The Importance of Topographic Information
The Navionics App for Android and iPad is something many anglers and boaters are already completely familiar with. It is actually surprising to us how many anglers do not have a topographic chart.
What does the American Heritage Dictionary think the word "Topography" means? In their words, it is the careful and precise description of a place or region; a graphic representation of surface features. Those surface features are underneath your boat, and the shapes drawn by the wiggly lines on the charts show you how many feet (or inches, God Forbid) there are underneath your boat at the moment. Understand that the readings you get on your sounder are for underneath the device; many of us have stuck the bow of our boats on the bottom while the finder was showing a generous eight inches (?). But knowing the shape tells competent and skilled anglers exactly where the fish are. Or should be, at least. You never know if they're eating, but you can tell consistently what kind of shape and structure specific species prefer.
Most of us have fish finders. They read the bottom, and even can reach out to the sides of the boat to show you what is below you. Be that what it may, it is not a topographic map. A typographic map shows you structure that isn't under your boat at the moment. With a good topographic resource, and the one from Navionics is the best we've found, trip planning, tidal information specific to exact locations at that exact time, a "community" layer that provides in-depth local content, and much more turn what was just a chart into a digital resource we are still learning about. Software gets updated, after all, and we can only expect it is gonna get better.
The Navionic Marine Charts
The maps provided are incredibly detailed. The company started with the same charts we are all accustomed to. When you first install the application, the detailed maps are not loaded yet, but as soon as the application launches you can install any of the thousands of maps you get access to when you buy the software.
This is an image from Tampa Bay, near the mouth of the Manatee River. At this time of the year, tarpon roam in these deep bay channels. Another aspect of this specific structure, though, is the 10' deep plateau that is just next to that deep water. A favorite species normally associated with offshore fishing, the gag grouper is often caught in spots like this. Knowing that this species, considered accessible only in expensive boats capable of reaching the 120' depths many big species populate can be caught year-round in shallow water requires serious knowledge of the species behaves. The successful angler also knows where they live, and how they come from the deep channels to hunt and eat on those shallow pans.
This beautiful chart -- on a few pixels of the billions the software offers us -- is one of the many channel-side plateaus where grouper and other attractive (and tasty) species like snapper live all year. They hang in the shallower water and drop into the deep channels most of the day and if they get spooked. But they are there and caught consistently by the pros like Captain Tommy "TommyZ" Zeismann. He learned to grouper fish from Vance Tice, another one of the people behind the scenes here at The Online Fisherman. But these charts are a must-have -- in many ways more important than anything but a fishing rod, a boat to put you here, and a little patience and willingness to learn.
Once you have the knowledge, you need to find the spots likely to meet the variables. They include structure, of course, but where the structure is positioned, and how the tidal flow moves over or next-to those structures. This reality - the need to see what they structure looks like in as detailed a manner as possible - is where the Navionics iPad and iPhone applications come into the picture. They are, in fact, the picture of where the fish are, and knowing where the fish are is why 10% of the active anglers catch 90% of the fish caught on any given day.
The software allows you to mark favorite spots, remember where they are, and know everything about the area down to the closest marinas all from the comfort of your iPad or Android tablet.
Until the advent of online tide charts, anglers relied one a tiny printed chart you picked up at the local tackle shop. Each chart was printed based on specific information for a specific tidal data collection device. Those devices are positioned at various places in the bay we fish as well as all the tidal waters in the united states and most other civilized countries.
The tide actually moves specific to the spot you are physically standing on at the exact moment, so these old-fashioned tide charts were no good at all if you moved from point a (where you got them or where they referred to for the print run) to point b (where you are going to fish).
Spots like Christmas Pass at Wheedon Island is very close to the main channel. In the summertime schools of 100lb+ tarpon roam the edges of that channel, while redfish and speckled trout and cobia cruise the flats, and snook cuddle up close to the mangroves. Being able to use an iPad -- and Brighthouse Wireless is all over the bay even if you're not subscribed to one of the services -- is a dream come true. These are essentially the same traditional topo charts we've used to learn to fish where the fish are.
Worth the Money
At almost fifty dollars, the Navionics software isn't cheap. But besides the maps, the sheer volume of data it makes available to an active angler is well worth the money the first time you need a marina, need gas, need a restaurant, need to read stories about the areas you fish (Navionics has our own stories in the software's "Library" community module).
Bass fisherman? The incredible database that Navionics has constructed over the years gives you topographic maps of lakes -- something as important to the bass and crappie angler as it is to the snook "finaddict" sticking within eight feet of mangrove isles. Check out this map of Lake Carrol in Hillsborough County. You can see where the deep springs feed the lake, and figure thermoclines (temperature changes) as they change based on depth. The navionics fishing software (it works for sailors, too, but who really cares but your sheet-boat friends?) is just a must-have iPad or Android Application.
For more information about the software go to the Apple or Google store and do a search for Navionics. It will show up exactly where it's supposed to. Near your credit card.
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