What is a float tube
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Big Fish from Tubes
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Float Tube Sonar
Making Fishing Maps
Float Tube History
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Float Tube Fishing in Ireland

Having a really great time fishing from the world's best floating fishing platform

Making Fishing Maps
Many years 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 secondly when they will be there. Your fishing diary says WHEN, your 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 learned.

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 www.buckperry.com

Spoonplugging - your guide to lunker catches

How to make a Fishing Map?
Reconnaisance 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.
Plumbing 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.
Other Peoples Maps 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 Admiralty 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.
Spinning  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 from memory.
Sonar  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 are 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 convenience.
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.
GPS Devices can be matched with Sonar  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 gear!
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 competitions.

Make your own GPS fishing maps automatically with a PDA handheld and sonar unit
Drdepth software from www.drdepth.se 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 of it.
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 http://s173.photobucket.com/albums/w59/redhawkdown/?action=view&current=GoogletoCustomGarminMap2.flv
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 trouble.
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.

Garmin are in the process of changing their map file format. This gives the private mapmaker software problems.
Lowrance and 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 later.
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.

The 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.