This past winter, a pair of new tools offered exciting glimpses of the world beneath the ice. Wireless (WiFi) underwater video technology that's affordable to the consumer has been an engineering work-in-progress for at least the past decade. Aqua-Vu developed a wireless system known as "WAV" and released it at ICAST in the early 2000s. The product was pulled, however, due to its $2K price-tag. This past winter, I worked with several prototypes, which enabled seamless underwater video transmission up to 100 feet from the source. Products from Aqua-Vu, Marcum, and Vexilar now retail for as little as $200, remotely displaying live video feeds on wireless phones and tablets.
Perhaps the most fascinating application of this ice fishing technology is remotely monitoring a tip-up or deadstick. From inside a shelter, you can survey rigged livebaits and fish response some distance away. With additional cameras, it's possible to toggle between multiple underwater viewpoints on a single mobile device. By downloading an app, a network of anglers can even patch into the same camera signals, so everyone has a clear view of what's happening below.
On another plane, 360 Imaging from Humminbird is poised to become a major story in ice electronics. Set in a hole, the 360 transducer rotates continuously, scanning the terrain around your position and displaying realistic images of structure, cover, and fish. Because the transducer actively scans the terrain, the screen is constantly refreshed with new information, such as a moving school of crappies or a lone walleye swimming toward your bait.
In-Fisherman contributor Jim Edlund and ice fishing ace Shawn Bjonfald last winter tested a portable Bow 360 Imaging unit rigged for use on ice. Positioned over drop-offs, rockpiles, cribs, and other likely areas, they watched schools of panfish as they swam along, adjacent to the transducer.
Because the unit operates like radar, you can gauge the direction of movement and precise distance and position of fish by watching them on a Humminbird sonar screen. Uses for this technology are far-reaching and exciting — such as learning how and where fish move during certain times of the day as they travel along structure or roam across open water.
Edlund noted that over several hours, he could continuously track a pod of suspended crappies as they meandered about. By gauging fish distance from the transducer as they moved, he'd drill new holes and reposition himself over the school.
Some might argue that such new developments could make finding fish too easy. Of course you still need to understand seasonal fish movements and habitat to initiate a successful search. And once found, coaxing fish to bite is never a given. Finally, anglers need to focus on the important role we play in maintaining good fishing through Selective Harvest — releasing or harvesting wisely to maintain fish population quality.
- Wireless cameras aren't just for security and surveillance. Aqua-Vu WiFi beams real-time underwater images to mobile devices within 100 feet of the camera and transmitter, opening interesting options for sharing intimate views of what lies beneath the waves. Imagine networking video with fishing buddies in nearby boats or ice houses, monitoring live feeds from anywhere in the boat, and using underwater cameras like sunken trail cams. As if that weren't techy enough, you can also record the footage and link it with GPS coordinates for return trips.
The system comes with a waterproof wireless transmitter and color micro-camera, 50-foot cable, and charger. It is also available with just the transmitter and an adapter, for use with current Aqua-Vu cameras.
Fish Hawk X4D
- Identifying underwater temperature fluctuations can be key to pinpointing the depth of temperature-sensitive species such as trout and salmon. For offshore trollers, that can mean the difference between straining barren water and reaping banner catches. Fish Hawk has been making subsurface probes for decades, but the company's Fish Hawk X4D rides the cutting edge of wireless technology. The system uses a sensor attached to your downrigger cable to monitor water temperature, speed, and running depth, and it wirelessly relays the data via a 70 kHz sonar signal.
A transom-mount transducer intercepts the beam and sends digital data to the display, which can be flush- or bracket-mounted at the helm. Unlike systems that rely on downrigger cables to transmit information, the Fish Hawk's use of sonar signals leaves you free to run whatever cables you need.
As a bonus, the transducer array also records surface temperature and boat speed. This information helps anglers define preferred water temperatures down to 300 feet, along with finding underwater currents and tracking the true running depth of the downrigger ball.
- Humminbird adds online options to the wireless arena with its ION 10 and ION 12 sonar and GPS chartplotters. Wherever you have access to a WiFi signal, such as from a marina or other network, you can use the ION unit to surf the web or as an Internet hub for nearby mobile devices.
