Every so often a product comes along that truly enhances your outdoor experience. A product offering the perfect blend of technology, innovation and useful information that you wonder how you ever managed without it. For anglers, the Colorado Fishing Atlas is precisely this type of product.
Earlier this year, Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s GIS department developed the Colorado Fishing Atlas, a user-friendly and interactive online mapping system that provides anglers with the ultimate where-to resource for thousands of fishing locations throughout the state. Since its debut this spring, the Atlas has received rave reviews from anglers and CPW staff alike.
In this interview, GIS analysts and Colorado Fishing Atlas developers Chris Johnson and Grant Wilcox share some of the inspiration behind developing the Fishing Atlas and also touch on a few of their favorite functions and features:
What were the main objectives you wanted to achieve when you were developing the Colorado Fishing Atlas?
Johnson: We developed the Colorado Fishing Atlas to assist anglers in finding a fishing experience that could be catered to individual interests and skill levels. We wanted a mapping application that would be of equal use to the novice angler as it would to a seasoned fly fisherman. To achieve that breadth of scope, one of our main objectives was to pinpoint and distill all the various pieces of information that might be used to find all those special fishing opportunities in Colorado.
Wilcox: We were hoping to create the best fishing site in the country with a wide variety of fishing locations that would appeal to all of the various angling groups in the state (families, rustic fly-fishermen, warm-water and cold-water anglers, mobility impaired anglers, etc.).
What was involved and how long did it take to develop the Atlas from concept to finished product?
Johnson: Much of the map interface was developed as part of the Colorado Hunting Atlas. In fact, it was a conscious decision to use the same look and feel for both, so once users became comfortable with one, using the other would already be familiar. Outside of a few modifications, most of the development time was spent on the data that sits behind the map. We pulled as much information that already existed in some form or fashion from previous documents into a GIS database.
Wilcox: The development was really an agency-wide process, including input from the Angler Recruitment and Retention Committee, all of the area aquatic biologists and many district wildlife managers from across the state. All told, data development took approximately twelve months with the final technological pieces taking another 3 months.
What are some of your favorite features included in the Fishing Atlas?
Johnson: From an interface standpoint, I really like how much useful information you can get from a single click. Every location contains information regarding what fish to expect, the ease of access, the fishing pressure, what boating is available and a link to driving directions. From the data side, we asked each aquatic biologist to provide a handful of “rustic” locations with good opportunities to catch trout. That kind of expert knowledge is completely unique to CPW.
Wilcox: My favorite thing is simply the wealth of information included. We currently feature over 1250 individual fishing locations that provide a variety of angling experiences. I also like that nearly every fishing location has a link to the managing agency’s pertinent webpage, allowing the user to get more information for each spot than we are able to provide in the atlas.
Any other features you would like to mention?
Johnson: The best part about the Colorado Fishing Atlas is that it is a dynamic system rather than a static map or document. New locations can and have already been added. Data can be updated in a matter of minutes, which makes this not just a tool for sportsmen but also a tool for sound fisheries management.
Wilcox: Getting basic information from the atlas is quite easy, but experienced users will find a lot of useful tools provided that can be quite powerful. The Fishing Resource Report tool provides a quick list of locations, license agents and special regulations for an area of interest as well as printable maps. We also have links to stream gages, which allow users access to real-time flow rates at various sites around the state.
For more information about the Colorado Fishing Atlas and its features, view the Colorado Fishing Atlas tutorial video here on Colorado Outdoors Online.