Naturally, commercial fishermen have a
lot of experience with fishfinders. “They
know what they want: a machine that will
give them a good indication of bottom
type—the difference between hard bottom
and sandy—and good fish discrimination.
They don’t care for fancy graphs. They want
to be able to see schools of fish and identify
schools of fish,” says Pete Marston of Seatronics in Gloucester, MA.
He says that recreational fishermen will
“pretty much put anything on and it will
work fine for them. Any decent color
machine will find strippers for you.”
When it comes to chartplotters, offshore
commercial fishermen favor PC-based pro-
grams. “Most commercial fishermen are going
to PC plotting packages with P-Sea WindPlot,
[ECC] Globe or MaxSea,” says Marston, “and
the higher-end boats are going to Olex at
The PC monitor they choose usually isn’t
the more expensive marine-grade unit. Fish-
ermen can go to Best Buy and purchase a 20
inch monitor for less than $1,000, says Brod-
erick. And it can be bought with a three-year
PCs, however, are rarely found aboard
recreational boats, especially inshore vessels.
“You can’t put a PC in a 22 foot center console
easily without it getting very expensive,”
Inshore commercial fishermen are also not
apt to rely on PCs, at least in New England.
“For plotters, they all want simplicity. Very
few are willing to learn new tricks. They don’t
want to have anything to do with the com-plexities of raster, vector charts and 3D. They
want to be able to make a mark where they
put a string of gear and no other fussing
around,” says Nate Howe at Hamilton Marine
in Searsport, ME.
It’s the owner of a recreation boat “that’s
interested in all the bells and whistles.
Things to play with. That’s what attracts
them,” he says.
Chatter vs. stealth
A definite difference between recreational
boaters and commercial fishermen is their attitude toward communication electronics.
Recreational guys love talking and don’t seem
too concerned about who is listening in. Commercial fishermen generally aren’t interested in
having multiple listeners and thus think more
in terms of stealth communication.
Actually, fishermen have always wanted to
keep their movements as invisible as possible.
Before scramblers, boats that worked together
had cryptic codes to indicate where they were
and whether or not they were finding fish. Of
course, any veteran fisherman hearing the
conversation could quickly figure things out.
So a secret wasn’t a secret for very long.
Another ploy involved switching to a prearranged channel once you heard a “code”
word or phrase on the radio. A fisherman and
his buddies just hoped no one else was on
Now fishermen are “looking for ways to
scramble communication. You never get that
with recreational guys,” says Howe.
“The most common question we get is,
what’s an inexpensive, discreet form of com-
munication?” says Marston. “Fishermen like
to be able to tell the guy they are working
with ‘fish are here,’ without anyone else
Thus scramblers with VHF radios are a
necessity. Fishermen also use CBs or 10-
meter radios for boat-to-boat talks when they
“don’t want the average weekend warrior lis-
tening in,” Marston added.
Broderick says that when Sound Marine
Electronics outfits new $3 million to $5 mil-
lion scallopers and draggers, “We put CBs on
them as fall-back equipment.”
When it comes to VHF radios, commer-
cial fishermen generally aren’t afraid to spend
their money. Broderick, who outfits fishing
boats as far north as New Bedford, finds that
owners of offshore boats will drop close to
$1,000 on just the antenna, coax cable and
labor to install it, as well as $500 for a VHF
radio. “They want a main brand with DSC, PA
and everything. For them it’s worth it. Some-
times they are using it 24 hours a day,” Brod-
Commercial fishermen have also grown to
accept and appreciate a form of satellite communication they didn’t want to have anything
to do with when it was first introduced. That’s
the satellite-based Vessel Monitoring System,
or VMS, that many fishing boats are required
to carry, which allows the National Marine
Fisheries Service to track boats to make sure
they aren’t fishing in restricted areas.
Using VMS’ satellite communications
technology, fishermen can send emails to
their families, and a boat owner can keep
track of his boats.
On the recreational side, Broderick says he
has been trying to educate small-boat operators about buying VHF radios. They are