GPS and fishing

Posted on January 08, 192001 at 11:24:14:

GPS and Fishing

The use of GPS (global positioning system) among members of the boating community is an obvious enhancement to traditional means of navigation. The GPS is an invaluable tool for navigating in low visibility, marking hazardous or desirable bottom structure, and following specified routes. Did you know that GPS can be equally as useful for the terrestrial navigator desiring to reach new fishing areas? I will describe a few scenarios for you.

If trying to reach the headwaters of a brook or remote beaver flowage many of us are guilty of finding where a brook crosses the road and then hiking the length to the desired area. Following the brook may allow for the exploration of new areas but if your ultimate goal is to reach the headwaters you may be spending much more time walking the meandering brook than actually fishing. Try this. Using a topographical map locate the particular body of water that you wish to fish. Enter the coordinates from the map to your GPS. Also enter the coordinates of a place on a roadway or trail (from map) that is closest to the body of water that you desire to reach. These will show up as waypoints on your GPS. Ride or walk to your trail or roadway waypoint and then go straight to your desired fishing waypoint. This minimizes the bushwhacking necessary to go straight to your desired area. BEWARE : entering coordinates from a map into your GPS is a task that beginners should seek assistance with. The default settings on the GPS often does not match the grid interface or map datum for a particular topo map. This requires the user to customize the GPS settings.

Another scenario that I use often is to carry the GPS with me while fishing a new stretch of river or brook. Whenever I encounter a good looking pool or otherwise productive area I mark it as a waypoint. When I get home I can recall the coordinates of each of the waypoints that I entered into the GPS and mark them on the topo map. This then allows me to look at each productive fishing area in reference to its distance from nearby roads and trails. Again this information is very useful if you desire to cut straight to your fishing area instead of following the entire length of a brook, river or stream. As an example; Near my home I have a small brook that is grossly over fished within half a mile upstream and down of the roadway. About two and a half miles up the brook are a series of pools that contain some magnificent trout. It is a long and treacherous walk from the roadway (which is probably why the fishing is so good) but because of the way the brook meanders it is only about half a mile from a secondary road . This I discovered only after marking the pools as a series of waypoints and then referencing them on a topo map.

Ever tried following a topo map while on logging roads in the north country? It doesn't take long to realize that the constantly changing terrain is not accurately represented on topo maps. If using these roadways or trails to get to a remote pond or fishing area it is easy to think your following something on the topo map when you're really not. This can be frustrating. The first thing that I do is mark my desired route on the topo map along existing roadways or trails. I then transpose the coordinates from the map to the GPS of key features such as intersections, bridges, and any other landmarks that can be visually observed while actually on route. Finally, when I am driving along using my map and find what appears to be my first intersection I can consult the GPS to see if indeed it is the right place to turn. Often times the GPS will tell you that the intersection that you are supposed to turn on is still ahead and the one that you are presently on does not even show up on the topo map!

The above scenarios all integrate the use of a topo map with a GPS. Most all pocket GPSs today offer you a track feature where you can allow the GPS to draw you a map as you travel down roadways in a vehicle. Of course this uses up a significant amount of memory but can be very useful should you choose to drive perimeter roads to create an electronic map. Should you venture inside of the perimeter to fish some new water you will constantly be able to see your position in reference to surrounding roads right on the screen of your GPS without the use of a topo map! This allows you to break off the river and make a shortcut to a nearby road at any time without tracing your steps back.

The benefits of GPS to the angler are far more numerous than mentioned here. Not only can it save you much unnecessary walking but it may save your life or someone else's by showing you the quickest shortest way out in an emergency. Coupled with a communications device of some kind the GPS can be a real safety blanket if traveling into new areas where rescue assistance may be needed. Never use a GPS or any other electronic device to replace a compass. A GPS is a tool to supplement your existing navigation tools and skills not replace them. If not familiar with the GPS get assistance from someone with knowledge of its use or take a class. Start out by using it in areas that you are familiar with until you gain confidence in its strengths and weaknesses. Once you become familiar with the GPS you too will be overwhelmed with its usefulness.

If you have any questions or comments regarding this article or fly fishing in general please feel free to contact me at Northeast Anglers Inc. 207-338-3741 or ( Don't bother asking for the coordinates to the above mentioned trout holes!)

Gary D. Scavette is a registered Maine guide, USCG licensed captain and operates Northeast Anglers Inc.

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