Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Fun with maps

If I wasn't a fishing nerd before,
I certainly am now
I go fishing quite often, and really like to explore new bodies of water. Sometimes I'll get tips on windycityfishing, or hear of a good place from a blog, but often I'll discover some new water by traveling around virtually with google earth. I think I've posted about this before, but I've been obsessed and busy lately working in Google Earth. It's the free standalone application version of what you get on google maps, very similar to bing maps.

The cool thing is you can import all sorts of stuff into google earth, basically create your own custom maps. Since last year, I've been making all sorts of marks and overlays on my google earth map, which I suppose is the digital version of marking up an old gazetteer map book. This just happens to be a rare instance when my love and interest in computers overlaps with my love and interest in fishing. I've always had a strange obsession with looking at maps, this just takes it to a new level.

Last year I added overlays to my map; I searched the internet for depth maps of local fishing spots, and superimposed them on the google earth map. Then I could add my own little "buttons" or "pins" to mark spots as something significant, or record catches. For instance, here's my map of Busse Lake:

Recently I've been obsessed with moving water (i.e. creeks, rivers, streams, etc.) but the maps of rivers and streams aren't so good in google earth. To that end, I've been drawing my own river outlines, so I can easily see them on the big map when I zoom out.

All those blue lines I "drew" in by hand, following the curves of the water visually. A lot of the smaller tributaries don't even show up on big maps, but now I've got a nice map of some of them! I also found a big map of major Illinois rivers, which I have superimposed over the whole state. That helps me get an idea where things are when I read reports.

This has been really helpful for discovering new spots,  keeping records of trips, and just generally occupying myself when I can't be fishing.

And just yesterday, I discovered something extremely cool on the USGS site: you can download a .kml file (a google earth map file) that has updated-regularly flow and level information for the entire country. This means I can easily see the conditions of all the local rivers before I head out in my waders. All those colored dots on my maps are USGS stations, and if you click them you can get the current conditions.

... And once you throw in all the other stuff you can do, like seeing live weather radar, topography, and water temperatures, it's easy to fall down the rabbit hole and play with google earth all day.

Elevation exaggeration set to "3"
That's a lot of info
And of course, I still have a dub album 90% complete that needs to be finished. This fishing stuff sometimes interferes with my other interests... But I'll probably wait until the weather is nasty to make some more music. The rest of the time I'll continue making my CB Fishes digital regional fishing atlas.


  1. Killing it, Chris. This is the kind if thing I love doing, but I don't have the time or CPU cycles to actually do. Bundling these into a phone-friendly pack would be unreal. Making it into a proper app...that is something I would pay money for.

  2. Thanks Anthony! If you have an iphone, you can actually open any .kml file in the maps app. This might work in android too. You don't get the sweet overlays, you get little pins in place of all your locations. I don't know much about writing apps, but maybe I should look into that...


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