Much in the same way boating has been improved through the use of modern, digital technology so too has fishing. Advanced technologies, like Yamaha’s Command Link Plus® digital engine monitoring and operating systems have revolutionized the way operator and engines interface. Improvements in the amount and quality of the data available through the gauge package combined with electronic controls result in improved vessel operation, enhanced fuel efficiency and safety. Similarly, improvements in navigational and fishing electronics can make fishing more productive and enjoyable, and also help reduce fuel expenditures. Just like the GPS in your car, the GPS chart plotter in your boat can be used to plan your fishing day so you can fish more and burn less.
Let’s look at a two different fishing trips we took last year as examples. One was a day of inshore bottom fishing for blackfish off the Mid Atlantic. The planning started the evening before with the on-board chart plotter.
Knowing that blackfish will be found in shallow water early in the fall and then move deeper as the water temperature drops, we decided to concentrate on structure in 30 to 55 feet. Blackfish live and feed around natural hard bottom, old wrecks and manmade reefs, and there are plenty of these spots saved as waypoints in my plotter memory. If you do not have a library of fishing spots there are books, websites and artificial reef reference guides that can help you build one. I selected ten waypoints and plugged them into the route function of the plotter and was done.
When we pulled away from the dock the next day, we navigated directly to the closest waypoint, dropped anchor and started fishing. The action was slow so after an hour we moved to the second waypoint in slightly deeper water, and the action improved. After an hour and a few fish in the cooler, we made one last move to an even deeper piece of structure and the fishing proved excellent. We did not move again for the rest of the day, although there were six more waypoints in the route just in case. When it was time to head home, we punched in the waypoint for the inlet. We ended up burning a minimum of fuel while enjoying a great day on the water.
The second example was an offshore trip for bluefin tuna. The distance to travel was considerably longer, so planning was even more important. We called friends who had been out recently to see where they had caught fish. Knowing that bluefin are not structure dependent, but the tiny sand eels they like to eat are attracted to large sandy high spots on the ocean bottom, we powered up the chart plotter and zoomed to the general area where the fish had been caught. Then we started saving all the nearby sand lumps on the chart as waypoints.
The next day we made the 48 mile run offshore to the initial lump and found no bait with the fish finder, so we moved from one high spot to another in an expanding radius around the first until five miles and four spots later the sonar screen lit up with a cloud of sand eels. Within 30 minutes, we hooked the first of several nice tuna. By planning our search pattern before we ever left the dock, we were able to do a more efficient job of locating the same baitfish the tuna were looking for and we burned less fuel doing it. The savings realized were significant.
Using navigational and fish finding sonar is not hard or time consuming, and the best part of it is a lot of the newer gear is easier to use than ever. Laying in a route on the newest touch screen units requires little more than putting your finger on the spot where you want to go, pressing the save button and then going on to the next spot until you have them laid out in a string. Start doing a better job of planning your fishing days, and you’ll be catching more and burning less in no time.