Lights, Action … Underwater Cameras! (Part 2)

In this Part 2 article, Gord Pyzer and JP Bushey further explain the benefits of using an underwater camera while ice fishing!

Provided By: Gord Pyzer on


If you recall in last week's blog I interviewed Ontario ice angler extraordinaire, JP Bushey, as he explained how he uses an inexpensive underwater camera to take his ice fishing to an entirely new level.  


You can do the same thing.


I also promised to share with you more of Bushey's underwater observations, and in particular, some of the lessons the fish have taught him.

"It’s amazing how subtle adjustments to your lure depth can trigger fish to bite," Bushey says.  "Walleye and big perch, in particular, seem to have an upper limit in terms of how far they will move to feed.  It varies from day to day, and sometimes, from hour to hour.  If you have your lure up too high, or down too low, they’ll put on the brakes.  Sometimes, raising or lowering your bait an inch is all that it takes to get the fish to bite. It is surgical-level detail that you can gain only by using a camera. 

"I missed a really nice walleye video opportunity on Georgian Bay last week that I’m still kicking myself about.  I was fishing in the middle of a freshwater clam bed in 30 feet of water, and I watched the walleye circle my Williams Ice Jig tipped with a minnow tail.  It was puffing up big clouds of mud.  As it came in one more time, I simply raised the spoon up six inches over the dust cloud and let it hang there.  The walleye inhaled it."



According to Bushey, the posture and attitude of big fish is different from that of their smaller brothers and sisters.  Bigger fish, he says, don't "monkey around". Even when they’re not overly aggressive, they still tend to cruise in and whack your bait as soon as they see it.  Watching them on his underwater camera, Bushey says they typically flare their gills and suck in your lure, without nibbling, testing or doing anything else. 

"The grace and mobility of feeding fish is something else that is amazing," Bushey says.  "Did you know, for example, that fish can stay at the same level as your bait simply by hovering up or down while staying parallel with the bottom?  They don’t have to nose up or nose down to change levels as I always thought they did.  A 26-inch walleye can go into elevator mode and slide up and down in the water like it is on greased ball bearings.  It is fascinating to watch them.  In fact, the arcs you often see on your sonar screen are fish chasing your lure this way."

We often hear anglers talk about the importance of firing up a school of fish and getting them excited.  With an underwater camera sitting on the ice beside you, Bushey says you can watch it happen.

"When you hook a fish," he says, "it can motivate the others.  I often watch yellow perch and lake trout follow up one of their hooked buddies.  They're eating any food that it regurgitates.  You can see the perch flaring their gills and darting around excitedly. They’re cleaning up."


But, here is the $64,000 question I wanted to ask.  Does the underwater camera attract fish, spook them or have little impact?


Bushey says there is no clear cut answer, and that it depends on the species and its general activity level.  Yellow perch, for example, are curious and competitive so an underwater camera doesn't bother them at all.   But, Bushey's buddy, John Whyte, has only watched two whitefish ever strike his bait, out of the countless hundreds that he has observed.

"I think curiosity is one of the most underemphasized fish senses," says Bushey.  "Fish are naturally interested in checking out things.  And like little kids, they don’t need to be hungry to put something in their mouths.  I’ve had largemouth bass and pike try to eat my camera.   Lake trout, on the other hand, are scavengers like pike.  They're also one of the most curious fish.  The camera doesn’t seem to affect them at all."

Obviously, water clarity plays a pivotal role in how deep you can probe with an underwater camera, as well as how far in to the distance you can see.  The water in both Georgian Bay and Lake Simcoe, two popular Ontario ice fisheries that Bushey fishes frequently, are both clear, but the former has a touch of colour to it, while Simcoe is generally tap water transparent.  Not surprisingly, when Bushey is fishing the latter lake, he positions the head of his camera as far away from the fish as possible, while still getting clear images.

As for setting up, Bushey says that every time he drills a fresh hole he scans the bottom in a complete 360 degree pan, looking for game fish, as well as minnows, gobies, crustaceans and bottom content.  

"There’s no better way to see what you're fishing over," says Bushey.  "It is critical.  I mean, why drop down a deadbait for pike if you drilled your hole over a thick patch of weeds?  Find an edge or an opening and set up there."

When he actually is fishing, Bushey uses both the straight down-scanning position and 45-degree angle position on his AquaVu Micro5 and Micro Plus DVR cameras. 

"The 45-degree angle is nice," he says, "because I still get that bird’s eye view, but I’m also getting a lateral perspective as well.  It’s a super wide view and the way I fish 90-percent of the time.  I adjust my distance up from the bottom as high as possible, while still seeing clearly.  The higher up I raise the camera, the bigger the overall area that I can view. When I drop it down closer to the bottom, on the other hand, I view less ground but the details jump out.  It is really simple." 


So, what are you waiting for with almost half the ice fishing season still remaining?  Lights, action, underwater camera.




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