Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Electronics and Fishing

Electronics and fishing have had a long history together. Things have progressed a long way and at a crazy pace. Modern electronic components such transistors, Mosfets, and integrated circuits have worked their way into the necessities of today’s fishing scene. The average boat today has more electronic capabilities than computers of just 15 years ago. One simply has to look at my boat, a 2008 Ranger 620T and you quickly see what I am talking about. Bolted on the back is a 115 Suzuki 4 stroke, fuel injected, computer controlled, including oxygen sensors, timing circuits and other sophisticated engine management systems. Next to it is a Minnkota Vantage trolling motor, complete with a deployment system for lowering the motor into the water which state of the art pulse width modulation circuit maximizing the power for optimum battery life. Under the stern area houses 3 large glass mat series 31 deep cycle batteries all connected to a built in microprocessor controlled battery charger assuring maximum charging for each outing (if you remember to plug it in each time you put the boat away!). Moving up to my control console, there sits a Genetron depth sounder with incredible circuitry for marking fish and a Garmin GPS that has a built in base map accurate to less than 20 feet. A control module directs which functions such as lights, live well, and accessories can be turned on or off with a simple poke of a button. With built in live well timers it even has electronic circuit breakers, replacing the need to have replaceable fuses. The engine gauges now provide integrated information such as total hours and service alerts on top of the standard RPM readings. In the control panel is mounted a sound system, complete with an AM/FM/Sirius satellite radio and a built in Ipod dock. In between the back and the front, each compartment including the live wells have it’s own LED lighting assuring that if left on the power consumption will not drain the batteries for weeks. The front of the boat has a remote control module for the sound system, a Maxum Bow mount Trolling motor with the same maximizing circuitry as well a built in transducer and temp sensor. This feeds into a Lowrance HDS 5 color depth sounder/gps unit with the latest base map information. Eventually I will replace the Genetron with an Lowrance HDS10 with side scan sonar, integrated GPS, Sirius Weather Radar capabilities, and can be connected to the sound system to control all functions from one central location. This is quite a step from the first depth finder I owned, a Heathkit which I built myself. In my tackle box are a couple of lighted bobbers which are triggered by the presence of water between 2 contacts. Reel them in and they shut off………….magic! (actually it FET technology at it’s simplest)

Being in the electronics business I have had my associations with a number of these products, some that are main stream while others were simply some ones next million dollar idea. As mention in a past post, I designed the power output transformer for the Clearwater Classic which is still being used today by Marcum. My Genetron’s were provided by Dick Knutson for whom I made many wound parts for. Although they are still one of the finest fish locators out there, technology past them years ago and combined with the Red River floods of a few years back and the passing of Dick, they are destined to be museum pieces soon. Some of the less famous products I have been involved with include an electronic controlled trolling hard bait, like a Shad Rap. Inside were a battery, solenoid, and a timer circuit. The solenoid controlled a movable lip which would dive for a certain time then pull the lip causing the bait to change direction or depth on it’s own. Interesting idea but at $35 each, those snags could be awfully hard on the wallet! My good friends Tom Emmons and Tom McAtee made a maximize for our trolling motors long before Minnkota introduced them. Probably the most interesting device is the one pictured here, the Magnabait. It is a water tight, floating device that has built in speaker with an LED in middle of it. Powered by a number of internal batteries, it’s purpose is as an electronic lobster baiting device. See, lobster fishermen have to use rather expensive bait to entice lobsters to into their traps. The electronic device has a built in circuit which produces a short sound mimicking the mating call of a lobster. The LED flashes at the same time as the sound is generated, about every 20 to 30 seconds. Apparently this is an acceptable alternative to actual lobster bait, and I guess it works pretty good, unless of course they lose them. I have some friends in the electronics consulting business that did some work for the company and offered me to try them while ice fishing. The theory is that crawfish make the same basic sounds and will call fish into the area you are have your holes drilled. Although I used them many times, the jury is still out as to their effectiveness. As for lobsters, well I haven’t caught one yet! Here is the website if you are interested in more information:

Once again I am writing this on a flight to Austin Texas, where the weather promises to be in the 70’s all week. Much better than the 4 inches of snow I just left. This weekend is the Ice Fishing Show in St. Paul and I look forward to checking out all the new gadgets for this year. I might even get a chance to hit the ice on Sunday, as it is forming as I write.

1 comment:

Jeff King said...

Now, thats fascinating. One of the really cool technological advances in the motors is that they're basicly idiot proof. They will alert you to low oil, poor cooling, even oil change schedule. Like you said about the sounders, its amazing to think about the old 2-strokes that we all cut our teeth on...