Making Fishing Maps
ago I figured out that if I kept records of my fishing results I
would be able to predict the next year where the fish would
migrate to and what they would eat, seeing as the repeat these
migrations each year. A simplistic example is the mayfly which
hatches out at the same time each year give or take a week or
two. And anglers use this knowledge to catch more of the trout
that eat mayflies.
So knowledge + seasonal factors that repeat every year = extra
fish caught. ... Interesting.
There are two main
kinds of knowledge that matter: firstly
where the fish are - and
when they will be there. Your
fishing diary says
fishing maps show exactly WHERE .... once you
have learned how to understand the information that every
fishing day brings to add to your store of knowledge already
Buck Perry was
one of the tiny number of anglers who had it figured out, and
then passed the knowledge on. Most fishing authors know a
fraction of what he knew. This is one of the best books on
fishing ever, not a literary work, it's a fishing work, of huge
importance. You should get a copy and read it several times.
"Spoonplugging" will teach you the value of making your
own fishing maps in a convincing way that I do not have space to
do here. You can get it at
Spoonplugging - your guide to lunker catches
How to make a Fishing Map?
is one key. If there is a drought and water levels fall ... get
your camera out and go for a walk along all the places you like
to fish, take notes of depth changes, take photos of sight
bearings and of the features. Make a little file of information
for that fishery, with features, maps, and catch information.
Photos showing features normally hidden by high water like the
one shown right are invaluable on later days. You must photo the
feature, and write down or photo the bearings to locate it again
later on after it's been covered up with wide flat nondescript
water. Remember it is not about where the fish was caught, it's about
when it was there .. because they move about and
you are now figuring out the pattern.
is another traditional method. So get the float rod out and
while another rod is fishing get the important info that tells
you all about the place you are fishing that day. Don't
for a moment think plumbing is old fashioned and not effective.
On the left is a section from a fishing map of 500 metres of
lake bank of a well known lake which was measured with this
method. If you know what to look for it's all you need. But the
limitation is about 80 metres from the shore gets measured.
Perfectly OK for shore anglers of course.
can also be used. But be distrustful of them. They will not be
correct in many ways. They were not make for the purpose of
analysing each and every fishing swim. And you don't know the
errors they contain. Consider other peoples maps as a general
guide only - with everything they contain awaiting verification
by you on the water. The contour map (on the right ) of Lough Ree
is calculated from joining up the depth soundings shown on
charts, which are approximate, with a pencil, and photocopying
the chart data away leaving only the darker contour lines. This resulted in the capture
of many large pike for me over the last twenty years. I would
think my catches on any average day on L Ree have been multiplied by
about 6 to 8 times, as a result of the committment of work I put
into making it, and using it.
generates information while you fish. Use the countdown
technique to build up a picture in your mind of the shallows,
deeps, and the interesting places where they meet. Transcribe
this general info onto paper when you go home so it cannot fade
is wonderful tool and the float tube is so suitable for using
sonar while fishing that I recommend everyone with a tube to
regard sonar as important (almost) as your fishing rods, reels,
bait and tube. Shown left is a hand drawn map of a water I fish,
which was made at home after a day out pike fishing from the
float tube with a sonar device mounted on it. I had a small
notebook and pen (small diary size) with me and took notes from
time to time between fish. The map is totally workable, lasted
me years, and the new GPS referenced version is only half
complete, so it is currently less useful than my tried and
trusty old hand map.
Old Maps of Reservoirs
Made Before the Land was Flooded
also valuable. Shown right is a Ordnance Survey map of
Blessington before the water was dammed up. The locations of
house ruins, ditches, tree lines (now stumplines!), roadways,
and the original river course, mill and millrace are all clearly
shown. I have added the new lake shoreline for my own
When it's on my PDA with the GPS position georeferenced onto the
map, my location is shown beside all those excellent fishing
features, even when I am in my tube out in the middle of an
apparently featureless area of flat water, I am still fishing
EXACTLY on a main fishing feature of importance. I don't "accidentally"
troll over the old millrace ... I consciously troll right along
it, precisely, first down the left bank shelf, then along the
right bank dropoff, then down the centre deeper channel, then a
zig-zag troll from side to side. That's just the millrace. Next
I move over to the old River Liffey course, and the millrace
buildings. Next I'm off to the sunken bridge. The meeting of
millrace and main river channel next. After that the new bridge
400 metres away. I am very busy. When I catch a big pike (or
several pike) I can assure you it was no accident.
can be matched with
to produce a very effective mapping combination. This produces
results so fast its almost unbelievable. Excellent for mapping a
wide area. I use this system from my float tubes. Some places
do not allow boating, so I have designed a mount to carry my
lake mapping equipment over the lake making the fishing maps
automatically for me while I fish from the float tube.
