Don’t Step Away From the Screen — Bring it With You
By Brandon Austin
Older folks have wrung their hands about the younger generation’s love of entertainment since the advent of books. First, kids spent too much time reading, then they spent too much time listening to the radio, watching TV or with their eyes glued to their smartphones.
I try not to buy into the same type of hysteria today, that smartphones turning our kids into zombies. Previous generations have turned out fine, and the next generation will, too. However, I can’t deny that we’re experiencing something never seen before. Not only do kids spend hours staring at screens for entertainment, but also for socializing. As technology gets more immersive and the remote economy grows, it’s also where they will do much of their work.
At least in the days when TV ruled, you still had to go outside to play with friends. Today’s generation can work, play and socialize without ever having to get up from their chair.
I can’t help but wonder if that’s part of what’s driving the decline in fishing. More than 35 million Americans go fishing annually, but that number dwindles each year. Youth and young adults make up a declining portion of those enjoying the outdoors. In 2011, 11 percent of anglers were 24 or younger, according to statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. Department of the Interior. By 2016, that percentage had fallen to 9 percent.
As youth embrace an increasingly connected world that provides instant gratification at every turn and encourages interaction 24 hours a day, the solitude that often comes with outdoor activities like fishing has the potential to be lost forever. To save the recreational fishing industry, we have to make fishing fun again. We have to smooth out the steep learning curve of fishing and motivate young anglers to put time into learning a valuable life skill.
That led me to an idea: What if, rather than getting kids off their screens to enjoy the outdoors, their screens could supplement outdoor activities like fishing? It worked wonders for Pokemon Go, so what if they could do something useful with their phones instead of just playing games?
The solution was GoFish Cam. It’s a portable, waterproof, high definition camera that brings forth the action that has been hidden beneath the waves for centuries. Not only can you record your catch, but you can stream it to your phone, easily edit videos and upload to social sharing platforms to get those all-important likes.
Fishing is a pastime that requires patience and time to gain real skill. Learning a new species is like learning a language. There are so many things to understand about how conditions impact the behavior of the fish that truly understanding them can take years. Even the oldest, most experienced fishermen still learn something new on each trip.
To the right kind of person, nothing could be more satisfying than mastering this craft. But to new anglers who haven’t felt the rush of the perfect catch, it’s simply several hours of staring at the top of some water.
As they say, modern problems require modern solutions. We can’t change the way people are or eliminate technology — that’s too big of a task. Even if we could, it would be bad for our productivity and our future. What we can change is the nature of fishing. The missing piece is feedback. The invention of fish finders was the first step, but they fall far short of the goal of making fishing accessible. People need to see and understand what’s going on under the water so they can learn faster, have more fun, catch more fish and show their achievement to the world. This is how we truly bring recreational fishing into the 21st century.
I love so much about fishing. My happy place is a sunny Saturday afternoon on Lake Travis landing a boatload of striped bass. The thrill of the fight. The calm of the water. That feeling when you figure out what works and everything starts to click. However, I have to balance that with being an entrepreneur, which requires spending lots of time online connecting with customers, partners and vendors. These days, my favorite thing about fishing is that it is my time to disconnect — no phone calls, no emails, no social media — just me and the open sky, remembering what it’s like to truly live.
But I have to accept that this old-fashioned notion won’t be around for much longer. Soon, people entering adulthood will have never lived in a world where they didn’t have a smartphone in their pocket. Asking them to set it down for a few hours will be like asking them to remove a limb. It’s better to meet them where they are — and maybe us old-timers can learn a little something about the wonders of technology while we’re at it.
Brandon Austin is an avid fisherman and co-founder and CEO of Austin, Texas-based GoFish Cam, a wireless high-definition underwater fishing camera attaches to your fishing line and records action-packed footage of every catch. Learn more at https://gofishcam.com/.