Where WiFi is lacking, dial in your smartphone as a hotspot, link the ION to that signal, and browse cyberspace for weather reports, small-craft advisories, and other pertinent information from your sonar/GPS plotter.
Lest you wonder when you'd attempt such surfing, Humminbird guru Bill Carson points out that the feature allows anglers to stash smartphones in dry bags while venturing online with their plotters, no matter how heavy the seas or foul the skies. Finally, if you have multiple IONs aboard, networking the base stations is an option as well.
iBall Hitch Cam
- Above the waterline, wireless camera systems are sweet add-ons for hitching boat trailer to tow vehicle, as well as for backing your boat down the ramp or into a tight storage area. The iBall Wireless Trailer Hitch Camera, for example, has a powerful magnet for affixing the gimbal-mount, submersible camera on most metallic surfaces on a boat or tow vehicle. Once behind the wheel, plug the color monitor into your cigarette lighter to see what's going on behind you.
- Lowrance opened anglers' eyes to the underwater world in modern fishing's formative years, so it's no surprise that the sonar and GPS powerhouse packs a wireless punch in the modern era. Its new GoFree WiFi technology, for example, lets you view and in some cases control the HDS Gen2 and HDS Gen2 Touch displays on a tablet or smartphone.
The system is high-tech, yet simple to set up. Tether a GoFree WIFI-1 module to the Lowrance unit with an Ethernet cable and you're ready to set up a personal wireless network from which multiple devices can view sonar, navigational, and engine data simultaneously.
'Everyone on board can use a smartphone or tablet to see what's happening on the dashboard display and react accordingly, ' says walleye pro and fishing insider Scott Glorvigen. 'If you have more than one Gen2 or Gen2 Touch units connected, you can toggle between them, too. With a touchscreen tablet, you can control Gen2 Touch functions. '
This type of wireless technology first hit the the offshore scene, where captains appreciated the chance to scour charts and study sonar from anywhere on the vessel, including a fly bridge, without investing in additional displays. It's quickly gaining small-craft fans.
'Besides data-sharing benefits, anglers with dash-mounted electronics can use an iPad or other tablet at the bow or stern, instead of purchasing a second display, ' Glorvigen continues. 'Young, tech-savvy anglers in particular like the ability to take screen shots of sonar and GPS displays, then text them to fishing buddies or post them on Facebook. '
- Wireless remote controls aren't a new concept, but their applications continually rise to new heights. Take Minn Kota's i-Pilot Link, for example, which syncs your trolling motor and Humminbird fishfinder via wireless remote. It's easy to control the bowmount and employ features such as Follow The Contour or Spot-Lock from anywhere aboard. Similarly, MotorGuide's Pinpoint technology on the company's flagship Xi5 electric-steer bowmount harnesses a suite of GPS-based boat-positioning features via wireless pedal and hand-held remotes.
Two noteworthy devices stow and deploy Minn Kota's Talon shallow-water anchors. The wireless hand-held Talon Remote and foot-operated Talon Wireless Foot Switch simplify raising and lowering the spike. While the hand-held allows mobility, the foot pedal allows operation while reeling, without fumbling for a fob.
Long a bastion on the flasher frontier, Vexilar offers another take on wireless fishfinding technology with its WiFi-based SonarPhone system. In a nutshell, you buy a transducer and transmitter — without the cost of a display — then download a free app to turn your mobile devices into full-fledged, high-definition sonar displays.
Working in tandem, the transducer collects sonar data while the transmitter, which basically creates its own WiFi hotspot, broadcasts the returns to smartphones and tablets within 100 yards. The signal can be password-protected, or you can share your findings with anyone in range.
The system is available in three versions, offering portable and permanent-mount options. All have amenities such as noise rejection, water temperature, automatic ranging, and sensitivity adjustment, along with alarms for fish, shallow water, and low battery power. Extremely popular for shore- and dock-fishing, the portable SP100 T-Pod is castable, making it ideal for checking depth, structure, and fish location without a boat. It features a single 30-degree beam, and can also be towed behind a boat at speeds of up to 5 mph. There are two models for boats, the SP200 permanent-mount and SP300 portable version, both with 20- and 40-degree dual beams, plus a few bonus controls.