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March 07, 2012

Chips for Your Plotter

Gain an angling edge with fishing-specific chips for your chartplotter

Anglers, if you could see real-time fishing ­information on your plotter, would you buy that capability? I’m talking:

  • exact tide stages and amplitudes based on current winds;
  • actual fish marks on a live, 3-D, underwater view of structure;
  • live sea-surface temperatures and aerial images;
  • continuously updated state and federal fishing regulations.


I have to guess yes. I know I would. But that kind of real-time connectivity coupled with data availability still lies several years down the road. Good news, though: We’re headed that direction.

Fish Finding
“Five years from now, no doubt we’ll have a much better experience than we have now, being able to take advantage of data that’s current and useful,” says Ken Cirillo, business development executive for C-MAP by Jeppesen.

To support his opinion, Cirillo cites Standard Horizon’s announcement that its new CPN marine multifunction displays will feature Wi-Fi ­connectivity. “That opens the door for us to access our server to move data in. That’s the whole [C-MAP] 4-D concept of time — things that change.”

But that doesn’t mean current electronic charts lack value for anglers. Most chart producers gather loads of data — albeit some that’s dated — including tide and current predictions, wreck and reef locations, and depth contours in addition to navigation aids. Some embedded data — including coastal maps — comes standard on most plotters, but upgrading with a specialized fishing chip can enhance your experience.

Cirillo says C-MAP should soon roll out highresolution ­bathymetric data with a customized wreck database. The company’s MAX ($199 and $299) and 4-D ($100 to $299) products also feature fish identification, fishing regulations and more than 2,000 hot spots.

Garmin, which creates its own proprietary charts, offers a 3-D Fish Eye View of underwater contours and canyons on its g2 Vision cards. True, the bathymetry comes from NOAA charts that are only occasionally updated, but offshore topography changes very slowly.

The Vision chip costs $199 to $499, depending on regional size, and offers high-definition satellite overlay, aerial photos, points of interest and auto-­guidance technology. Garmin, like others, also allows the user to turn off navigation and tide detail to highlight bathymetry and reef areas for a ­less­cluttered view.

“Too much information on the screen can become overwhelming,” says David Dunn, Garmin’s East Coast sales manager. “We give the user the option of several views.”

Added Detail
Furuno and Navico (parent company of Simrad and Lowrance) also design proprietary chart packages, but some of their multifunction displays also support charts from companies such as C-MAP and Navionics.

Navico’s Nautic Insight HD comes in an East Coast or West Coast version ($149 per region) and includes ­saltwater-fishing ­data from a partnership with Fishing Hot Spots. For instance, one zone off Miami Beach, dubbed “Miami Fishing Area 42,” is described within the program as a “rocky inshore ledge that offers good action on yellowtail snapper,” and goes on to mention how to chum, and what rig and bait to use.

Navico also worked with a company called Baja Directions — which makes laminated fishing-focused charts for Southern California and Baja — to produce a Nautic Insight Baja chip last year. C-MAP also licensed Baja Directions’ data for its own specialty chip ($249).

Furuno’s NavNet 3-D units run the company’s own MaxSea MapMedia 3-D charts; many can be downloaded at no additional charge. Others offer data compiled from C-MAP and Navionics, and cost $300 to $600.

Iker Pryszo, product developer for MaxSea, says Furuno generally optimizes its charts for canyon fishing by displaying isolines — contour lines set at a constant distance apart, such as 15 feet. Other charts might show contour lines at fluctuating distances; in some places three feet apart, in others 30 feet apart.

The MM 3-D charts also display depth shading, so anglers can specify the depths they want to see. For instance, if you want to fish from 300 to 600 feet of water, you program the machine to show that range in red, making it easy to find and follow.

Making Connections
Navionics debuted its Fish ’N Chip in 2010, which brought inshore anglers detailed bathymetric contours in 1-foot increments, plus fish data from the company’s pro staff. This year, that chip becomes part of Navionics’ premier Platinum Plus charts.

The company also has a thriving mobile application for Apple and Android devices, with a community layer that lets anglers add information and then share with other users. Those who also own Raymarine e7 multifunction displays or plan to buy the brand-new e9 or e12 (see New Products, p. 70) can transfer the community information from the mobile device to the MFD using Plotter Sync.

That kind of real-time updating should improve the utility of fishing data available electronically — ­especially if community members exercise good ethics. Otherwise, official chart updates generally roll out once a year and cost $100 and up (C-MAP’s Club Jeppesen costs $89 and includes one free annual upgrade), because the data itself must be purchased from a variety of sources.

But good intelligence always costs something.