Cell phone apps can chart boating course

The campfire always has been a special place, almost sacred in a way, where hunters and fishermen swap carefully crafted tales of their exploits afield. With each passing year, the stories are embellished and added upon as needed to enhance the associated memories along with the stature of the storyteller, but I can’t help but wonder whether the traditional stories might be giving way to something new.

It sometimes seems that everywhere I go people can be seen huddled together while staring at the diminutive screens of a cell phone and discussing its contents. “This app is so awesome! It does this and that to make my life so much better. Have you got apps?”

When it comes to newfangled technology, especially technology for which there is no apparent imperative need other than social acceptance, I tend to drag my feet in its procurement. I did so with the original shoebox-size cell phones. I did so with texting, and I did so with smart-phones and the vast collection of available apps.

But when my old phone went the way of all the earth, I bought a phone with apps, and now I find myself calling friends and asking whether they have particular apps. Then I extol the virtue of my latest app discovery.

I didn’t give much thought to campfire apps discussions until I received an announcement late last week from the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation touting its newly released Take Me Fishing “Boat Ramps” app. The purpose of the app, according to the announcement, is “to help boaters and anglers find boat ramps right in the palm of their hand.” It is available at no cost for iPhone and Android phones.

“It’s all about convenience, and RBFF is committed to delivering information to visitors when they want it and how they want it,” RBFF president Frank Peterson said.

Well, I’m not too sure I wanted boat ramp information in the palm of my hand but decided to test the app to see how well it works. I easily found it on the Android marketplace and downloaded the appropriate version onto my phone. When you start the app, it begins by finding your current location on a Google map and provides an input block where you can enter an address, a ZIP code or a city name. When that information is provided, the app generates a list of nearby boat ramps and identifies them on the map.

After typing in my ZIP code, I checked the list of available boat ramps and found it to be a fairly comprehensive list of marinas and related facilities on Lakes Mead and Mohave, though Katherine Landing was missing, along with Fisherman’s access at Laughlin. Another area where the app comes up short is separating business offices from boat ramps. The last time I checked, Lake Mead Marina was not in downtown Boulder City. But even with that shortcoming, the program at least can give you an idea of what’s available in an area where you might want to launch. The app even provides directions.

Other apps for sportsmen include those that forecast hunting and fishing activity, duplicate waterfowl calls and help identity fish. Some you pay for, and some are free. Perhaps you can compare apps at your next campfire. Have you got apps?

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at intheoutdoorslv@gmail.com.

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