How to Use a Hand-Held GPS for Fishing Tips and Tricks

ow to Use a Hand-Held GPS for Fishing Tips and TricksThe Global Positioning System (GPS) is a great help to outdoor pursuits of all kinds, but perhaps more significantly for fishing. Because the terrain of your favorite fishing spot is hidden from you under the water, knowing exactly where you are is not always easy. While marine charts and depth finders can be of some help, a hand-held GPS works in any setting and in any conditions to help you find your way out to the fishing hole and back again. Learn the tips and tricks that make GPS one of the must-have tools in your tackle box.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • GPS
  • Fishing gear
  • Destination
Step 1
Pick your GPS. The device should be waterproof and durable, as it will be knocked around in your fishing tackle box. It must have a lot of memory for waypoints. A marine model GPS has the benefit of coming pre-loaded with marine maps, which will show depths and other features of concern for boaters, though this may be of less help when fishing on smaller bodies of water. Nevertheless, a GPS that can display maps (a marine GPS can also display land maps) will help you find your way even before you get to the water.
Step 2
Practice with your hand-held GPS before you hit the water. The first time you turn it on, be sure you have a clear view of the sky and be patient--the first boot will take a little longer than subsequent starts. Take a walk with the device, and practice marking waypoints (a waypoint is any location of significance), and then following the GPS directions to return to them. The manual for your device will describe how to mark waypoints, and how to find them later. This is the primary GPS function that you will use on your fishing excursion. Note also how the device shows your speed as you move. This feature will come in handy for monitoring trolling speed.
Step 3
Prepare for your fishing trip by creating waypoints for locations you want to fish. Enter coordinates into your device from maps, articles or from local experts. United States Geological Survey (USGS) maps have tools along each side for determining the coordinates of an outlet or deep spot. These coordinates can then be entered into the hand-held GPS. When you ask for advice at a tackle shop, you can request coordinates for hot spots, though some fishers like to keep their favorite fishing holes secret.
Step 4
Use your GPS on the water to record key locations. Start by marking a waypoint at your launch point, so you can find your way home easily, especially in foggy conditions. Mark underwater features and fish whenever you see them. GPS devices usually have a choice of icons, so that you can quickly recall what a specific waypoint is marking. Every single time you see a fish, or get a strike, you should mark a waypoint. This is the beginning of a good patterning system for mastering a body of water. Combine this information with time of day, trolling speeds, bait and rig, and other information that might affect future success.
Step 5
Share what you've learned. While there may be some spots you want to keep secret, sharing coordinates builds community. If you fish an unfamiliar spot while on vacation and have some success, share your waypoints with the local shops in return for the advice they've given you.

Tips & Warnings

Keep your GPS on a lanyard: These devices don't float.
Keep a spare set of batteries for your hand-held GPS in your tackle box.
Know how to navigate without a GPS, in case of equipment failure.

Article Written By David Maddalena

David Maddalena has been writing since 1986. He writes for the website (low) tech writer, and his work has appeared in "American Surveyor." Maddalena holds a Master of Arts degree from Fuller Theological Seminary.

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