Electronics Apps for Finding Billfish

When it comes to finding billfish, there's an app for that.

No sport-fisher plies the pelagic waters without a full array of fish-finding navigation equipment. So why then are we looking into these newfangled tablet navigation apps? Because electronics manufacturers are increasingly incorporating some of the same elements found in these new apps into their helm-station equipment. Consequently, anglers and skippers see more and more advantages to many elements found in portable equipment like smartphones and tablets. To be sure, you can’t connect an autopilot to a tablet (yet) or get sonar on a tablet without tapping into your navigation suite. No, we don’t think marlin fishers will abandon fixed-mount electronics, but we do believe some of these cool features will be popping up on your helm station. Nevertheless, we were impressed with the navigation power these apps exhibited.

Hiltons Rt-Nav

NAVIGATING TO FISH Used in conjunction with the website to load charts to your app account, it enables your iPad to function not just as a navigation device, but also as one armed with the data that professional fishermen use to find fish. From online you can download weather, sea surface temperatures (SST), altimetry, chlorophyll and current to your account for access by the app. Then set your course for the exact spot where currents, SST breaks, chlorophyll concentrations and altimetry changes align to create killer fishing holes. Noted: You can use your iPad browser to save charts to your account, but you can’t use the app. We didn’t mind that after seeing how quickly they downloaded and how easy it was to view them, select spots, drop waypoints, and navigate to them, but it wasn’t seamless. Beware of other apps that don’t hand-correct charts. Hiltons’ founder stands by the phone all day, so if the “edge” moves, he can redirect you via satellite phone. Charts: Free Subscription Price: $200 per year Wi-Fi to Chart Plotter: No Android: Not available **Apple
**Price: Free
Rating: Not rated
Current Version Tested: 1.1
Size: 1.6 MB
Requires: iOS 5.0 or higher
Updated: March 2013

SST Online

Offering weather, SST, altimetry, chlorophyll and currents comparable to Hiltons’, the charts seamlessly download through the app. Charts are highly detailed and hand-corrected for position (as they are in Hiltons and Terrafin). The free Demo Mode allows free chart downloads every 14 days. Subscribers receive daily updates as requested. Noted: The in-app downloads are handy, but finding our way around the app was a little more difficult. The iPad app takes up substantially more storage space than the Android app. Charts: Free Subscription Price: $149 per year Wi-Fi to Chart Plotter: No **Android
**Price: $0.99
Rating: 3 stars (2 ratings only)
Current Version Tested: 1.0.0
Size: 1.3 MB
Requires: 2.2 and up
Updated: March 2012 **Apple
**Price: $0.99
Rating: 3 stars (6 ratings)
Current Version Tested: 1.2
Size: 2.3 MB
Requires: iOS 5.1 or higher
Updated: May 2013

Terrafin Mobile

Providing the same sea-condition information of the previous two apps, with hand-correction, Terrafin has a pretty clean operating style. By setting an origin point and moving the cursor around it, you can measure distance to the cursor — handy when you need to pick up and move to find fish. As on the others, you can see your position, course and bearing in relation to the waypoints you select. You can also set a course and follow the line. Noted: Setting an origin waypoint is awkward because the cursor is a distance from the dropped-pin waypoint. Move the cursor to drag the pin. Don’t delete waypoints unless you mean to lose them forever. It’s a data-storage hog on iOS. Charts: Free Subscription Price: $99 per year Wi-Fi to Chart Plotter: No **Android
**Price: Free
Rating: 4 stars (11 ratings)
Current Version Tested: 1.5
Size: 1.7 MB
Requires: 2.3.3 and up
Updated: July 2013 **Apple
**Price: Free
Rating: 3.5 stars (5 ratings)
Current Version Tested: 2.1
Size: 34.9 MB
Requires: iOS 5.0 or higher
Updated: March 201

