Fishermen and hunters have long had a love/hate relationship with technology. A quick example is bow hunting where some only consider hunting with a long bow appropriate, while others may select a compound bow and all the modern accessories, but then complain about someone hunting with a crossbow.
The same holds true in fishing. Some hold to traditional methods as long as possible, while others jump on every new advance offered.
For some it is part esthetics, they want to enjoy the outdoors in the simplest of ways. For others it comes down to what they can afford.
Welcome to Compressed High-Intensity Radiated Pulse technology fishing sonar. Better known as CHIRP or live technology, the technology has upped the fish finder game with an image that not only allows fishermen to better identify fish, but to also see their bait drop and the fish’s reaction to it.
I remember the first time I saw it in action several years ago. Crappie fishing with guide William Oliver had a Garmin Panoptix Livescope mounted on his boat and once you figured out what you were looking at you found yourself fishing the screen more than the water.
By now the new fish finders are as commonplace as power poles on a lot of fishing boats. They are used across the board by people fishing for bass, crappie, catfish and even offshore.
But that does not mean they do not have their detractors. When South Carolina fisherman Patrick Walters won the recent Toyota Texas Bass Classic on Lake Fork with 104-12 there were comments about his use of the technology and whether it was fair.
It is not just at the pro level either. There are also complaints about everyday fishermen using them for crappie and catfish, most notably questioning whether they make it too easy to catch the fish.
“We have received inquiries from several anglers expressing concerns about the use of the newest sonar technologies and what effect that may have on fisheries, especially on more harvest-oriented species such as catfishes and crappies,” said Craig Bonds, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Inland Fisheries Director.
Bonds said similar concerns have regularly popped up over the years as technology has advanced.
“At this time, we do not have any information or data indicating these technologies pose a harmful risk to fish populations,” Bonds said.
He added there has been discussion among the staff, but it has not gone further than that except its use in the bass tracking research at Toledo Bend and Lake Fork. In both of those instances biologists are seeing the same thing Walters saw at the TTBC, and fishermen who have embraced the technology also know: Just because you can see the fish on a monitor does not mean you can catch it. The right bait, presentation, speed and interest of an individual fish to feed are still major parts of the equation.
Nautical Mile Marine’s Andrew Boaz said about 50 percent of the new boats going out the door these days are equipped with the live technology. On top of that, the dealership is retrofitting one or two boats a week with it.
“Most of them are going to crappie fishermen, but more bass fishermen are getting into them as they figure out how to use them,” he explained.
One drawback is the cost, about $3,600 all in for an installed system.
At this point Bonds said TPWD will continue to follow its current methods to protect fish populations around the state including limits and lake sampling.
“Sampling techniques include electrofishing and various types of nets in addition to surveying the catch of anglers. Based on the information we have we have not observed of any negative impacts to fish populations caused by overharvest that can be attributed to the use of sonar/fish-finding technologies. If harmful impacts to fish populations are observed, we will recommend and take appropriate action to address and correct those issues,” he said.
The evolution of fishing technology should not come as any surprise. Think about the Radio Shack TRS-80 cassette tape-based computer compared to today’s telephones. Look at the horsepower and mileage gains in cars and trucks thanks to computers and other advances. Even some rifle scopes come with an app. Compare the Hummingbird flashers to the simplest fish finders today.
In the future, and probably not far away, the next great idea will arrive, and today’s live technology will become as outdated as the iPhone 10, and the pros and cons will ride the technological wave.