Bringing Search and Location Technology to Fishing
If you've perused the online message boards, combed through the guide books, and looked at the state-issued fishing guides, you've probably had some success at finding good fishing spots. This approach does take time, however, and it's hit-and-miss. Detailed location information, searchable databases, and maps and directions enabled with GPS technology are naturals for this type of pursuit. Gogal Publishing, also known as the "Ultimate Fishing Maps" company, based in Warrington, Pennsylvania, has put these elements together in fishing apps for the states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, with more states in development, according to company president, Michael Gogal.
The GPS Fishing Guide apps present a simple, no-frills, mostly text based interface. At the opening screen, you may select to search from your current location (as determined automatically by GPS), or a different city. Once your location is established, you are presented with 10 options, including fishing spots you've marked as favorites, all fishing waters, trout and bass fishing categories, other fish species categories, and searches for lakes and river and stream boat launches.
Also included are fish hatchery locations and details, and a special section on fishing conservation and protection (including an environmental protection hotline, invasive species alert, and more).
Well-Organized Information at Your Fingertips
As an example of how the app works, selecting the trout fishing category leads to seven sub-categories, all of which are important for the trout fisherman. In the Pennsylvania version of the app, these include stocked waters, steelhead waters, class A waters, wilderness, and special regulation. You may also use keywords to search all trout waters.
Selecting "wilderness trout waters" leads to another text list of results, including the name of the stream, town, state, and county, and distance from your location (determined by the GPS and mapping technology). As an example, selecting Deep Run in Carbon County, PA, provides me with a notice that I can't drive directly to the spot (that's a great positive indicator for me). The location information sections usually point you to the best parking area. You are also presented with a thumbnail map of the site, and additional information, such as fish species at the location, all fishing regulations, open season dates and times of day.
If you decide to fish the location, simply touch the map button for the familiar smartphone map format. This will set the exact fishing location as your end point in the phone's Google Maps app, and you plug in your current address for turn-by-turn directions and distances. This works well, but one slight downside is that the app kicks you completely over to the Maps app, and if you want to get back to the app, you must bounce to the home screen, then back to the Fish GPS app.
Impressions and Possible Improvements
Overall, the Fish PA and Fish NJ GPS Guide apps are impressive and very useful compilations for the fisherman. It's great also to be able to do broad searches across all of the data - something the printed guides can't match. The app gets me onto better water, faster, and with more knowledge about what I'll encounter. By the way, these apps are available for the iPad, as well.
My suggestions for improvement to the apps include user tips sections for each location, so we fishermen can submit and share tips about parking, do's and don'ts for the location, flies that work well, etc. The publisher could vet these contributions to make sure they are useful, accurate, and not redundant. Also great would be user-submitted (and publisher-vetted) photo sections for each location. Otherwise, the apps are very thorough, and I'd feel confident walking out the door with just my fishing gear and smartphone with the app installed for a day of great fishing.