GPS: Where Do You Want To Go Today?

GPS: Where Do You Want To Go Today? Fishermen aren't likely to do away with their paper maps, but GPS can be an aid in finding that exact spot.

Using GPS systems for navigation is probably newer to the world of fishing than many other sports.
   Hikers and hunters have used them for some time, but the craze of use for fishing application is basically relatively new in the aspect that the expense of the units kept some folks from running right out and buying one. That's all changing with the numbers of units sold as prices are becoming more reasonable now than in the past.
   And if you need an excuse to tell "Momma" why you simply must have one, it isn't only good at the lake - it can be used traveling, camping, hunting, bird watching or with any of a dozen of outdoor hobbies.
   If the other small thing keeping you from obtaining one of these new wonders is the thought of learning how to operate the dang thing, that's getting easier too. But in all honesty it will require some study of the provided manual and most likely some one-on-one with someone who already under- stands the functions of the unit.
   But first, the basics. The Global Positioning System (GPS) consists of 24 earth orbiting satellites. These satellites send out radio signals which are detected by a GPS receiver. The receiver measures the amount of time it takes for the signal to travel from the satellite to the receiver. Radio waves are electromagnetic and travel at the speed of light (about 186,000 miles per second). By calculating how long it took for them to arrive, it can be figured out how long it took them to travel. A GPS unit needs 24 satellites to guarantee that at least four satellites are above the horizon for any point on earth at any time. This assures that the geometric principle of trilateration, which allows you to find one location if you know its distance from other, already known locations can be applied. In three dimensional space, four points are required to find your exact location. Generally eight satellites are "visible" to a GPS receiver at any given time. Each satellite contains an atomic clock for accuracy. The measurement of exact time with radio signal transmission results in determining the exact location of a GPS receiver on earth. The function of a GPS receiver then is to pick up the transmissions of at least four satellites and combine the information with information in an electronic almanac to mathematically determine the receivers position on earth. The basic information provided by a GPS unit is latitude, longitude and altitude. In plain English, the little bugger can sure help keep you from getting lost.
   A GPS unit can do some marvelous things for your fishing. By marking underwater structure such as creek channels, or a spot where you have caught nice fish in the past you can return exactly to the same place time and again - whether it's daylight or dark. Moreover if you have some good fishing buddies, GPS locations can be shared.
   GPS units of course serve an excellent function for hunters since pre-season scouting trips can be recorded. Marking territories where bucks have made scrapes and rubs works much the same as marking the location of a creek channel you know big bass move through.
   From camping trips to hiking and bird watching, GPS units can help the young and grown-ups alike how to read maps, find their way back to camp, or mark the migratory routes of birds each year. The applications are really endless, even off-road three-wheelers, cross country skiing, and all-terrain vehicle enthusiasts can utilize GPS coordinates.
   GPS units of the past used multiplex. Multiplex receivers have only one channel. They pick up one satellite signal at a time, cycling through a few satellites. They work much better in open environments, as their connection can easily be disrupted by buildings or other obstacles.
   Parallel-channel receivers have several channels, and lock onto many satellites at the same time. They don't lose satellite connections easily and can pinpoint a location more exactly. These receivers were once quite expensive, but now they are a standard feature in GPS units. If you plan to use your receiver in the city or mountainous area, one with parallel channels will probably be your best bet.
   It wasn't too long ago GPS units had quadrifilar antennas (a length of coiled wire in a plastic housing that sticks out of the receiver) which allowed you to place the antenna on a dashboard or deck of the boat. This helps you receive signals better from satellites on the horizon, but not necessarily from those overhead.
   Most receivers use patch antennas now. Patch antennas are flat. They are usually built into the receiver. They have the reverse strengths and weaknesses of a quadrifilar antenna and are better at detecting satellites directly overhead, not as good at detecting those near the horizon.
   Hand-held receivers use batteries as their power source. This allows portable mobility. Be sure to find out what kind of batteries a hand-held unit uses, and how long they typically last. These aren't likely to be cheap, so also take care of them according to instructions so they will last longer. Some of the handheld GPS units accept external power, which can be real handy if you plan to be driving all day with your GPS on and don't want to drain your batteries. GPS units with color panels generally use more power than black and white panels, so they drain batteries faster.
   All GPS units will show your latitude, longitude and altitude, but they don't all show your location on a detailed map. Decide before you purchase one what kind of map you'll need and make sure the GPS unit you purchase offers that type of map. Many units contain a general map for the world in memory, but it may only show major roads and bodies of water. Some newer, more expensive, units come with a variety of other maps stored in memory and in some cases you can download detail maps. There are even units which accept special map cartridges with more detailed maps of specific areas and some have download capability that allows you to download maps stored in your computer into your receiver.
   Here are a few of the features of modern GPS units.

Way Point Capability - allows you to record certain way points (locations along your path or on a map) and arrange them in a route. Your GPS will then guide you from way point to way point along that route. This route mapping is handy because you can record the way you got somewhere so you can return easily. You can also plan routes on detailed maps before you leave for a trip.

Track Logging Receivers - This feature allows you to record your path as you move. This is very useful if you want to backtrack or document your exact route for future use. It's also helpful for viewing your progress while you travel.

Storage Memory - Just like a computer, buy as much memory as you can afford. If you plan to use route mapping and track logging extensively, you'll need a unit that has enough memory to hold it all. And look for a unit with a backup system that will hold the information you gather while you change the batteries.

Data Port - This feature provides a connection so that you can use GPS data in conjunction with a number of software applications on your desktop computer. With computer connection capability, you can also download information to the computer. In essence this allows you to utilize the larger storage space on your computer. This is good to have if you want to keep all your route maps. Most GPS units have limited memory, but you can store quite a lot on your computer.

Sunrise and Sunset Times - Some receivers can give you the times for sunrise and sunset at any particular location. This can really help you plan your trip and fishing times.

Odometer - With most GPS units you can keep track of how far you have traveled. Just like the odometer in your automobile, this can be useful in any number of ways.

Speedometer - Most units nowadays can even track how fast you're moving. This is extremely helpful for estimating travel time to your final destination. Most GPS units that have speedometers will also give you an Estimated Time of Arrival.

Measurement Units - Make sure the GPS unit can display the measurement units you will be using. If you will use the receiver in boating navigation, you might want one that can give measurements in nautical miles. Another nice feature to look for is the ability to display multiple measurement systems at a time, so that you could have elevation in feet, perhaps, and geographical distance in miles.

Accuracy Warning - Most of today's units have a system that tells you when something may be causing inaccurate positioning. This can be due to poor satellite reception or unit malfunction. In many GPS applications, accurate positioning is critical, so be sure to find a one that will tell you when there is an inaccuracy.

User-changeable Fields - GPS units with this little feature can give you some extra control over how you look at information. You can customize the different fields so they show you only the information you need for a particular activity. This is good when trying to figure out the sometimes confusing mass of data provided by GPS units.

Waterproofing - This is a most important consideration for users of GPS units out on lakes. If you will be using GPS on a boat or actually anywhere outside, you should look for one with good waterproofing. Some units are completely sealed so that they are totally waterproof, while others are constructed so they are only water resistant. This feature is like storage space. Buy the best. Don't buy water resistant and expect it to be water proof. It doesn't work that way.

Fishermen aren't likely to do away with their paper maps, but GPS can be an aid in finding that exact spot. The better map makers today, like Fishing Hot Spots are combining GPS coordinates with their maps, which means you have the best of both worlds.
   And you can even show "Momma" how to use it in the Target parking lot when finding the car she knows she left somewhere becomes impossible! Now that's a selling point my friend!

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