Last week, the Wisconsin DNR provided an opportunity for public input through its annual spring hearings, and the topic of a statewide ban on “live scopes” was introduced. So, although I kneel and pray each week to be able to discuss some other topic, we’ll once again wade through the controversial waters of forward-facing sonar. Hopefully, I can offer insight to both sides of the argument.

In the short amount of time this has been reported (the public input period was April 10-13), the topic of a possible FFS ban has been heated. Online forums are jammed full with everything from applause for the action to comments on legality. Most think such a ban will never happen. Others commonly dismiss FFS as less than a guarantee.

It’s important to point out what, I assume, is the primary reason behind introducing the idea of a ban. One of the jobs of game and fish managers, like the Wisconsin DNR, is to maintain healthy fish stocks. They do so through sampling, combatting habitat challenges, determining seasons and bag limits, and, often, regulating fishing gear.

For instance, snagging is usually illegal, and possessing the gear to do so is too. The number of rods an angler can use is often regulated. Traps, nets and seines are outlawed.

All is for one primary reason: allowing the public to utilize these types of fishing methods could be catastrophic to the resource. They’re simply too efficient.

Now, I understand that the use of FFS is far from seining out a pond. However, the primary reason such a ban is being considered likely stems from a parallel. The DNR believes the use of such methods could be catastrophic to the public resource.

Sure, forward-facing sonar like LiveScope doesn’t guarantee you’ll catch fish. But, as one witty forum poster noted, “if it doesn’t guarantee you’ll catch fish, you’re not very good at catching fish.”

Regardless, new electronic technology is being viewed as a threat, for the first time in memory.

Here, I think it’s important to point out how little impact most anglers feel they have on a resource. We’re out there on the lake, and see just a few boats fishing. From what we can tell, there are probably thousands of fish that never even see a lure, or appear on a sonar screen, right?

Unfortunately not. It would baffle most anglers to learn how much pressure fish receive. Studies on tournament-caught bass reveal that over half of the fish in many large reservoirs are caught every year at least once. Catch-tag-release efforts have proven that, in some cases, just a few anglers could successfully fish out small waters.

The saving grace of our particular sport, of course, is the acceptance of catch and release. Because we throw nearly all the fish back, technology takes a back seat to other variables that can harm a fishery. Right?

Again, maybe not. First off, it’s legal to catch and keep bass and, in some locales, lots of anglers do. Secondly, other factors contribute to released fish dying, from poor handling to barotrauma. That’s one – the release of deep-caught bass that can no longer regulate their swim bladder – that has recived little scrutiny, but should.

The biggest considerations of impact are those on other fish species. Forward-facing sonar is deadly on crappies. And I mean deadly, as many or most of these fish are kept by anglers. The technology is also catastrophic to deep-water fish caught ice fishing, of many species. Both are real considerations in Wisconsin.

Those opposed to any type of ban may feel such a move infringes on their rights, or is unenforceable. However, we do leave the determinations of these things in the hands of the professionals. We can’t do things like hunt with laser scopes or fish with explosives. If technology or the effectiveness of such was left unlimited, the only move managers could make would be to curtail or eliminate fishing seasons or bag limits. Seems like a poor tradeoff.

Enforcing a FFS ban would be tough, no doubt, if not impossible. About the only effective way to enforce would be to prohibit anglers from having the equipment on board, specifically mounted or portable transducers. Possible? Maybe. Other items are banned from boats, and the agencies in charge of checking up on such can be quite thorough. Much depends on manpower.

One more thing to point out, which may ultimately prove this proposal has no teeth: the proposed Wisconsin rule actually calls for input on banning the use of live scopes and similar 360-degree imaging electronics.

This really shows how out-of-touch the governing body is. First off, LiveScope is a trademarked name of a type of forward-facing sonar. There are no such things as “live scopes”.

Secondly, 360-degree imaging electronics, likely referring to Humminbird’s 360 product, have nothing to do with forward-facing sonar or the technology that produces real-time fishing capabilities. Anyone who knows anything about the newest gear can tell you this is an apples to organs comparison in terms of resource impact.

These factors will limit any rule-making capabilities. Not to mention the big pockets of the electronics companies, sure to influence any court room scenario.

(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)