Mo’ Better Views

by: Mark Martin

Underwater cameras and the latest gear is starting an on-ice revolution Way back in 1957, Carl Lowrance started a revolution with transistor and early echolocation technology he used to fashion a fish finder, an  instrument to tell depth and spot the critters below. Similarly, the underwater camera, as well as a new generation of additional accessories, is making its mark on ice fishing and changing where and how we fish for walleye, perch and other species.

In recent years, I’ve learned a lot and confirmed many of my suspicions 
about ice fishing with an Aqua-Vu underwater camera. Training the camera on my bait or lure, I’ve watched what movements the fish respond to—or don’t—and have been able to refine my jigging motions. I’ve learned, too, a lot about favorite spots I’d been fishing for decades and what ingredients tend to attract fish. An underwater camera has given me a newfound appreciation for fish behavior and location. And the technology is only getting more advanced, providing a more detailed, more powerful look at fish and structure.

You Lookin’ at Me?

A couple of new offerings from Aqua-Vu are going to figure into my ice fishing and should continue to help the learning process unfold. The Aqua-VU Mo Pod for instance, is a wireless remote control with a 100-foot range that lets you rotate the camera without cable twist. Now I’ll be able to see in all directions not only to see fish but also figure out their travel pathways for additional holes that will catch the fish in, or on the way out, of a given area.  Of further help is the new Ice Pro System, a unit with seven-inch screen for a better view of what’s below. Additionally, six infrared lights improve viewing in low light, a time when other cameras have been rendered ineffective. Of course, it’s cool to see fish in the first place. What’s more important is to notice what kind of bottom the fish are relating to, and how they respond to the movements of a lure. On the Great Lakes, I’ve seen walleyes migrate out of the depths following old net stakes from commercial fishermen.   

The times I’ve drilled other holes, I’ve looked for similar net stakes or patches of hard bottom, even zebra mussels.An underwater camera has also helped me figure out what to do when I’m jigging. For walleyes, my go-to bait is a Jigging Rapala (the #5 for inland, the #7 or #9 for the Great Lakes) with a minnow head or whole minnow on the treble. But while everyone’s tendency is to rip the Rap with sharp bursts, I’ve watched walleyes on the camera that zoom off with sudden movement. That’s why, when I jig a Rap, I give it a light jiggle and little more, subtle maneuvers that keep the walleyes’ interest. If they keep looking and not biting, though, I slowly lift the lure over their heads—a key trigger that often makes the fish bite. On the other hand, if you drop the lure below them, they’re gone in a flash. With whitefish spotted on an Aqua-Vu, though, that’s just what you want to do—lay the lure on bottom and the whitefish will pick it right up.  The same basic jigging approach extends to spoons such as Northland’s Fire-Eye Minnow, holographic spoons to which I add a minnow to the treble. If the water is somewhat murky, I go with the Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon, a lure with a brass rattle in it.

Lazers, Traps and More
The Aqua-Vu also plays a role in where and how I set up on ice. I’m a big fan for drilling a lot of holes to give my friends and me the versatility to scoot from shallow to deep water, or to head in the other direction. Taking my StrikeMaster Lazer XL 3000, a three-horsepower auger that provides holes of 8–10 inches, I like to drill from shallow to deep to give our group the opportunity to spread out and try different depths. For base campsomewhere in the middle, I set up a portable shanty. I’m able to watch the Aqua-Vu and get an idea of what’s going on down below. I’m able to see how many fish are moving through, and if I think it’s not enough, the StrikeMaster and Fish Trap make it easy enough to move. So do the predrilled holes shallower or deeper, where I’ll set up next. If it’s midday, I’ll go deeper to soft bottom where walleyes hang in depths of 40 feet or more. Come the hour of low light, I’ll move in shallower, where walleyes cruise the edge of prominent structure to feed. Some additional equipment and preparations also enter the picture. Some great jigging rods come in the Lightning Rod Professional Ice Rods  series by Dave Genz, a collection of rods from 24 to 36 inches in actions from light to medium heavy. The rods are made with solid, not hollow, graphite to withstand punishing conditions. At the same time, the rods are made of higher modulus, stiffer graphite than most ice rods. The reason is that less graphite is needed in the rod—hence it’s lighter in weight and more sensitive. Also yielding a feathery touch are five (instead of three) chrome-plated guides with stainless-steel 
inserts, another way to reduce weight and improve sensitivity and strength. I like them for jigging with Raps and spoons, and I often take a light rod with a Northland Fire-Ball jig with a minnow for a dead rod I set on a bucket, keeping the minnow about a foot above bottom. For manageable line, I’ve always liked Berkley 6-pound XL, but with the recent formulation called IronSilk, I can get similar limpness and manageability in cold weather but additional strength in case a big fish runs and scrapes against the side of a jagged ice hole. Speaking of cold weather, I also take care of my reels with Reel Saver Grease, a light, high performance lubricant, that treat and smooth out reel parts and truly prevent corrosion like no other and that won’t seize up in freezing conditions. Electronics, including the Aqua-Vu units my trusty Lowrance X-85 or the new X67C color liquid-crystal locator, I’m able to see fish and figure 
out how to catch them. It might take a little trial and error until you figure out your own favorite jigging motors, but by seeing fish on the screens before you, it takes far less time to come up with the right moves. With underwater cameras and the latest in ice gear, effective ice fishing is elevated to an altogether new level.


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