“MyRadar is one of my favorite apps,” says SWS West Coast editor Jim Hendricks, who fishes Southern California and Baja coastal waters. “I also really like FishWeather. It’s amazingly detailed and accurate. When you open an area, you see weather-buoy icons everywhere, and when you click on one, it gives an hour-by-hour forecast for that micro spot using NOAA and private station data.”
Hendricks also pays for the SeaPilot app, which displays shipping, commercial and recreational vessels using AIS. He says it’s a good way to track the long-range charter boats operating out of San Diego to determine when they’re fishing the 425 or various other offshore banks for tuna. He also uses NauticOn, which ties into his Siren Marine security system to monitor the boat’s safety gear, battery levels and tracking in case of theft.
Capt. John Blumenthal, a former big-game charter skipper and currently a broker with Tournament Yacht Sales in Stuart, Florida, makes dozens of boat deliveries annually and is a huge fan of the Windy app. “After using NOAA forecasts for years, I found Windy through another captain,” he says. “Each year I do close to 10,000 miles in deliveries up or down the Eastern Seaboard, the Bahamas and the Pacific Coast. The information on Windy is easy to read and invaluable to me. I can plan a five- to seven-day trip in advance, knowing what to expect. I have literally promoted this app to dozens of my peers. It’s especially helpful during hurricane season. The storm-tracking graphics are incredible.”
Capt. Scott Owens, a full-time light-tackle and fly-fishing guide based in St. Simons, Georgia, splits his time sight-fishing for redfish aboard his Hells Bay flats skiff and targeting tarpon, tripletail and trophy-size jacks in nearshore waters aboard his Dorado bay boat.
He uses multiple apps to help predict the best weather and fishing windows for his clients. “I have a bunch of radar and weather apps now on my phone. It’s crazy to look at several apps, but I find all have some good features for specific needs,” Owens explains.
He opted for the Pro Pack for MyRadar to keep track of lightning and thunderstorms that frequent the Georgia coast, especially during the summer. He says Wunderground is decent for hourly rain levels, while AccurateWeather offers the most detailed forecasts. He also uses Windfinder and WindAlert, which give hourly, real-time updates that show how hard the wind is blowing. TideTrac is another important tool he consults constantly. “When I’m booking a charter with a client on the phone, I can quickly check a specific flat and know the tides for the proposed charter date in just seconds. That really helps.”
Owens doesn’t pay much attention to apps that focus on the solunar feeding periods, however. “When you’ve spent enough time looking at tide charts and lunar charts, you learn to put two and two together,” he explains. “Besides, I still have to get clients on fish when it’s not the best solunar window.”
While I tend to use the Windy and Tides4Fishing websites on my computer to plan trips, I started using the Windy app based on Blumenthal’s recommendation and have found it to be extremely accurate for Florida’s Big Bend coast, my home waters. Tides4Fishing is a comprehensive site that includes tide and water-flow tables, plus weather, lunar and solunar charts. The companion app is Nautide, available for a small fee for both Android and iOS phones.
I do have the Navionics Boating US&Canada app on my iPhone as a backup for my local navigation or when I’m fishing out of town. I also consult RadarUS when it’s stormy, FishingTimes for the selectable stations for peak solunar feeding times, and ActiveCaptain to interface with my Garmin GPS/chart plotter for the latest software updates.
Smartphone apps won’t catch more fish for you, but many provide key information to improve your odds of success and make your time on the water easier, more productive and safer.