My stepson and I had decided to go fishing one recent evening and so set out to our favorite worm digging spots to stock up on bait. But, it had been so dry that all of our little honey holes were barren, except for a few little red ones that would not even fit on a hook.
Since Hugo has become a confirmed bait-caster we had to make a stop down at Ray’s Texaco for a tub of Canadian night crawlers before heading out to my friend’s pond.
The reason for the fishing trip — if a person even needs one — is that my brother Fred had sent Hugo a portable fish finder as an early birthday gift and we wanted to try it out. Fred lives in Oregon and has always been good about sending my boy outdoor related items, knives and such, and has also sent some high-tech stuff like radio controlled aircraft.
The fish finder represents the point where high-tech and old-fashioned meet. Now these gadgets are not new to the fishing world. Heck, I remember guys having them in their little aluminum fishing boats way back in the 1960s.
To be honest I never really understood most of how they work, or what they could do for you. I guess for me knowing what the ground looked like under the water would be more important than actually knowing there were fish there. Because, well, we sort of expect the fish to be there don’t we?
Fish finders are not new by any means, but having one that fits in your tackle box is interesting, and the graphics on the screen are a lot more impressive than they were 50 years ago.
Back then, the bottom just showed up as a blurry shadow and the fish were just little blips on the screen. Those blips eventually morphed into little check marks in the ’70s, and today actually look like fish.
It really was kind of neat. Once we got the sonic unit deployed and the whole thing fired up it was like watching a small underwater cartoon. There was the bottom of the pond, including rocks and logs, and there were the fish. Big ones, little ones, lots of them.
There were a lot more than I would have expected, but then I figured out that the screen just kept updating every few seconds, so I was seeing the same fish over and over again.
You could tell that my stepson was perfectly comfortable using that small screen out there along the water. Then we picked up our rods and the age old call of the outdoors kicked in.
The fish bit well that evening, very well. Seems that the fish finder was telling the truth as Hugo and I were both soon dancing with big slab-sided sunfish, one right after the other.
I picked up a crappie with my faithful gold Rapala minnow. Crappies are a favorite of mine because they allow me to look wise and knowledgeable. Whenever I catch the first crappie I always tell Hugo that we will catch some more real quick, and of course we did. They hit well for a while, even on the worms, until the school moved on off to a different part of the pond.
We caught so many fish that the boy ran out of worms fairly early and switched to lures himself until things tapered off around dark.
That fish finder was interesting to fool with, but I expect we would have caught the fish we did even if we did not have the electronics along.
Still, trying the thing out was much of the reason for the trip, so it would seem that it worked after all.
It got us out there so you could say it helped to find the fish. That fish finder also showed us the four nice bucks we saw, the big colorful Koi swimming in the pond and the screech owl we heard walking back out in the gloom.
Oh, and not to mention the opportunity for an old guy and a teenager to spend some quality time outdoors together.
Not a bad little gadget.
Dave Long is a retired natural resources police officer with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and a frequent contributor to the Outdoors page.