How fishermen use their electronics
2/22/2021

Fishermen count on their fishfinding electronics to, well, help them find fish. Fair enough, but how do they use them, which functions are important and which are not? Turns out, that depends—and anyway, technology and younger tech-savvy fishermen are changing the seascape. Marine Electronics Journal asked avid angler and veteran electronics and boating editor Chris Woodward for some insight. Here’s part one:

By Chris Woodward


As he arrives at his offshore waypoint, the charter captain glances at the horizon, visually lining up two buildings on shore to the south with a tower and a row of trees to the north. A formless blob of red pixels scrolls across the sounder screen, an artificial reef. He motors upcurrent of the sunken wreck and drops anchor.

He has been here countless times before. He knows that the current’s direction and strength mean grouper will hang near the stern of the wreck with the amberjack on top. He focuses all his attention on describing the bottom fishing routine to his anglers while he baits their hooks.

Only this time he finds no fish. His choices: motor around looking at the sounder or try a different hotspot from his log. In the end, he knows his methods will work. They always do.
    
Rising tide

For decades, this typical saltwater angler has relied on his experience and reports from other fishermen rather than his electronics. If he turned them on at all, he used them to find a specific fishing spot with his plotter and then verify his position over a reef or other structure using his sounder. His display always showed a plotter screen and a sounder screen side by side, with a water-temperature reading.

"The average fisherman has great expertise in fishing, and his focus is on the details of that. So he wants his electronics to do ABC, but doesn’t necessarily care about DEF,” says Raymarine/FLIR Marketing Manager Jim McGowan. "There’s an art and a science of catching fish, and we fall into the science. People are more into the art of it.”

However, McGowan and others see a new tide rising. The wow factor introduced by side-imaging, 3-D and live sonar has sparked a competitive edge, something virtually all anglers share.

"If you can combine the knowledge you have as to what these fish are supposed to be doing, and back it up with electronics, you’re way ahead of the game,” says Capt. Greg Hildreth, a long-time inshore and offshore fishing guide from St. Simons Island, GA.

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