How to Use a Handheld GPS for Fishing

How to Use a Handheld GPS for FishingSitting on top of your vehicle dashboard or resting on the center console is a timesaving fishing device---the Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) receiver. If your GPS runs on batteries, it can mark your favorite fishing spots, a timesaver for the next trip to the old fishing hole. Many map providers include water depths for bodies of water and close-to-shore ocean areas. Using this available information is an easy task, if you know how to use and load data on your GPS receiver. You can use special features on your GPS receiver to record important information, including how you arrived at the location on land or sea. You can glean information from friends, articles, and other mapping sources and transfer the locations to your receiver. Just a locational description in an article means you can find the site on your mapping data. Next trip, you'll be heading right for your favorite site.


Difficulty: Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • A waterproof GPS receiver
  • Spare batteries
  • Appropriate base map from your GPS mapping provider
  • Ziplock or other clear, sealable bag
Step 1
Following instructions from the GPS receiver's mapping provider, load the appropriate maps into the receiver's memory. Nautical charts may be available from some mapping providers.

Every GPS receiver has a different method of being connected to a computer. DeLorme has the option of USB or serial connections and transfers data through Topo USA. Garmin and Magellan connect via the serial port, and transfer data with proprietary "Vantage" software. Other brands may use proprietary cords or either USB or serial connections. Refer to the owner's manual for how to connect to the specific receiver to a computer.

Disconnect the GPS from the computer and check that the data are in the device's memory.
Step 2
While preparing to launch your boat or set up a fishing site on the shore, ensure the GPS receiver has a strong signal and accurately shows current location. Zoom in to an appropriate scale. For boating, zoom to screen scale of one-quarter mile or smaller unit. If fishing from a riverbank or fly-fishing, zoom as close as sensible; an 80 to 160 foot onscreen scale is a good target, depending on terrain and size of the water body.
Step 3
Most GPS receivers offer a tracking option, sometimes called "breadcrumbs," to record your movements while the unit is receiving data. Using this feature makes it easy for you to return to the exact spots in the future. Remember to set the recording distance to a number appropriate for usage. On a boat, you may want to set the markers between 50 and 250 feet, depending on the size of the water body. On the ocean, 1/8 to 1 1/4 mile or more may be appropriate, depending on the length of your fishing voyage. On shore or fly-fishing, a breadcrumb every 10 to 25 feet is reasonable.
Step 4
Once found, that perfect fishing spot should be marked using the "bookmark," "favorite" or "waypoint" receiver option. Most receivers allow you to select an icon, record date, latitude, longitude, and name the location. Some receivers allow you to enter comments. Be consistent labeling waypoints and using icons, so the information will be meaningful in the future. The waypoint comment feature can be used to record water depth or underwater features, if desired.
Step 5
Before returning after fishing, end tracking and save the data. Name your trip, and add any comments, weather, conditions, results, or other personally meaningful information. Tracking shows the route used to find that perfect fishing hole, saving time on the next jaunt by providing a direct route.

Tips & Warnings

Between sun and regular usage, assume two usable hours per battery set; bring enough spare batteries to cover the expected length of the trip.
Many receivers have lanyards, a wise accessory.
Most portable GPS receivers are waterproof to nominal depths. Wrapping the unit in a clear plastic bag allows use and provides extra protection. A sealed bag provides emergency buoyancy if the receiver goes overboard.
Avoid using suction cup mounting devices, direct sun and boat movement can cause loss of suction, and both the support and receiver falling---likely into the water.

Article Written By Eric Jay Toll

Eric Jay Toll has been writing since 1970, influenced by his active lifestyle. An outdoorsman, businessman, planner and travel writer, Toll's work appears in travel guides for the Navajo Nation, "TIME" and "Planning" magazines and on various websites. He studied broadcast marketing and management at Southern Illinois University.

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