clearly see our line and bait. I believe that modern liquid crystal systems were fashioned to emulate those old paper graphs in accuracy and detail. It has taken a lot of years for me to gain equal confidence in this modern technology, but I am a believer now.
There’s an old saying that goes; “That’s why they call it fishing instead of catching”.
It seems like we’re addicted to our screens even in our boats. When I’m traveling around the lake, I see heads bowed looking into $1500 fish finders and oblivious to the rest of the world. It begs the question, have we now become hunters, locating the prey, and catching it? Are we losing our skills and instincts by using technology to guarantee an outcome? We all want to catch fish but until recently we depended on our instincts, experience, and sound techniques. Now technology is leading us to the fish, we can pick out the fish we want and entice it to bite. Learning and using modern technologies to their max potential is a skill all in its own, it takes a great deal of trial and error to tune, read, and utilize the vast number of options one of these units incorporates. I have a great deal of respect for anyone that can conquer these devices.
Are the fish learning too? What are the effects when a constant deluge of electronic pulses and pings are raining down through the water? How about the sound of a large boat motor followed by the humming of a trolling motor as it gets louder and more prominent.
Imagine, you’re sitting in your lawn chair enjoying the day and suddenly you begin to hear thump, thump, thump, over your head at first, and then all around you. Not only do you hear it, now, you can feel it through your body. As if a thunderstorm decided to park itself right on top of your roof vibrating through everything it covers. There’s a shadow moving in your direction and it’s huge, a humming sound from the shadow and suddenly you feel the pressure all around changing, and then human voices, muffled but distinct. Having heard this many times before you become leery, even spooked, and you decide to run from all the sounds. This is how I imagine many fish are becoming acclimated to our presence and why I use my electronics as little as possible when I’m in the act of fishing.
If you can hear pings and thumping from your electronics when your boat is out of the water (try it, you might be surprised), so can the fish when your boat is in the water. If you’ve ever jumped into the lake to cool off and heard the depth finders pinging while you’re underwater (as I have); so too can the fish. Remember that virtually all fish have lateral lines along their bodies (sensory receptors) and other sensory receptors(feelers/tentacles) that allow them to find their way in dark low visible waters.
The fishing community has always offered theories of the fish getting smarter, becoming acclimated to increased fishing pressure, and shutting down during or after certain events and boat traffic on lakes. Boat motors make lots of noise under the surface, more boats, more noise. This can be an alarm to the fish that things are changing, think about spending the winter in the quiet cold depths and when you move shallow to spawn it sounds like you’re living under a highway. It certainly is going to affect your sensitivity to movement, sound, and ultimately electronics.
Fish do in fact have intelligence and a fairly long memory, they will respond to constant sounds and relate them to changing conditions. Associating sounds with fear and learning to avoid both.
Anyone that ever fished for spawning bass can relate to how fish can become weary and cautious, even belligerent under too much pressure.
Many guides, including myself, have begun to turn off our electronics when we reach our fishing destinations. I’ve been told by fisherman with Live Scopes that they can see the fish scatter when they arrive to a particular spot, requiring them to turn off their electronics and wait for the fish to return which they normally do in 15-20 minutes.
As much as I love my electronics, I always remember that silence is golden when fishing.

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