Jeppesen Plan2Nav

NAVIGATING TO CRUISE Jeppesen’s key function is to give armchair trip planning, which can be downloaded to your Wi-Fi-capable chart-plotter system. When you purchase charts, the system gives full detail, including fishing wrecks, soundings and complete weather, even sea height. The system is intuitive; I picked up on its nuances just by poking around on the menu icons. It can be used as a stand-alone navigation device too — a practice becoming increasingly popular. Noted: The free app gives more-limited charting, weather and other capabilities, but it is useful to boaters in its free form. Measuring distance from your position is easy, but measuring distance from two unrelated points isn’t. The anchor-drift function adds overnight safety, assuming power or a power source is available. Charts: From $30 to $50 Subscriptions: Not available Wi-Fi to Chart Plotter: Yes — planning, routes and waypoints **Android
**Price: Free
Rating: 3.3 stars (215 ratings)
Current Version Tested:
Size: 13 MB
Requires: 2.2 and up
Updated: February 2014 **Apple
**Price: Free
Rating: 2.5 stars (103 ratings)
Current Version Tested: 1.41
Size: 123 MB
Requires: 4.3 or higher
Updated: April 2014

Navionics Boating

This might be the most downloaded navigation app, and it includes access to all Navionics charts plus NOAA raster charts that look just like paper charts. The coolest parts are the add-on modules ($5 each). The Nav Module lets your device be the chart plotter. Others allow automatic routing based on boat height, speed, draft, and other factors, as well as setting depth safety parameters. If you purchase Navionics Gold or Platinum charts, you get SonarCharts, which allows your sonar data to be uploaded to the Freshest Data servers, and automatically updates chart soundings with your up-to-the-minute data, which it then downloads into your chart plotter. Noted: Can’t complain about free, but the cool things needed are the three $5 modules for navigation, which are standard on other apps. Autorouting and advanced-map options allowing shallow safety zones are nice optional updates though. Charts: From $49.99 Subscriptions: Platinum renewal is $99 annually Wi-Fi to Chart Plotter: Yes — routes and trip plans **Android
**Price: $9.99
Rating: 4.2 stars (1,162 ratings)
Current Version Tested: 3.1.1
Size: 31 MB
Requires: 2.3.3
Updated: April 2014 **Apple
**Price: Free
Rating: Not rated
Current Version Tested: 6.0.3
Size: 55.4 MB
Requires: iOS 6.0 or higher
Updated: April 2014

Garmin BlueChart Mobile

I’ve always felt that Garmin is the master at “intuitive,” and this app proves it is. It was the quickest to learn by punching around on the buttons and menus, and the easiest to use once done. All navigation functions one would expect are available on it. The Active Captain function allows online interaction with the boating community, with social updates pertaining to marine services, waypoints, hazards and more. An upgraded weather option is also available, giving near real-time radar when Wi-Fi connected. Noted: Tap the navigator’s dividers to establish to points, and move each to mark and measure distance as needed. Tap the seas icon for wave-height readings and current-velocity predictions. Charts: Up to $50 Subscriptions: Active Captain Wi-Fi to Chart Plotter: Yes — routes and trip plans Android: Not available **Apple
**Price: Free
Rating: 3 stars (163 ratings)
Current Version Tested: 1.4.1
Size: 117 MB
Requires: iOS 6.0 or higher
Updated: October 2013


The free app was pretty good at basic navigation, but we found the subscription version well worth the money. With it, you can download any and all NOAA raster charts, set waypoints, create routes, and adjust them by dragging waypoints on the screen. The trip monitor bar at the bottom can be customized for course, heading, DTG, speed, current speed, ETA, position, etc. Google satellite charts are overlaid on raster charts on this powerful app for landlubber detail. Noted: The system uses only NOAA raster charts — an on-screen imitation of the old paper charts — instead of more-modern vector charts — yet many captains prefer the comfort of the traditional paper look. The screen updates slowly on our early-version iPad. Charts: Free Subscription: $9.99 per year Wi-Fi to Chart Plotter: No Android: Not available **Apple
**Price: Free
Rating: 4 stars (31 ratings)
Size: 44.4 MB
Current Version Tested: 1.4
Requires: iOS 5.0 or higher
Updated: December 2013