Updated: Jul 6, 2018
If archaeology were my passion, I’d probably be on a team searching for Atlantis right now. I could devote decades trying to find an ancient city that may or may not have existed. Lord knows, I’ve already spent enough time trying to find trout streams that may or may not exist. Until now. Now I just access the Stream Map USA app on my iPhone and not only can I find out if some rumored piece of trout heaven is real, but I can get turn by turn directions to one of its access points.
Last summer I was fishing near camp in Potter County and went into the town of Coudersport for some supplies. It was hot, the water was low, not good conditions for much other than curling up in some shade and taking an afternoon snooze. I stopped at a little pull-off just outside of town wondering where I should go. From that location, I had my pick of at least a dozen streams within a ten-minute drive. Just for kicks I pulled out my phone and opened up the Steam Map USA app.
Over the years, I’d heard of a stream called Mill Creek in Potter County. Although it seems every county in Pennsylvania has at least one stream named Mill Creek, this one supposedly flowed through, near, or around Coudersport in some fashion. I’d first read about it years ago in Charlie Meck’s book, “Pennsylvania Trout Streams and Their Hatches,” and had put it on my bucket list of wild trout fisheries to visit someday. Well, I decided this would be the day.
I have the Northeast Edition of the app. I searched for “Mill Creek” and about a billion results came up all scattered throughout the New England states. I then narrowed the search to Pennsylvania, and then, specifically, Potter County. Boom! There is only one Mill Creek in Potter County…and according to the map, my truck was parked only about fifty yards from an access point. What?!
I walked up the road to where the trickle of a stream splashed through a culvert. It was no more than a few feet wide, which is probably why I hadn’t recognized it as anything other than a runoff creek before now.
I drove downstream where the stream was wider, pulled on my boots, and grabbed my rod out of the back. I caught a handful of native brookies and couldn’t believe it…Mill Creek. Who’d have thought that an app on my iPhone would result in a peaceful afternoon on a stream that until now only existed in a book I’d read as a teenager? Behold, Atlantis!
Since that day, I’ve used the Stream Map USA app on numerous occasions, not only to actually find a place to fish, but sometimes just for entertainment. Last year, my wife and I went to Boston for a weekend. On our way, every time we crossed a bridge with a trickle of water under it, I accessed the app on my phone and found its name. I then cross referenced that with internet resources and in seconds I knew how to access that stream, what if any special regulations pertained to that water, and the species of fish that lived there.
When targeting PA streams, though, you can eliminate tedious internet research and find all the information you need in one location with the GPS Fishing Guide to Pennsylvania app. This app allows you to actually search for places to fish according to regulations or types of fishing. For instance, if I’m in a part of the state where I’m unfamiliar with the streams, all I have to do is go into the app and click on trout fishing. A menu comes up with various categories: Stocked Trout Waters, Steelhead Trout Waters, Class A Trout Waters, Wilderness Trout Waters, Special Regulation Trout Waters, etc.
If I tap on Special Regulation Trout Waters, it takes me to a new menu where I can choose from another list of categories that include Catch & Release Fly Fishing Only, Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures, Trophy Trout All Tackle, and others. Tap on one of those and it pulls up all of the streams, starting with those closest to my location, that meet those requirements. Tap on the stream and it will provide turn by turn directions to that fishing destination.
The use of these maps isn’t limited to trout fishing, of course. Both apps offer the same ability to find lake hot spots for all species of fish, from musky to bluegills.
Both apps are the brainchild of friend and fellow Pennsylvanian Mike Gogal of Gogal Publishing, a mapmaking firm that specializes in unique outdoor maps designed for iPhones, iPads, and Android devices. “In the past, I always used maps for my fishing adventures and have amassed a huge collection,” he says. “Today, they’re getting harder and harder to find.”
So in 2014 Mike decided to start mapping America’s streams himself. The result has been a series of eight apps, each one covering a different region of the country, and each one revealing the location of every stream in the Lower 48.
Every Stream Map USA app has searchable color coded maps that can be viewed over roadmaps, satellite images, or high resolution topographic maps. It even includes USGS Stream Gauge markers that provide instant access to current water conditions through the US Geological Survey's National Water Information Service.
Once you arrive at a fishing spot, Stream Map USA turns your mobile device into a handheld GPS. Your location is displayed on the map as it follows your travels. Along the way, you can save additional waypoints with GPS accuracy and add your own notes. This feature is ideal for marking fishing holes, campsites, tree stands, scenic locations, or just about anywhere you may wish to return. To get back, simply tap your waypoint's "Target" button and use the built-in navigation compass, which points the way and counts down the distance right to your spot. It even works without cellular service!
"Stream Map USA is the culmination of years of work and I'm not stopping here," says Mike. "It is my hope that these maps will be the ‘Gold Standard’ for outdoor enthusiasts and watershed managers for years to come."
I believe they will. Both Stream Map USA and the GPS Fishing Guide to Pennsylvania are incredibly easy to use. They also make adventuring more fun because I waste less time trying to find a place to fish and spend more time actually exploring new waters.
Stream Map USA is currently available for purchase on the App Store and Google Play. Each edition can be installed on multiple devices including both phones and tablets.