Whether you are on a multi-day fishing trip to some hidden lake or stream or doing a quick run to set a crab trap on the sea, it’s smart to have a variety of communication options at your disposal. It’s even smarter to have ones that function differently.
I really don’t think there is a substitute for VHF radios on the sea, but the problem is that not everyone knows how to use them. And to that point, you need to take a course and pass a written and verbal test to attain your radio operator’s card so you can legally (and properly) use a VHF. The reality is that there is a significant number of fishermen that do not have a VHF radio, much less a licence. These days, pretty much everyone has a cell phone, and while 911 will route a call to the Coast Guard, it doesn’t mean that you are always going to have cell signal. And if you are like me, you’ll be fishing in areas where there is guaranteed to be no cell signal whether at sea or on land—that’s part of the experience and escape that I call “fishing”.
Emergency aside, let’s talk about staying connected to other boaters and with people on the shore. Let’s also talk about staying connected to fishing buddies deep in the woods spread out down a stream or at a lake. Let’s look at a couple “what-if” scenarios where there’s no cellular service and VHF isn’t really an option.
Fishing alone, longer than expected
You head out for the morning bite while your partner sleeps in. Since you aren’t having much luck, you decide to stay out longer than you agreed to. Your partner wants to contact you from the camp site to see if you are OK.
In a derby with a couple other friends’ boats
You find the fish and want to tell your friends where they are. Some of your friends don’t have VHF, and you don’t want to broadcast it anyway, because you didn’t establish your “secret code” or pick a channel the night before.
River fishing with friends, but spread out
Fishing with friends can still mean fishing alone. You need to know which of your friends are close and if they have any extra leaders—you forgot yours.
Out of luck? No, you aren’t.
The most obvious answer is walkie-talkies. While they are not private, they are cheap, readily available, and reliable. Some have a long range, and some even float. Sure, they transmit voice, but not location. We recently got our hands on two innovative products that you might want to have a look at for remote adventuring. Both offer location services, and both also offer “mesh networking” technology, which is essentially a radio network that allow devices to piggyback a signal; the more users, the bigger your network and the greater the range. Mesh networking isn’t new; it comes from military and large commercial applications. But over the past few years, there’s been tremendous development of mesh networking devices and applications in the consumer market which is gaining appeal for outdoor enthusiasts rapidly. Because these devices can be paired with our most familiar devices, our smart phones, they are catching on very fast—it’s a short learning curve and they are affordable. Here’s the two we had a look at.
When paired with your phone, this small device connects you to other GoTenna users in range, creating a “network” and allowing for 1-to-1 or 1-to-group texting. GPS location can also be shared and seen on downloadable offline maps. Granted, the device is not designed for long distance, but in the case of a derby or fishing with close-by friends and family where there is no cell or VHF, this gadget could be a fun and safe way to keep in touch privately with your fishing buddies.
1W 900-928 Mhz – text
Range 600-800 yards/line-of-site range posible up to 4 miles
www.imeshyou.com shows you locations of other GoTennas, of which there are surprisingly many
In addition to text, the Beartooth allows for emojis, but most importantly, it also handles voice. Much different than a walkie-talkie, this device offers encryption, allowing for private conversations that can’t be eavesdropped on. It also has a 3000mAh battery built in, which you can use to charge your phone or other device.
1 W 900 Mhz UHF – talk, text and emojis
Range: 2 miles voice, 4 miles text /line-of-site range up to 5 miles for voice, 10 for text
4 day battery (3000mAh battery – can use to charge your phone)
It’s interesting to see the growing number of useful devices that can expand your capabilities to keep in touch in remote situations. Especially useful is the location mapping in difficult terrain—like that crazy goat path you still risk your neck on for that perfect coho casting spot in Tofino. I’m looking at you Chris Wood—I don’t know how you haven’t broken a leg by now!