What's Biting: Satellite imagery locates fish

Gulf Shores & Orange Beach

Visit any of our local fishing message boards, especially leading up to the weekend and you will undoubtedly see posts like these. "Where is the blue water?” Or the always popular post, "Any weed lines in close?" Everyone wants to get the scoop on water conditions before heading offshore. It usually takes only a few replies before someone suggests to the original poster to get a subscription to a satellite service.

Satellite imagery is used by virtually every fishing team that enters into a big game fishing tournament along the coast. Captains study the information prior to the tournament and make adjustments to their fishing plans by using real-time data through their boat’s internet connection.

Use satellite images to help you find more fish.

Most of us don’t have an internet equipped boat. Tom Hilton of Hilton’s Offshore says 95% of fishermen are day trippers, and the same information is available to center consoles just as it is to multi-million dollars boats. “Today’s technology makes it easy to download the information on your phone before you leave the dock, and then use it to guide you offshore all day.”

“There are so many factors that attract fish to certain spots in the Gulf as opposed to others. Looking at water clarity, currents, altimetry, and sea temperatures are crucial when choosing where to fish,” said Hilton. “There are no absolutes in offshore fishing. We take all of the most important data and package it together to provide the best chance of success on a trip.”

Finding a spot with good current and water color would seem to be a great place to fish offshore, but there is more to it. One of the factors I am most interested in studying is altimetry. Here is how Hilton describes this important piece of data.

“It measures the surface height of the ocean, creating a contour map of the surface. Bulges in the surface are to be avoided as they are downwelling, nutrient-poor areas that are basically devoid of life. The depressions in the surface are desired as they indicate upwelling, nutrient-rich areas, This is the beginning of the food chain and the pelagic follow the food.”

Without using a satellite service, you would have no idea whether you are in a nutrient rich or nutrient starved area. Your naked eye cannot distinguish the difference. I can attest to that fact after hours and hours of trolling in water I thought had to be great, only to find out later that I was fishing in the equivalent of the dead sea.

Using satellite technology isn’t limited to just big game fishing. Lots of fishermen enjoy trolling for king mackerel. Targeted areas include rigs, rocks, and other structure. With satellite imagery, you see the water color at your favorite location. The ‘King Green’ water is easily identified on the charts. If you’re looking for mahi-mahi or marlin, you would want to avoid this water condition, but if you’re looking for a smoker king, this is exactly the type water you’re hoping to find.

**A few weeks ago I wrote about the upcoming Flora-Bama Fishing Rodeo and all the family fun that goes with it. Family fun is not unsafe fishing conditions. With safety and fun in mind, the tournament committee made the correct decision to postpone the event until this upcoming weekend. The only thing that has changed is the date. Check out the website for all the details of the revised schedule.

Satellite Imagery of the Gulf of Mexico

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Jim Cox
Jim Cox (1324 Posts)
Jim Cox is an avid inshore, offshore, and big game fisherman. He has twice qualified for the prestigious IGFA Offshore Championships in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. He is the past president of the Mobile…