The Future of Fishing

Universal boat control, augmented reality, artificial intelligence and live sonar will change the way you fish
Configuring Raymarine's DockSense Alert offers protection
Courtesy Raymarine Raymarine’s DockSense Alert—among the first marine systems to employ artificial intelligence—can be configured with one to five cameras. Left to right: a one-camera system offers stern protection when docking; a three-camera solution; the five-camera option.

Two 16-inch display screens stare out from the helm face of a center-console ­fishing boat. As you stand before them, you see your reflection in the monitor.

Suddenly, they whir to life, and you jump back. Your buddy walks down the dock, a smile on his face, tapping buttons on a smartphone.

An onscreen message pops up, letting you know that the bilge pump cycled several times during the night and the shore charge topped off the batteries.
As you motor toward the first drawbridge, one display launches your outrigger-control panel, asking if you’d like to lower the electric riggers.

At the same time, your plotter window enters augmented reality mode, displaying video and data on buoys and larger vessels ahead. Your fish finder marks a sizable rubble field to starboard. The sonar even indicates fish swimming on the down-current side of the structure.

This is no imaginary sci-fi glimpse into the 2050s. In fact, this scenario will likely become normal during the next decade.

Universal Control

Remote control of boat systems and security monitoring, as well as full-house networking of every tool on board—from outriggers to lights, to entertainment to tables and seating—already appears, for the most part, in the marine-­industry market today. How far it spreads in the next 20 to 40 months depends on the economy and the pace of innovation.

Three primary technological factors come into play:

  • The Internet of Things (IoT): Defined as the interconnection of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, which allows them to send and receive data.
  • Telematics: A way to ­monitor vessels using GPS and mobile-device apps. Monitoring usually includes basic security functions and system functions, such as alerting for low fluid levels. The newest example is Garmin’s OnDeck system.
  • OneNet: A new communication standard released in late October by the marine ­electronics industry, OneNet will standardize the manner in which data and high-bandwidth video move around the boat and off the boat. Using this IPv6 Ethernet Standard, your boat and all its sensors can become part of the IoT.

Augmented Reality/Artificial Intelligence

Augmented reality is a fancy phrase for describing the computer enhancement of real-world objects. Raymarine employs AR with its ClearCruise product, which blends video from cameras with information pulled from charts and AIS.

What you see on your electronics is video of what’s ahead of the boat, with color-coded tags identifying buoys, objects and ships, and their distance from your vessel. Seeing that kind of view improves your perception of the surrounding traffic—similar to what you’d see on a head-up display.

Right now, artificial intelligence in the recreational marine world relates to docking—or, more precisely, self-docking or autonomous boating. Raymarine and Boston Whaler (owned by Brunswick Corp.) partnered in 2019 to demonstrate their first-generation DockSense ­assisted-docking system at the Miami International Boat Show.

Various cameras in key ­locations aboard the boat help create a virtual bumper zone around the vessel using ­video-analytic technology. The information transmits to the outboards and steering system, which correct the boat’s positioning. Essentially, the boat can dock itself.

The first generation of DockSense—DockSense Alert (without the auto-steering)—is available now. Brunswick also announced in late October that it has made additional investments in Sea Machines Robotics; the partnership is committed to build autonomous solutions for the marine industry.

Live Sonar

All of the major electronics manufacturers now have some version of 3D sonar, often based on multibeam technology, which uses multiple simultaneous beams in a single ping to pick up and display more targets with more detail.

But 3D still delivers sounder history versus real-time returns. That’s where Garmin’s Panoptix LiveScope and Lowrance’s high-resolution ActiveTarget have stepped even further ahead. Both technologies create video­like real-time views of what’s below and ahead of the boat. Sometimes the display can be so lifelike that you can discern the fish species. Sometimes you can even watch a fish approach your lure or bait.

The ActiveTarget technology, introduced in December, offers Forward, Down and Scout modes. Scout delivers an ultra-wide overhead view of structure and fish in front of the boat.

Live sonar can be costly, but like chirp and imaging technology, it will eventually drop in price. When that happens, and you see the ocean bottom as clear as a drone picture, the fish really don’t stand a chance.

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