PLANNING FOR YOUR TRIP AHEAD OF TIME
Finding new fishing spots or analyzing and breaking down a current favorite body of water can seem like a daunting task. In this blog post I’ll be briefly touching on all the tools that I use to scout new waters or to examine and strategize for my next visit to familiar spots. There is a lot of information contained in each of these websites and apps that I won't be able to cover here but hopefully I can help familiarize you with them enough that you can confidently get useful information from them in some form. They are as close to the order in which I would use them as I scout a new spot or analyze ones I frequently visit.
Google Maps: Google maps is very useful in default and satellite view. Default view will let water stand out against the land more and satellite will allow you to see what the area looks like, bank access, boat ramp, walking paths and such. I use this as my primary starting point for looking at new water. I’m looking for hints about how public the water is, and if it's a municipal pond, or state/county water there is usually a direct link to area regulations/info.
Assessor’s Maps: County Assessors do many things, most important to us as anglers is keeping track of property size, boundaries and ownership. I use these to determine where public waters and properties end and begin. The best example would be how the rivers/streams that flow into our reservoirs are usually public for a good span “above” the reservoirs becoming public river/stream access that is not listed as fishing/paddling areas but are completely legal to use for such activities. Trespassing is a common problem between anglers and land owners so it’s important that we know how to educate ourselves on property lines. To avoid these conflicts the State of Kansas leases pond, lake, river and stream access from landowners opening portions of their land for anglers to enjoy without having to ask permission. I have not run into a county without an ArcGIS version of their map that is free to use and interactive.
Google Syntax: County Assessor’s map [county] [state]
Example: county assessors map shawnee county kansas
FishBrain: This is a social sharing app for anglers of all skills and types. The free version is another good starting point for finding new spots. People will usually let you know if the spot is private or not and you can see the catch species, location and gear used. If you pay for the premium version you can use the desktop version to filter species caught within the shown map and change the months they were caught to see trends in what cover fish prefer and move between throughout the year if there are enough catches shared.
FishBrain on your Apple/Google app store.
Desktop Version https://fishbrain.com/
KDWP:KDWP stands for Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. This is where you will find creel limits, special area regulations and more general information about the State, County and Army Corps of Engineers ran water throughout the state. This information is not always up to date and for the most accurate information locate the regulations boards posted at or near public access on most if not all waters posted on this website.
Kansas Fishing Atlas: Many states provide a fishing atlas, not just Kansas. I think ours in Kansas is one of the more user friendly. It will show WIFA(Walk-In Fishing Area) lands which are leased by the state to provide better public fishing access, help restore native fish populations by providing native stockings and prevent trespassing incidents. Many WIFA areas are old family ponds and strip pits that just aren’t fished like they used to be. The atlas also provides the coordinates for KDWP placed Georgia cubes and crappie jacks. It is also another tool for finding how much of the KDWP ran waters are public alongside the assessors maps. My primary use for this map is scouting, secondary is checking if new cubes or jacks have been placed and if there are any significant changes to WIFA use in my area since last year.
Google Earth Pro: This app is only available on desktop and is great for learning more about water you already like to fish. There are a few reasons I use this app specifically and they all have to do with the Show Historical Imagery button at the top. This will allow you to cycle through public gps data dating back to 1984. The first reason is because it allows me to see through tree cover in winter/early spring months to scout creeks and streams. Second is to see the age of a pond or lake or if it had been drained and filled within that time. Very helpful in urban areas when you may be fishing ponds in apartment complexes or neighborhoods that had been built recently, avoiding putting pressure on water that hasn't had time to establish an ecosystem or allow the fish to grow to a sustainable fishing population. Last would be to look for images with clear and/or low water levels, preferably both but usually you get one or the other. It allows you to see underwater structure that you normally wouldn’t know about.
Download the desktop version.
Navionics: This app is absolutely amazing and really slept on by non-boaters and even paddlers. The free version on your phone or desktop allows you to see publicly uploaded bathymetric mapping and sonar info by boaters using their sonar. Info uploaded includes markers for brush piles, cubes and jacks not placed by KDWP and anything else of interest a boater may have publicly marked. This makes it an excellent tool for analyzing your waters, using the bathymetric imagery to find old river channels, points and road beds for example. The premium version is where the app really changes the game for any angler without their own sonar. It is updated more regularly, you can color filter the depths to show your ideal depth as a specific color, meaning if you know crappie have been holding between 14-18ft of water you could make that appear green while the rest of the bathymetry shows as blue to help break down the possible places you could find crappie holding up. It will also track your GPS position and orientation on the phone app allowing you to use it to accurately find and fish whatever location you've chosen through scouting and analyzing.
At the top click on viewers then select chart viewer for free desktop access
Or download the app from your Apple/Google Store
For fly fishing specific info there are some specific words and tricks you can use to get google to show you what you want. A lot of this is going to be reliant on tertiary research. Knowing the local names for regions and watersheds is something to research that might not be so obvious when researching fishing in an area. An example would be if you were to go fishing in Appalachia you would want to break it down to its specific region, are you fishing the Catskills or the Smokies? If you were to say the Smoky Mountains you would then want to specify the east or west side because each have their own hatches. Another use for this is that I could use the hatch guide for a nearby more popular fly fishing destination that may have a hatch chart or a fishing report online which would give me a good educated guess as to the patterns that would work. The last important tool for finding good fly fishing info online, especially for lesser known waters and areas is actually YouTube. Search for fly fishing on whatever the area may be named and you can see if any local youtubers have added a video recently. This spring I searched ‘spring white bass spawn kansas’ and pulled up a few videos of a local youtuber fishing the white bass spawn near my area and it was only a week old which told me the fishing had gotten good and I wasn't going to wade an empty creek that fish hadn't pushed into yet.