How To Use A Handheld GPS For Fishing?

Have you ever been stranded after using stones and trees as landmarks while fishing?

Technology has changed the way we do everything, so it shouldn't be a surprise that a device is able to assist you in your fishing expedition. 

Handheld GPS is what comes to your rescue by locating new fishing spots and making certain you never lose track.

Whether you’re fishing as a source of livelihood or fun, you need the right equipment to be successful at it.

The handheld GPS for fishing is one of the latest gear recommend to any angler hoping to burgeon.

It’s a tiny device that help fishers mark the exact location of different fishing spots and return to shore without breaking a sweat.

It employs the global positioning technology to establish suitable fishing routes.Their significance in the fishmeal industry cannot be beat down.

Not just that, the benefits of a handheld GPS are endless specially when you are going for a fishing expedition.

Anglers can use them as a backup to chart plotters or malfunctioning navigational system on boats.· Handheld GPS increases the situational awareness by detailing the weather the location and temperatures while fishing.

They are tiny lightweight and easy to carry with a great mapping utility. They also ensure ease of navigation and water safety for both beginner and professional anglers.

How to Use Handheld GPS?

While there are several types and brands of GPS you can purchase, there are certain GPS devices built especially for fishing.

Those are what you need to get!

And, if you are a beginner, you might not have any idea about what you can do with a handheld GPS. Don't fret. We've written this tutorial to help you out find out everything you need to know about a handheld GPS for fishing.

Even if you go through the manual learning all the features, you should know what makes fishing efficient and make your journey out in the water totally worth it.​

Load maps

Load Maps in Handheld GPS

First up, you need to familiarize yourself with the map provider of your handheld GPS.

Load your requisite maps in the memory of the GPS receiver. Some have marine chart plotters.

Contrary to popular belief, Chart plotters do not raise alarms whenever fish come in your vicinity. It’s more like a GPS fixed in a car that leads us to unknown locations.

They contain a map charting out all positions in the water regardless of whether it’s an inland lake, coastal water or a deep sea.


Different models of the handheld GPS have different ways connection to the computer or a mobile device.

DeLorme offers a USB option for smoothing the progress of serial connections and transmitting data via the Topo USA.

Other models like the Magellan and Garmin can be linked up through serial ports.

Transmission of information in these two models is a proprietary software name Vantage.

There is no rocket science involved in this process.

If it’s not a USB port or proprietary cord the connection would be through serial connection ports. When in doubt,I would recommend you refer to the manual of the handheld GPS.

Mark your starting point

Before setting out for our fishing excursions, we used to roll out our aged paper map and chart down the course we would take.

The trick is never the destination but the starting point.

Since we depended on nature to provide landmarks, the point of departure had to be sufficiently distinct lest we boat around in circles.

With handheld GPS, things are a little bit different especially when kayak fishing.

All that is required is ensuring that your GPS is getting a strong signal and accurately conveying you location. You can start fishing from literally any point you wish.

Just press the button on your handheld GPS to mark your current location using measurements of longitude and latitude.

If you notice the signals are shaky wait till your device fully acquires a connection to satellites.

For smooth and proper navigation your unit requires at least 12 satellites. Accuracy increases with an increase in the number of satellites.

The best GPS systems come with up to 24 satellites.

If you pick those, you’ll never lose track ever. Try to keep it natural like you would the traditional way.

Utilize Zoom feature

Once you are geared up and ready to hit the water, zoom in the display of your handheld to a suitable scale.

A good scale size will enable you to study the terrain layout of the water you are in and provide you with an accurate picture of the shallow and rocky areas.

It’s recommended you zoom in the scale to a quarter a mile for boating. If you’re at a riverbank or the fly-fishing, try to utilize the screen are of 80-160 feet.

Remember, you don't have to follow this to a tee. Keep it natural by considering the extent of the water surface as well as the under-water terrain.

After embarking on your voyage, keep an eye on your handheld GPS records to trace your travel route and position.


This is hands down one of the most fascinating features of the handheld GPS.

It’s an excellent tracking option that records your movements. Not only will it lay out a clear route to your destination but also find the shortest way to reach your desired spot.

To utilize breadcrumbs in a handheld GPS, you need to set a recording distance.

For anglers fishing in the sea, the proposed measurements is 1/8 - 1¼ mile considering the length of the boat.

For those on fly-fishing/shore the apposite breadcrumb would be about 10-25 feet.

Labeling waypoint

It’s important to keep track of your journey by labeling the waypoints consistently especially if you are a beginner at kayak fishing.

This is done using icons features like recording the date, time, latitude, longitude, location name among others.

The recorded information must be meaningful for future use.

Noting essential informationIt’s fairly evident that while you’re in the ocean; you just can’t pull over and ask directions from simply anyone.

Handheld GPS allow you to save important ocean data and various routes that will help ensure a safe trip.

You can mark locations where fish are abundant and come back later, give a title to your trip even add comments regarding the weather and any other useful information.

Final Thoughts

Studies show that there have been tremendous strides in the growth of catching fish ever since anglers started to utilize this technology.

Many feared the slowdown of fish supplies caused by El-Niño in 1997-1998 would tread on for many years to come.

The State of World Fisheries and Agriculture 1996 predicted increasing real prices for fish over the next 15 years. This statement was later amended when handheld gps took the market by storm and led to an exponential rise of fish supply.

Stephen A. Bortone confirms this in his book Biology Of Spotted Seatrout.

He says even first time anglers boast of a large catch with increased technology such as the handheld GPS.

I have seen this firsthand. I escalated from a measly catch of 5 fish a day to thrice that in no time!

Throughout the tutorial, we have provided specific details on how you should use a handheld GPS for fishing. It's not complicated to do but can seem daunting if you don't know where to start. This tutorial takes you by the hand and shows you every step of the way about how to use it. 

Although this article was a tutorial, it doesn't mean that it's a one-way conversation. We would love to hear from you. If you have any concerns, questions or comments, you should get in touch with us. Also, don't hesitate to let us know your experience how this article helped you to use a handheld GPS for fishing.

Kayak Fishing Team

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