Up until a few years ago, pro fishermen would regularly pay to have a pilot fly them over new lakes. From the sky, it is easy to see an entire lake quickly, and you can see what areas of the lake are clear or muddy, spots with vegetation in the water, and what places have lots of docks or riprap shores. Essentially, they’d get to see the whole lake in an hour instead of spending a week in their boat to see it all.
Nowadays, the satellite imagery on tons of websites and apps allows you to get an aerial view of waterways for free, and pros and weekend warriors alike are using this powerful scouting tool. For starters, if you’re looking for new ponds and lakes to fish, a quick review of a satellite image will point out every bit of water around you. Many small lakes and streams have public access but aren’t very well-known. A bit of map study followed by some Internet research can help you find a honey hole all for yourself.
One of the best features of sites like Google Earth is that they have current and older maps. By looking at maps from past drought years when lakes or rivers were very low, you can see all sorts of hidden fish-holding details, like sunken islands, deeper holes and rocky bottoms.
An overhead view of a complex Mississippi River backwater area shows the maze of canals and lots of areas of lily pads and other aquatic vegetation that fish love:
A recent satellite photo of a lake with the water at normal level:
An older photo of the same cove during a drought year, with the shallow humps exposed and only the deepest ditches still holding water:
Satellite maps are one of the best new tools for fishing. They’re easy to use, and they’re usually the first thing fishing pros review when prepping for a new lake. Give them a try before your next fishing trip; I think you’ll find them to be a big help.