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CYBURBIA

Fishin' Without the Delights of Fishing

June 09, 1995|DAVID COLKER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"G one Fishin" can be better than real life!

The creators of the CD-ROM "Gone Fishin' " have come up with a rather clever lake fishing simulation game. Unfortunately, judging by the manual that comes with this just-released DOS program, they've also lost their grip on real life.

We're confident you'll get so involved computer fishing you'll think you're right out in the Bay of Quinte doing the real thing. . . . Trips to distant fishing holes, seemingly unreachable during the normal grind of life, are a mouse click away, as soon as your monitor warms up and the hard drive starts spinning.

Yes, now you can enjoy all the advantages of fishing, without that pesky boat ride on clear water, unpredictable sky above and unsettling sense of peace and quiet that comes with being out on a lake in the early morning. I'm no fisherman, but in a situation like that, I'm sure I would be distraught at the absence of my warmed up monitor and spinning hard drive.

So, let's go "digital fresh water fishing" instead! This CD-ROM, developed by the Canadian company Amtex that is best known for its pinball computer games, is set in southeastern Ontario on the 60-mile long Bay of Quinte (pronounced "kwin-tee"). You start by choosing the time of year you'll be going fishing, as well as the time of day and weather conditions. Then you stop at the rustic Fishing Lodge, shown on the shore of the lake.

Before you set out onto the Bay, you might want to trade tall tales with the old-timer at the lodge.

The white-bearded "old-timer" is the kind of person you pray will not get the seat next to you on a transcontinental flight. Click on him to get a story or two (which are printed as text on your screen), and you will be more than ready to head out onto the bay.

But you have one more stop to make first--you click on the door of the adjacent Bait Shop. Inside, it's like a setting for "Twin Peaks" with its strange-looking attendant and all sorts of diabolical-looking lures in the case. With more mouse clicks, you get your tackle.

Finally, out on the water, "Gone Fishin' " really does get interesting.

Most of the screen is taken up with a depiction of the lake, which changes depending on the choices you made concerning time of day and weather. You are pictured as a man (there is no choice of gender, here) kneeling on the bow of a small boat, rod and reel in hand.

At the bottom of the screen is sonar readout that gives you a general idea of fish activity in your "casting zone." There is also a depth finder and a boat control dial that can be used to make small changes in your position. Finally, there is a casting control you use to regulate your cast and indicators showing lure depth and line speed and tension.

You choose a lure and then use the mouse to cast. Hold down the mouse buttons, drag it backward to get the rod into position and then push the mouse forward quickly while letting go of the buttons to allow the line to fly over the water.

All the while you are doing this, your on-screen fisherman is moving according to your mouse movements to depict the cast. You can see the lure as it flies through the air and hits the water with a small splash.

Then it's time to reel in the line, watching the controls so you keep the lure at an appropriate speed and depth. If a fish bites, the tension on the line suddenly increases and the lure heads back out. Using the mouse, you pull backward to set the hook and then carefully reel in your prize.

These moves are not hard to master. After a bit, and with the game set on the easiest setting, I was able to nab a fish with just about every other cast. The size of these sunfish, bass and perch were so small, however, that as I landed them, the unidentified host of the CD-ROM gave a little chuckle or offered a bit of fish humor, such as, "I've seen bigger minnows."

Embarrassed, I released them all back into the lake.

Finally, after about an hour, I managed to land a two-pound walleye, at which point the host said, "That's a honey."

The technical work on this CD-ROM is marvelous. The movement of the rod and reel, casting mechanism and use of sound effects are all quite impressive.

The big question is, why? Why would anyone who enjoys fishing (and presumably the great outdoors) be interested in "Gone Fishin' " except as a novelty item? It does teach you a bit about the art of casting, but this simulation is so removed from the charms and real-life mechanics of fishing, that it soon grows tedious.

Some parts of real life just weren't meant for the computer screen.

May you never fall out of your boat, get your line tangled, or find that the only things biting are the mosquitoes. We wish you many thrilling fishing excursions, all from the comfort of your office or home.

That's OK, I'll take my chances, even if it sometimes means falling out of the boat.

* Cyburbia's Internet address is: Colker@news.latimes.com.

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