January 27, 2014
Underwater cameras made a major splash on the freshwater recreational fishing scene in late '90s. Enterprising anglers quickly learned their benefits, and in years since, they've remained a mainstay for those of us seeking the closest look possible at the underwater world without donning dive gear.
As any camera buff can tell you, peering beneath the surface offers a wealth of rewards. First off, you can quickly confirm what your sonar signals are trying to tell you. For example, are your returns revealing a monster walleye tucked tight to bottom, or is it a boulder, log, or lake sturgeon? In a similar vein, is that fishy-looking blob midway down the water column a ball of baitfish or simply a treetop? In fact, the ability to better interpret sonar readings is a major windfall in itself, since improved skills are a benefit anytime you're on the water, whether using a camera or not.
Cameras also allow you to go the extra mile exploring bottom content, assessing cover, and scoping out the infinite twists and turns of fish-attracting transition lines, pockets in weedbeds, and other fine underwater features. Of course, the ability to see your quarry can also be a big plus when targeting the largest fish in a school, determining when to set the hook, and in simply finding out how fish are reacting to your presentational sleights of hand.
While early cameras could be challenging when it came to viewability, cable and directional management, and other issues, today's crop of cameras is better than ever. To help you assess your options, we've assembled eight great choices for drawing back the curtain on the underwater world.
- Listing for less than $300, the 715c is billed as the most affordable underwater camera ever. Like other 700 series models, it offers a waterproof, 7-inch sunlight-viewable LCD monitor with video out and an integrated sunshield. Cutting-edge color optics are tucked inside a fish-profiled housing, which is tethered to the mother ship by 50 feet of integrated cabling. Includes adjustable LED lighting, a 12-volt, 7-amp rechargeable battery, charger, and handy storage bag.
Aqua-Vu Micro 5
- Aqua-Vu takes portable performance to new heights with the Micro 5. Offering clarity and color in a handheld package, it features a high-resolution, 5-inch color LCS display complete with waterproof case and sunshield-screen protector. Camera perks include 3X digital zoom, advanced color optics, and adjustable IR lighting for dark and dirty-water viewing, along with a built-in DVR with 8-gig internal memory. Comes with an internal, rechargeable lithium-ion powerplant that provides up to eight hours of runtime.
- We didn't know we needed this until we saw it. A remote-controlled, self-propelled little underwater vehicle armed with a high-definition camera and LED lighting, the HydroView cruises quietly through the water, snapping still photos and capturing videos of the world beneath the waves that would make Jacques Cousteau proud. A cinch to navigate with an iPad or laptop, this personal, pint-sized version of Nemo's Nautilus measures just 7 X 14½ X 19½ inches. It comes equipped with 75 feet of cable, but lengths of up to 500 feet are available for long-range recon. And why not? With a forward speed of 5 knots and two-hour battery runtime, the HydroView is capable of extended voyages. Other slick options include depth and temperature sensors, and, dare we say it — landing gear for extended observations of select locations. Imagine, for less than the price of a kicker outboard, and slightly more than a shallow-water anchor, you can captain your own research sub. Whether it becomes the Seaview or Red October is up to you.
- From the folks who brought Cuddeback trail cams to hunters everywhere comes the cFish underwater system. Nestled in a lantern-like watertight housing, the light-gathering Sony EXview camera rotates relentlessly, continuously scanning the surroundings for fish, cover, and other subsurface points of interest. Using the tethered remote control fob, you can also pause the camera, or jog it 10 degrees to the left or right. The camera also sports nine Luxeon LEDs for nighttime or dark-water viewing. Other cool features include a 7-inch, high-resolution CRT monitor; on-screen directional indicator; durable softcase with built-in sunscreen; 12-volt battery; automatic charger; and 60-foot cable.
- Thanks to a fortuitous combination of Sony's high-power Super HAD II CCD optics and an 8-inch, high-definition Solar Intelligent LCD display, this slick unit brings the abyss to life with impressive color and clarity. One of the coolest features is the camera's self-adjusting iris, which gathers all available light whether you're fishing at high noon or midnight. For its part, the waterproof, flat-panel screen is three times brighter than previous models, and offers 800 X 600 pixel resolution, with switchable color and black-and-white view options. Standard features include on-screen directional, depth, temp, and battery voltage data; and Darkwater LED lighting. The camera is packaged with an automatic Camera Panner, for precision depth and reaction control; 12-volt, 9-amp rechargeable battery; 75 feet of Kevlar-reinforced cable; soft pack; and battery charger.
Ocean Systems SplashCam Deep Blue Pro
- A longtime player in the commercial camera scene, Ocean Systems knows a thing or two about underwater photography. Of interest to inland anglers is the company's Deep Blue Pro, which offers industrial-grade performance and durability at a competitive price point. Plus, thanks to its adjustable strain-relief system and varied attachment options, you can deploy it vertically, horizontally, attach it to a downrigger cable, even tow it at high speeds on the surface for topwater duty. Its high-resolution Sony EXview color camera features a recessed, scratch-proof lens, while high-intensity auxiliary LED lighting brightens the darkest environments. Available in three package options.
Vexilar Fish Scout Double Vision
- Another winning sonar-camera combo, Vexilar's dynamic duo doubles your fish-finding powers by stacking a classic FL-20 flasher atop a 7-inch LCD color video display. The latter reveals images from the Sony Super HAD CCD camera, which yields a 90-degree viewing angle and automatically switches from color to black-and-white mode in low light conditions. Sonar features include the FL-20 Tri-Beam IceDucer system, complete with dual zoom, night mode option, and triple-cone transducer with 8-, 12-, and 20-degree cones for maximum flexibility to fit any fishing condition.
MarCum LX-9 Sonar/Camera
- Packing a double-whammy by combining underwater viewing with sonar capabilities, the LX-9 shines on ice and open water. It features an 8-inch color flatscreen LCD, built-in DVR with instant playback, and customizable display that provides four color palettes and a user-defined 'dashboard ' with boatloads of pertinent data. Sonar amenities include dual-beam 8- and 20-degree transducer cone angles, advanced zooming, bottom lock, and interference rejection, stoked by 4,800 watts of power. On the video front, the Sony Super HAD II CCD camera carries high-tech optics and Darkwater LED lighting. Includes a padded case, rechargeable battery, charger, automatic panner, and more.