Going fishing this summer? Along with a few worms and a pole, you might want to pack your smart-phone enabled sidescan sonar. Or perhaps some biodegradable high-contrast lures injected with fish scent molecules. Maybe even a fish goo repellent deck shoes.
The age-old battle between angler and the angled has gone high-tech as the fishing experience is making it easier, more comfortable and faster to reel them in.
"Sometimes you can't catch them," said Glenn Hughes, vice president for industry relations at the American Sportfishing Association. "It's an expensive sport; there's the boat, the engine, the time off work. You want it to be productive. The technology is there to put you on the fish, to catch the fish and release the fish."
Here's a rundown of some trends in fishing technology:
- Fishing lines: Monofilament lines were once standard, but now many fishermen prefer the near-invisible braided lines for their strength and sensitivity to a fish bite. Some are made from Dyneema, an ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene, the same material used in bulletproof vests, airline cockpit doors and orthopedic sutures. Other braided lines are made from Spectra, a form of Kevlar.
Because the size of these braided lines has shrunk, so has the size of fishing reels, according to Doug Olander, editor-in-chief and content director at Sport Fishing Magazine.
"It's more like dental floss," Olander said from his office in Winter Park, Fla. "If you took the same reel with 80-pound braid, you would have 250 yards of line instead of 40 yards. Now, people are using of reels they once used for small fish in shore and going fishing for yellowfin tuna."
Stronger, thinner, lighter fishing lines means that anglers can cast small lures into offshore schools of tuna and other big fish, rather than trolling bait behind a boat. In freshwater lakes, these braided lines are more responsive, and therefore a better signal for when a big bass has bitten.
- Lures: It used to be you would have a standard lure, a spinner, a plug, soft bait or a rubber worm, according to the ASA's Hughes. These materials have evolved to the point where one major company has biodegradable lures, a form of plastic that dissolves, while others offer tiny rattles or injections of fish scent into the lures. Companies say flashy, high-contrast lures attract fish, even though it's not clear whether they actually see those bright neon colors that seem to still be in vogue.
- Hooks and weights: As catch-and-release becomes the norm for many fishermen, circle hooks are replacing j-shaped hooks and are less likely to become caught inside the fish's mouth. Some saltwater hooks are no biodegradable after two weeks, while lead weights are being replaced with tungsten and ceramic to lessen the toxic load of lead in the environment.
- Electronics: Old-style fish finders are being replaced with touch-screen, high-definition sonar devices that not only see the bottom contours below, but also to a 360-degree sweep. Tiny underwater HD video cameras allow anglers to spy on fish before they catch them. Nautical smartphone apps allow precise navigation in backwater swamps or offshore. One recent invention from Japan is a fishing bobber that acts as a sonar scanner and can be cast far from the boat.
- Clothing/Coolers: How about shirts that lighten in color when the sun's UV rays hits them? This cooling device also is designed to make the angler tougher to see from the fish's perspective. New perforated deck shoes drain water and repel fish guts. Meanwhile, the latest generation of extreme coolers are now able to keep ice for seven days, able to recharge your phone and powered with internal LED lighting systems.
- Future? Hughes believes the next step is polarized eyewear that incorporates video and sonar fish-finding data, as well as more biodegradable fishing tackle.