Satellite-Based Fishing Forecasts

Whether it’s the latest and greatest high-speed reel, freshest forage, fastest boat or flashiest teaser, it is no secret offshore anglers are constantly looking for a competitive edge. While high-tech gear is advantageous, a tight-knit group of educated and technology-oriented anglers are reaping the benefits of scientific computer models based on high-resolution satellite imagery. With this wealth of information now available at our fingertips, we wanted to learn more about the future of our favorite pastime and how technology can help improve our fish-to-gallon ratio. As the leading authority of real-time satellite forecasting analyses, we turned to Mitchell Roffer of Roffer’s Oceanic Fishing Forecast Service.


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Forecasts aren’t based on dock rumors. We’re talking high-resolution satellite images for ultimate insight. Charts: ROFFS Photo: Steve Dougherty

FSF: How did the concept of satellite-based fishing forecasts originally come to fruition?
ROFFS™: While attending the University of Miami for my Ph.D. and doctorate, I worked on a project funded by NASA to study the distribution of game fish by use of satellite oceanography. While performing fieldwork studies in the late 70s and early 80s there seemed to be a huge increase in interest as to why game fish change location from one day to the next and why annual variations exist in terms of populations. Using satellite data we were fortunate to gain a wealth of information. Soon thereafter, I started receiving calls from the same captains that helped me collect data. They mentioned they were having trouble finding healthy populations of game fish. Over the years I eventually found myself helping out my friends more than the university. I incorporated ROFFS™ in 1987, and the rest is history.

The problem for fishermen is that desirable ocean conditions rarely stay in the same place for a long duration. We often see significant changes in less than 12-hours.

FSF: When it comes to satellite-based fishing forecasts, what variables are taken into consideration?
ROFFS™: Our analyses provide a wide gamut of critical information including 20 different variables. With raw data from 9 infrared satellites and 3 ocean color satellites, we have a wealth of information at our fingertips. While there are numerous subscription-based websites that provide static sea surface temperature, this factor is just one of many indications as to the preferred habitat of game fish. ROFFS™ looks at water temperature, water visibility, clarity, color, as well as the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water. We also determine the food indexes of a general area by providing measures of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is visible in phytoplankton, which are eaten by zooplankton, which are eaten by forage fish that are in turn hunted by prized pelagics.

FSF: It seems that the variables are related to finding concentrations of fish. True?
ROFFS™: Absolutely. To visualize water temperature we look at infrared satellites. Currents have their own signature temperature, so we are able to follow and map currents and pinpoint filaments of blue water by studying surface temperatures. Anglers often talk about rips, edges and color breaks. Scientifically these are known as convergence zones and we can use satellite data to monitor ocean currents to see where there’s favorable conditions for baitfish to accumulate. We locate stable and persistent convergence zones over quality bottom features and create in-depth descriptions and analyses of what’s happening oceanographically. We also determine where the conditions have been favorable and if they will remain favorable for the next 24-hours.

FSF: Does the weather influence your ability to analyze satellite imagery?
ROFFS™: Unfortunately, clouds absorb infrared energy so cloud coverage blocks our view of the ocean. However, if the clouds are moving we can patch in the clear spots or remove the clouds to create a mosaic that allows us to see the area’s ocean conditions. We also run into problems with moisture, fog, haze, fires on land, etc. It definitely gets a bit challenging when it comes time to interpret the data.

FSF: How often do you receive updated satellite imagery?
ROFFS™: We receive satellite information every 90-minutes. Our team of experts evaluate the oceanographic conditions using their knowledge of ocean currents and their variability in relation to the catchability of game fish. The problem for fishermen is that desirable ocean features rarely stay in the same place for long. We often see significant changes every 12-hours. Some favorable conditions may move 30 miles in a single day, while others remain unchanged over a few days. We keep this in mind when we send out a finalized analysis to our subscribers or post the analyses on our website.

So there you have it. A quick snapshot into satellite-based computer fishing forecasts, which analyze historical and current data for tactical and strategical fishing predictions. Considering all of the time, money and effort invested in each offshore trip, it makes sense that for only a few dollars a month you should use all of the available tools and services to optimize your time over the horizon. While ROFFS™ is an excellent option, ultimately it’s your decision which subscription service best suits your fishing needs. While having an informative fishing forecast at your fingertips doesn’t guarantee success, it is certainly advantageous.

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