Q. How can I be electronically unnoticeable when fishing?
A. Communicate and navigate like a spy. For example, voice scramblers are optional with some models of VHF radios including handheld portables. These can be installed and used when talking on the air with fishing buddies.
With ranges from 2 to 6 miles, FRS (Family Radio Service) and GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) are both inexpensive (less than $50 to $120), usually sold in pairs, and readily available at sporting goods and home-supply stores. These can be used to communicate in semiprivacy, and some sets have voice-scrambling ability.
Garmin’s InReach portable radios ($400 to $450 plus subscription) let you send and receive text messages in privacy with other InReach radios, as well as with landline and cellular phones and computers.
Cellphones can also prove useful when fishing within cell-range coverage to exchange fishing-related information in privacy.
Also, don’t advertise your location. Did you know that you can turn off your AIS broadcasts that show your position, yet at the same time still receive AIS data from other vessels? Ask your dealer or installer on how to install a switch to silence your AIS’s transmitter.
Keep Your Distance
It is best to remain a safe distance away from other boats when fishing at one of your secret fishing spots. Use your eyes and ears as well as your radar and AIS to check on those around you to detect potential competition. You can use the amplified audio listen-back feature of a hailer to eavesdrop on nearby boats to hear if they are talking about their fishing activities.
You can find the location of others that are talking about fishing with the use of a VHF radio direction finder (Simrad TD-L16550, $4,200). This is the same equipment commercial fishermen use to spy on other fishermen.
Secure and private communications can be ensured with encrypted or electronic voice-scrambled messages. Several marine radio manufacturers have both fixed and portable models with the ability to install an optional voice-scrambler module in a few current and older sets. These include the Icom IC-M605, M604, M506, M504 and M1V, and the Standard Horizon GX2000, GX2100, GX2200, GX5500S, Omni and Spectrum. Scramblers for these models are priced between $130 and $160.
FRS (Family Radio Service) radios have been around for years and used by individuals and groups as an inexpensive means for short-range communications. FRS has up to 14 channels, a half watt of power with a range of about 1 mile, and does not require a license.
GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) radios have additional advantages, including 22 total channels that tend to be less used than frequencies on FRS sets and 5 watts of power with a range of 4 to 6 miles. However, a radio station license is required ($85 for five years) for GMRS sets.
Also, combination models that have both FRS and GMRS channels are available. Most FRS and GMRS sets have built-in privacy codes so users can coordinate on which privacy-code settings to use to communicate more privately.
MURS (Multi-Use Radio Service) could be the best-kept secret as a useful means to keep your conversations from being overheard. MURS has five exclusive channels and a greater range of 3 to 8 miles — and does not require a license to operate.
Best of all, MURS frequencies are closer to marine VHF frequencies and as such can be programed into select marine VHF radios. These include the Cobra MRHH450, Icom IC-M85, Standard Horizon HX380 and HX400, and Uniden Atlantis 295 marine radios. This can provide you with extra channels in your radio that can give you another way to talk to others with similar sets, with the likelihood that other boats will not hear your communications.
Citizen’s Band (CB), HAM or amateur radios and satellite phones have been used by sport fishermen as additional means of keeping conversations more secure.