Salmon Fever is tough to cure in February. Even though serious salmon fishing action is still months away for me, I find myself daydreaming about it already. I’ve got it especially bad this year because I’ll be on the Great Lakes in a new (used) boat this season, and I’ve been talking to guys who have been catching fish trolling near the beaches all ice-less winter.
I leave for the Duluth Boat Sports and Travel Show this week. Talking to customers at the show might help reduce the fever some. Then again, maybe seeing new tackle and talking about fishing isn’t such a good idea…
Speaking of sport shows, here is a piece that Dave Mull wrote recently about the importance of Speed and Temp Probes:
2012 Fishing Electronics: Speed ’n‘ Temp Probes
By Dave Mull
With the array of fine sonar and mapping units available to help anglers catch more fish, speed-and-temp probes don’t get much attention. Yet, many anglers who have these probes wouldn’t trade them for the finest fishfinder/GPS unit in existence. These anglers have learned that knowing the water temperatures below and how sub-surface currents are affecting their lures can really help catch more fish.
With the sport show season beginning, you might find your best deal of the year on one.
Speed ’n‘ temp probes are mainly tools for trollers, who install a probe on a downrigger cable above the ball. The probe has a thermometer and a speed-recording paddle wheel on it and sends the temp and speed info to a display unit in the boat.
This information comes topside either through the downrigger cable, which is then hard-wired to the display unit, or, in the case of the Fish Hawk, the probe beams the information to a transducer mounted on the transom. The upside to the Fish Hawk is that the others need special, coated cable on the downrigger whereas the Fish Hawk can use any downrigger cable; even the stealthy superlines and mono that some anglers prefer. Moor Electronics, Cannon and Kell Labs all have units that require the coated cable.
Why are speed-and-temp units so useful for trolling? For one, many species of fish, including salmon, brown trout, lake trout, steelhead and (to a lesser extent) walleyes have distinct preferences for a certain range of temperatures. By finding that temperature with the probe, anglers can concentrate their lures for their targeted species at that depth. For instance, captains have found that Great Lakes brown trout like water temperature between 49 and 54 degrees. In the summer, the surface temperature might be 70 degrees, while 54-degree water is 50 feet down. By setting lines along the kind of vertical structure that attracts browns, and 50 feet down, the anglers have greatly increased their chances for putting lures in front of browns. Another example: Great Lakes captains have compared notes and found that their biggest king salmon are caught in water temperature from 39 to 43 degrees. By focusing their spread at depths where this water temperature exists, they know they are upping the odds of hooking into bigger fish.
Trollers also like to know how subsurface currents are affecting their lures set well below the surface, and speed-and-temp probes do this effectively, too. Many newcomers to trolling the Great Lakes don’t realize that subsurface currents might be pushing against or behind their lures. When they come against a lure, currents might cause that lure to wobble too fast and even “burn out.” When a current is following a lure, it can cause it to just dangle and not wobble much at all.
With its paddle wheel down at the downrigger ball, a speed probe relays this important information to the angler. When trolling against a subsurface current, the angler must slow his boat way down to keep the lure working at optimal speed; when trolling with a current, the angler must speed up to get the lures down there to act properly. Knowing what the currents are doing at depth is nearly impossible without a speed probe.
Sports show season begins in January, with lots of retailers offering good deals on lots of different things. It’s a great time to shop for a speed-n-temp probe, perhaps the best new piece of electronics you can mount on your boat to help you catch more fish.