By Bill Monroe
All right all you Pro-Troll trolls – Stick this in your rod holder.
Imagine hunting a tom turkey over a decoy and watching as he draws … ever. so.slowly … closer.
Or maybe you’re bow hunting for elk and get a responding scream to your bugle as the bull silently
slides into sight.
There’s a new tech toy in the tackle shop, one that will spread that kind of adrenalin all over the fleet.
The Garmin Livescope is a different kind of fish-finding sonar, much like the real-time side scanners,
but with a major difference for salmon fishing, etc.
As with side scanners, there’s no delay as the finder’s images slowly pass across a screen.
Unlike side scanners, and also without delay, this sonar shows what’s going on below the boat in the
microsecond before the beep returns from the deep.
Fishing has gone live.
It’s real-time action.
The Livescope has been around for a while and is popular with bass anglers in the east, popular
enough that other companies are reportedly developing their own versions.
Last year, it hooked John Shmilenko, the “Sultan of Sellwood,” who discovered it not only showed fish,
but also could display working lures from a rod positioned in the sled’s bow; and sometimes even a
Passengers in his sled were dutifully amazed and this year he not only installed one his fishing kayak,
but also mounted a large monitor on his sled’s transom so others can watch as well without having to
rock the boat.
Shmilenko, a Pro-Troll convert, found he not only could watch the blade’s slow spin, he could see
salmon approaching his set up.
“It was a game changer,” he said.
After he and his guests landed a respectable 50 or so salmon at Sellwood, the Sultan found himself
more “Snakebit” among the fleet at the head of Multnomah Channel. He could watch fish on his
Livescope, but they usually turned away.
Fortunately, the luck-of-the-draw changed and on Monday, he and a mutual friend, Brent Lackey,
spotted a fish on the screen inspecting his Pro-Troll and spinner/hoochie skirt.
John started videotaping. His goal is to use his phone to film the entire bite on the screen, then turn
the camera to the pulsing rod.
Below is a sequence I pulled from his video (yes, July 4; fish-fireworks!). It’s fuzzy and not as clear as
the screen actually shows, but that’s probably due to a combination of john’s video and my solo
efforts without the help of my 11-year-old grandson.
Fuzzy or not, the image of the fish is clearly identifiable, right down to the dorsal and tail fins.
So, too, are the weight (all the way to the right), the twirling Pro-Troll and, faintly, the spinner (with a
The photo leading the column is the same fish that’s on the screen. But the feet in the “scramble” are
Lackey’s. The monitor is behind John in the lead photo.
I’ve spent some time with him in that fishery the past couple of weeks and can attest to the
Livescope’s remarkable definition and promise.
Garmin’s Web site says the Livescope isn’t meant to replace depth finders and/or side scanners, but
rather augment the information available to anglers.
And indeed it does.
Many times when I was in the boat with John, we clearly saw salmon (one time six passed in the
same school; didn’t know they hang out together in the river. Did you?).
Perhaps by far the most important take-away for anglers is the astounding percentage – about 70
percent John says, verified by what I saw – of salmon that approach the spinner and even follow it for
a distance (the longest I saw was an excruciating four minutes) but then turn away.
That echoes observations of the late Bob Toman, who often live-filmed his lures on Alaska’s Nushagak
River using a submersible camera and cables and reported many and often most just turned away.
That’s not bad news.
“Imagine what must be happening behind all those other spinners on the boat not shown on the
Livescope,” John said.
Indeed. It’s incontrovertible evidence that our lures and baits are getting attention from our targets,
And for sure it’s FUN to watch.
“It takes fishing to a whole new level,” Shmilenko said. “I’m to the point I’d rather watch the fish bite
than catch the fish.”
Stand by for more shots of Brent Lackey’s boots.