From mocha latte browns to emerald green to cobalt blue, the water colors of the Gulf of Mexico are an ever-changing palette. Big-game tournament anglers know that locating the prettiest water is often the key to finding the marlin, tuna, wahoo and dolphin that can win the top prizes. But color isn’t the only determining factor. Differences in water temperature, sometimes only by as little as a degree or two, is equally critical along with other factors like abrupt color changes, eddies and currents. That’s why many teams utilize satellite imagery to pinpoint areas with the greatest potential.
“Everyone who fishes offshore is a weather nerd out of necessity,” says Charlie Levine, publisher and editor of FishTrack, a satellite imagery and weather service. FishTrack is the weather sponsor for the 2017 ECBC.
“The top captains know where the good spots are in the Gulf,” he explains. “Many are near structure like rigs, seamounts and canyons. So when you see favorable conditions moving in closer to those spots, it’s time to get really excited.”
Levine says sea surface temperatures are largely driven by changing currents. The technology is not that difficult to utilize once it has been tried a few times. Familiarity allows users to interpret the present conditions and make educated predictions as to what will happen next.
“Basically you’re looking at bodies of warm water and how it’s going to affect fishing in the foreseeable future,” he says.
FishTrack has several features that make it especially useful for those venturing offshore. For instance, weather forecasts provided by buoyweather.com, its sister company, can be displayed simultaneously on one device or phone. Users can elect to receive alerts via text or email about ideal conditions, like when the water temperature reaches 74 degrees at the Mars rig. Waypoints can also be cataloged. The FishTrack app allows users to save imagery data so it is available even when cellular coverage is not available by utilizing the phone’s GPS capability. The web site also offers valuable content like rigging tips, how-to articles, tournament results and other information.
Subscribers to the FishTrack service gain additional access to even more detailed data. Sea surface temperatures can be displayed in a cloud-free format so it is available when the satellites cameras cannot penetrate dense cloud cover. Subscriptions cost $80 annually or $15 per month on a seasonal basis. FishTrack covers 100 global regions with a single account.
“We offer seven-day free trials so you can play around with the site,” Levine says. “We’re also offering a $10 discount to ECBC anglers this year (use Code EVENT17 when signing up for a yearly subscription). We have 8,000 points of interest including wrecks, canyons, rigs, bathymetric imagery and more and all our charts work in high resolution layers to show currents and bottom conditions so our users can find—and catch—those winning fish.”
Satellite imagery certainly isn’t required to locate pretty water. But it can minimize the search pattern and save a lot of diesel fuel in the process. And when you’re competing against the best teams in the Gulf for a six-figure purse, any extra advantage is always a good one.