This also explains why I bought myself a PDA hand held computer
with GPS rather than a hand held GPS only device. There are
interesting options when you add technology to your fishing
Meanwhile .. .if you are under any doubts as to the value of
accurate fishing maps take a look here at the results
Bruce Samson has had with Lawrence
Sonar-GPS using contour maps for winning big US fishing
Make your own GPS fishing maps
automatically with a PDA handheld and sonar unit
Drdepth software from
does a nice job of collecting the depths and gps locations directly from
the sonar/GPS unit. Provided you have the correct type of sonar unit, Dr
depth collects the depth data down cable from the sonar, and makes a
file with all the depths and added GPS locations of each depth. then it
makes a map. Every time you go out fishing more depth data is collected,
and the gaps are filled, the file gets bigger and your map gets better.
Making the Map
When you want a .lcm" map file to put into your Lowrance or Eagle
Sonar-GPS combo unit, all you do is select the make Lowrance contour
map" option in Drdepth, and the file is created. Copy to SD card, put SD
card into sonar, switch on, done.
The PDA and sonar unit can work a few different ways:
PDA with GPS inside + Sonar (only)
PDA (cheaper - no GPS) + Sonar-GPS Combo unit
PDA with GPS inside + Sonar-GPS Combo unit .. you choose which gives the
most precise GPS location data and select that for the map.
Right now if you want to display your map on the sonar unit itself,
you had better get a Lowrance/Eagle, since the 'Bird will need the PDA
to display the map, as described in the paragraph above. And on a rainy
day this is dangerous to the PDA.
Make your own GPS fishing maps
with sonar unit and PC at home (no PDA required)
Lowrance LMS or LCX series sonar has the ability to record the depth/GPS
info on a SD card, so they can be copied to a PC later. Once the
information is on PC, it can be converted into a map, and sent back into
your Lowrance, and the combo unit will show the map on the left side of
the display screen, and the up to date sonar reading chart on the right
Mapmaking from scratch (without DrDepth software)
If anyone wants to try
doing their own GPS mapmaking (direct from aerial photos, or Google
Earth, or paper maps) using GPSMapedit, here are two links to
video tutorials showing the process for Garmin.
video tutorial 1
video tutorial 2
An extra stage added in this video is tracing an outline from Google
earth at the start. Something similar would be done if you want to
trace an outline of the lakeshore from an aerial photo. I found these
videos very useful in getting an understanding on the process of making
maps of the lakes I fish.
The Lowrance process is virtually identical, but without the final part,
as LcmMapedit gives the finished map. Lowrance home map makers can download
the Lowrance version of GPSMapedit from the files section at the
Lowrance Map Makers Forum:
Don't let the apparent complexity of this put you off - it is quite easy
when you have tried it. Using DrDepth is relatively simple. If you
want to do it without the software from other sources, then the video
tutorials and Yahoo Mapcreate group links above come into play and
provide assistance. Only scary before you have a go, and get
stuck in. And the results while fishing are well worth the
Just look at the videos, then download the free software, then
have a go. The online tecchie guys are helpful if it doesn't work out
properly the first time.
are in the process of changing their map file format. This gives
the private mapmaker software problems.
Eagle have the advantage at the moment for the private
lake mapper, they export NMEA0183 data. Some units save a log file which
is even better. They use ".lcm" map files which can be made using the
techniques described above. You can make your map, save it a SD card, put the card
into your Lowrance/Eagle and the unit will automatically show the map in the waterproof sonar unit
Humminbird's Matrix, 700 and 900 series units export
NMEA0183 format depth data too, so these can also do the job. But they
only read Navionic map files which are encrypted and we can't make our
own, so you can't put your map
back into the Humminbird to see it there.
If coupled with a PDA
palmtop computer and
DrDepth, and the map
can be displayed on the PDA
with the depth chart on the 'Bird beside it. But your PDA isn't
waterproof, so rain will be a problem.
danger of rain getting into your PDA is real. So the advantage Lowrance and Eagle have
is the map can be displayed on their sonar-GPS combo unit. The GPS-Sonar combo unit itself is rugged and
waterproof, and will not be damaged by bad fishing weather, and at the
moment only the Lowrance and Eagle sonar units can show your fishing
map, with the computing equipment remaining safe and dry at home.
On the other hand ..... if you DO take your PDA out fishing with you,
Drdepth will make a brand spanking up to date fishing map while you
troll/fish and the latest info is displayed on the PDA screen.
How you do it is a trade-off, but whichever way you choose you catch more with
fishing maps, and a lot more when you learn how to use them.