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Using An “Eye In The Sky” For More ‘Eyes From The Lake

Remember all the uproar about electronic fish finders when Lowrance came out with the Green Box flasher?

“Fishing will be too easy!” was the cry, followed by “All the fish will be caught!”

Well, thanks to many anglers releasing much of their catch plus the fact that seeing fish doesn’t automatically mean you’ll catch them, the electronic depletion of gamefish in North America never took place.

The outcry has pretty much ceased, but we have to wonder what the “techno-phobes” would think about not just using sonar to find fish – but satellites in outer space!

We are, of course, talking about the electronic units that use Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) technology. The newer units use electronic maps on the screen! Used in conjunction with traditional contour maps, GPS is one of the best tools for finding fish and finding them fast.

The contour map has been the standard tool for locating fishing spots for a long time. Not only are they affordable, they’re also handy for taking into bait shops where more often than not, someone will be willing to mark the current hot spots. You’ll make some simple notes of shoreline landmarks – these are needed to help locate points and underwater flats where the fish have been biting. Often there will be local names for different pieces of structure that have traditionally held fish.

But contour maps have their limitations. Suppose a helpful local angler tells you the fish have been hot on Old Joe’s Point, marks it on the map, and tells you the best way to find it is to look for a group of trees that have been blown down. You get in your boat and head for Old Joe’s, but half way down the lake–sooner than you thought–you see a bunch of blown down trees on point, then notice the next point has a couple of blown down trees, too. You’re just not too sure which one is Old Joe’s.

Enter a unit like the Lowrance Global Map 2000 or the hand held Global Map Sport. These are amazing electronic maps, showing an overall background map for any place in the country – and showing your boat as a moving cursor on it. With the new IMS Smart Cartridges and a Map Link Cartridge Reader you can see even greater detail. Your GPS becomes a map that will display Old Joe’s Point and how close you are to it. Not only will this type of unit help you find the hot spot quickly, it will also help you mark it so you can return the next day or the next year. That sort of assistance is valuable whether you’re in a tournament or just want to spend more of your precious recreation time on the water catching fish instead of just fishing.

While the price of these electronic marvels continues to decrease, they’re still fairly expensive. But what many folks don’t realize is that their use isn’t limited to the boat. You can also use them to find the lake itself. Anglers who spend a good amount of time on the road exploring new waters can install a unit like the Global Map Sport right in their car. Lay this small portable unit on the dash and plug it into a cigarette lighter. Since the Lowrance (and Eagle) units have Rockwell’s 5 channel receiver, the satellite signals are easily tracked through the windshield.

With the appropriate IMS SmartMap cartridge, you’ll be able to see what road you’re on as well as how far you are from the next road and your eventual destination. You may never have to ask for directions again!

While the GPS system is good right now, it promises to get better. To keep Middle Eastern terrorists from ordering a GPS unit from a Bass Pro Shops catalog and using it for a missile guidance system, the U.S. government has purposely scrambled the satellite signal – it affects all brands of GPS units. While a good unit can still get you to within 50 feet of a waypoint, the scrambling, called “selective availability” prohibits absolute accuracy. This inaccuracy will be especial evident when sitting still. The unit will indicate movement even though the receiver is stationary. The good news is, once you start moving the GPS system can adjust for the scrambling and give you nice smooth plot trails.


Recently the government has made two announcements concerning GPS. First, that GPS will always be available for commercial use (in the past it could have been shut off without notice). Second, selective availability will end in the next 3 to 5 years. When that happens, look for the accuracy of these units to be so exact, you’ll not only be able to record the edge of a flat, you’ll be able to record and find a patch of pebbles that holds fish on the flat’s edge.

There are other instances when GPS mapping is handy. On large bodies of water you will always be able to see where you boat is in relationship to land – even if you can’t see shore. This is especially nice on foggy or rainy days. How about if you fish the Great Lakes and want to know where the Canadian border is? The line is clearly displayed on the screen. What about navigating through an island obstacle course or through a confusing backwater area? Since the mapping units show your current boat position overlaid on a background map, it’s like looking down on your boat from an airplane.

Has the technology gone too far? We think not. Just remember that as you use technology to make you a better angler, realize that walleyes (and all fish) are limited resources – and should be treated as such. Take home only what you will eat, let the neighbors fend for themselves.

The fun of walleye fishing is catching fish and to catch walleye you have to find them. Match up a GPS mapping unit and a contour map on your next trip – the results may be out of this world.

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