Our Outdoors: Seeing Spots

By Nick Simonson


There’s a compromise reached in every relationship. My wife loves to cruise on the open water and I love to fish, so much so that the idea of being on a boat without a rod in hand is what I imagine hell must be like.  So while I manned the helm of the party boat as we moved up and down the river under the warmth of the newly-minted summer sun over the holiday weekend, my eyes shifted from the bouncing rod tip that telegraphed the motion of the firetiger crankbait clicking along the bottom to the side-scanning readout on the depthfinder and then up to the water ahead of me.  While trolling is perhaps my least favorite method of fishing, it did serve its purpose as I staked out a variety of spots to try in the coming days while I tracked the kids’ whereabouts behind the chairs on the boat and watched for the swirling jetskis which were darting in between the increasing water traffic.

When it comes to angling technology, I wouldn’t say I’m on the cutting edge.  Sure, I have my share of depthfinders for both ice and open water, but they’re nothing that would break anyone’s bank or wow them in terms of features.  My familiarity with some of the more recent options has been limited in part because I more often fish by sight and for species that require relatively less underwater vision, and because I enjoy at least the thought that I’m still utilizing that primitive spot in my brain my ancestors on the Norwegian coast utilized for hundreds of years to find fish with nothing more than a wooden boat.  Plus, I figure we have enough screens in this world as it is.

Though with the installation of a new sort of screen on the boat, I have quickly become amazed and familiarized with the side scanning option in just a few trips.  With each pass along the rising and falling sandbars of the river, the display pointed out deadfalls and humps and, often nearby, the yellow streaks and spots of small fish tucked out of the current behind them.  Occasionally, during the compromise of the cruising/angling adventure, the bouncing rod would bend and pull with the weight of one of the small spots, and I’d add an eater walleye or sauger to the livewell, a nice bonus for a recreation-focused outing. Following the hook-up, I’d drop a marker on the GPS and turn back to see what the side-scan report was of the area we just covered, and that would provide the true win-win payout from the compromise on the cruise.

Sure enough, yellow arcs would be scattered up along the breakline, right about where the water dipped from eight to ten feet toward the speeding channel flowing in earnest against the eastern bank. On any other day, I’d anchor up and start tossing a jig, bumping it along the bottom, but as part of the compromise, I was content with a second pass and a continuation upstream into the next sunny bend of the flow, all the while tuning in and out to the music on the radio and watching the sun draw more boats to the river and recreationalists on the shoreline.

However, with each strike of a fish missed or landed, and each scattering of blips on the sonar caught in between my survey of the day’s river miles covered, I made mental notes of landmarks and dropped the all important waypoint on the map to come back to in a time where I could be more dedicated to their exploration.  With every encounter of the marks on the screen, I noted the shifts in flow, the shoreline structure that showed and held the fish below and the various bends and points that seemed to suggest where the next similar fish-holding location might be, figuring when there’s less to compromise, I can devote more time to the spots I was seeing…in our outdoors.


Featured Photo: Spotty Fishing.  The spots on the dorsal fin of this sauger caught while cruising and marking places to fish were a welcome addition to the trip. Simonson Photo. 

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