Fish Outside The Box

Satellite Imagery Unlocks the Mysteries Associated with Unfamiliar Shallows

FSF Staff March 16, 2012

Recent developments with essential tackle, gear and accessories have propelled anglers to impressive catches never before thought possible. And while technology certainly gives 21st Century anglers the upper hand, it’s not only intuitive multi-function displays and CNC machined reels that tip the odds in our favor. The most successful anglers go above and beyond typical preparations to come out on top by doing their homework well before they ever leave the dock. Spend some time fishing the Internet and you’ll know why.

fish-outside-the-box1

1 of 4

Photo: FSF MAG

While you likely know your local waters like the back of your hand, when investigating unfamiliar territory it’s understandable if you stumble around like a blind squirrel. Florida simply has too much water for you to know it all. This is exactly where online satellite imagery helps unfold the mysteries.

Although you might argue that the Internet is ruining the world and because of free satellite imagery there’s now a pack of boats on your secret spot, you need to face the facts. Your spot wasn’t really that much of a secret.

Unfamiliar territory is just that, and the thought of dragging your prop across a shallow flat or bouncing off an oyster bar might be enough to keep you from leaving your comfort zone. But aren’t you tired of fishing the same old spots? If you haven’t already started, it’s really time you utilize the Internet to increase your score. Everything you need to plan a successful road trip and locate distant hot spots is right at your fingertips…and it’s all free!

More advantageous than the smoothest drag system or lightest rod, the World Wide Web is a powerful tool that can help uncover new fishing spots and dramatically increase our success. With rising fuel costs and free time at a premium, it simply makes good sense to familiarize yourself with the river, bay or any unfamiliar inshore waterway you intend to visit and fish. There are no gimmicks here and don’t think for one second that you’ll have to spend sleepless nights scouring online forums waiting for someone to let the cat out of the bag. With help from big brother, Google Maps (maps.google.com) and Google Earth (earth.google.com) provide anglers unparalleled aerial views of fertile inshore and near-shore venues. Although you might argue that the Internet is ruining the world and because of free satellite imagery there’s now a pack of boats on your secret spot, you need to face the facts. Your spot wasn’t really that much of a secret.

Google Maps is a web-based mapping service that provides detailed aerial views of most major areas of the state. Easy to implement overlays include real-time weather and traffic patterns. Google Earth is similar, but a more powerful interactive program that you must download to your computer. Providing greater detail and resolution, along with a three-dimensional perspective, Google Earth shares detailed images from satellites and aerial photography. With either application, adventurous anglers looking to fish outside their comfort zone can visit and thoroughly investigate any river, bay or flat anywhere on earth via nothing more than a mouse and keyboard.

For inshore anglers, the truth is that these free tools reveal detailed structures like current-swept points, mangrove shorelines, spoil islands, passes, creek mouths, docks, channel edges, bridges, healthy grass beds and so much more. You’ll also be able to scope out nearby access roads and parking lots, boat ramps and marinas. You name it and it is all available for you to see well before you hit the road.

While Google’s images can certainly help make your time on the water more effective, they aren’t the end all answer. The amount of underwater structure and detail revealed will vary greatly depending on the region and precise depth of water. You will be able to see darker colored water, which likely indicates deeper holes or depressions, but this is something you’ll have to relate to and confirm with what you actually see and experience on the water.

To properly investigate an unfamiliar area, slowly zoom in to where you anticipate launching and ultimately fishing. Remember that you can search out promising locations and take note of the exact latitudes and longitudes. Simply input the coordinates into your chartplotter and create detailed waypoints and routes. While the images and information provided by Google are fairly accurate, you’ll want to confirm that the lat/lon numbers match that of what you see on your chartplotter. Of course, nothing is as reliable as a NOAA paper chart. As a rule, only use online satellite imagery as an exploratory tool. The imagery is not intended for navigational purposes so do not rely on it for such purposes.

An often overlooked feature of Google Earth is its image history tool. If you look toward the lower left corner of your Google Earth application screen you will see a small tab that reveals image date. If you click on the image you will be able to scroll through several years of images. While quality decreases the further back in time you go, compare some of the latest images and be sure to look at the dates. This will enable you to compare seasonal changes in water level, where you’ll likely notice sandbars and channel edges meander from relentless currents and Mother Nature’s wrath. Don’t loose sight of the fact that the images aren’t real time and what you see on the computer may not be exactly what you encounter in the wild. Again, do not rely on these images for safe navigation.

Nowadays many tournament anglers pre fish from the comfort of their couch or office chair. And with modern smartphones and portable tablets offering Internet access on the fly, you can even view satellite imagery in the field. Even though technology is incredibly advantageous in its ability to help anglers find fishy water, you’ll still need to prepare properly and execute accordingly. As always, a convincing presentation is still required to entice game fish to strike. Whether you’re scouting for next weekend’s tournament or selecting a family vacation destination that features fertile flats within walking distance, let Google help point you in the right direction.

Join the Discussion