NASA Spinoff

Forecasting Tools Point to Fishing Hotspots


alt “WorldWinds is what I call a value-added forecaster,” Jedlovec says. “They take some of these basic building blocks that NASA is providing and create tailored products for a specific end user in the commercial sector.”

Product Outcome

WorldWinds was featured in Spinoff 2002 with an eponymous weather forecasting product that utilized NASA satellite data for weather forecasting accurate to 1 kilometer. Since then, the company has expanded its product capabilities. In 2006, Baron Services Inc.—a Huntsville, Alabama weather solutions company that also evolved from a NASA partnership and was featured in Spinoff 1993—approached WorldWinds to develop a fisherman’s dream: a method of forecasting favorable conditions for certain fish populations. The result, which incorporates SPoRT SST and chlorophyll data, is FishBytes.

FishBytes guides fishing enthusiasts to areas most likely to be populated by target species. The system operates using two main components. First, it features a current database of 18 pelagic fish species popular with anglers, including tuna, mahi-mahi, sailfish, marlin, and tarpon. The database contains information such as known SST and salinity preferences for each species, as well as the fish’s favored proximity to land, depth ranges, and attraction to underwater geological features.

Second, the system gathers environmental information from a range of sources, including SPoRT, and compares these numbers to its fish preferences database. The results are remarkably accurate predictions of specific fish population locations within a 2-kilometer range.

“We’ve had great feedback from people saying FishBytes works even better than they expected,” says Elizabeth Valenti, WorldWinds president. “The fishermen love it.”

alt The key to the system’s effectiveness, says Valenti, is its ability to detect the lines between temperature and chlorophyll differences in the ocean. FishBytes uses a proprietary edge-detection algorithm to determine where these edges occur. “Fish tend to congregate at these chlorophyll or SST lines,” says Valenti. “We use other data to make our predictions, but these two characteristics seem to be the most important.” Small fish are attracted to areas high in chlorophyll-containing phytoplankton, a source of food; these fish in turn attract the larger species that anglers like to target.

WorldWinds sends the FishBytes data to the WxWorx division of Baron Services, which then broadcasts the service as part of XM WX Satellite Weather’s Master Mariner package, which also includes WorldWinds weather data that enables anglers to track storms as well as fishing hotspots. XM WX is part of XM Satellite Radio, the Nation’s leading satellite radio service. So far, Valenti says, XM WX has about 8,500 subscribers receiving FishBytes data on XM Satellite GPS devices.

Besides its effectiveness at pinpointing fish hangouts, FishBytes has significant range; while most current fish forecasting systems are limited to small regions, Valenti notes, FishBytes covers the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico (with coverage of the Pacific coming soon). The XM Satellite footprint reaches 600 miles offshore in all directions from the continental United States.

WorldWinds plans to expand its database of fish species, helping anglers save gas and time tracking down their favorite catches, all with the continued partnership of NASA.

“As a taxpayer, you see millions of dollars being invested in NASA, and technology transfer programs like SPoRT help people realize benefits from the tax dollars used to fund this research,” says Valenti. “It’s something that they deserve.”

The Weather Channel® is a registered trademark of The Weather Channel Inc.
FishBytes™ and WxWorx™ are trademarks of Baron Services Inc.
XM WX Satellite Weather® is a registered trademark of XM Satellite Radio Inc.