Rob Stachowski from Cannon Falls, MN asks:
What are some of the best ways to use an underwater camera for ice fishing? Is there a recommended distance from your fishing hole to have a camera hole drilled?
For years I think the ice fishing community was entranced by the question, "are underwater cameras a tool or a toy?" True, they are a cool way to keep kids interested, and it's always fun to positively ID what's swimming below you.
Today, I think we've moved past that idea towards the thought that there are a variety of situations and uses for the cameras. First and foremost, for catching. I've been part of a number of bites where having a camera not only helps you catch more fish, it's critical to catching ANY fish. Trout in small lakes, perch that require the bait on bottom...I can think of nearly a dozen bites I've been on in the past five years where it was a difference maker. Beyond that though, underwater cameras are a great way to find fish. The Marcum Recon 5 is compact and allows you to drop all over the place, identifying areas that are fishy, even if your flasher doesn't indicate that they currently hold fish. I've found brushpiles, clam-beds, rock outcroppings, and all kinds of other neat areas I've returned to via the camera that I might have overlooked with a flasher.
The last and perhaps best way to use a camera however, and one few people utilize, is to view jigging action of baits. You can learn how to fish any bait better, by seeing its action on an underwater camera, and then, translating that jigging stroke to what you're seeing on the flasher. It's amazing how much better you can get on a Jigging Rap or even your average panfish jig. I try to do this annually for a refresher when the bite is slow.
As for recommended distance, rule of thumb is to keep it as far away as possible while still seeing a clean image of your jig. This gives you a broader field of view, and prevents tangles when a good predator eats.
Good luck Rob!