FishViews, a startup based in Wimberly, Texas, is adding new features to your summer “river float” plans—providing anglers, rafters, government agencies, and conservation organizations with interactive 360-degree digital maps of a growing list of American and worldwide waterways. Similar to the Google Street View platform you use to spy on your neighbors, the technology allows anglers to scout and navigate entire river systems from the comfort of a recliner. No PFDs required.

Company founder Scott Gallagher's ambitious plan is to have 20,000 river miles (30x the length of the Yellowstone) mapped in the next two years. But with more than 3.5 million floatable river miles in the U.S., and FishViews having only captured 200 of them so far, the river ahead is a long one. Gallagher and partner Brian Footen hatched their business blueprint while working to improve aerial survey methods of salmon redds on Washington’s Green River. Instead of using expensive helicopters, they started flying drones and capturing some high-quality imagery. “We felt we could put these efforts toward something bigger,” Gallagher says.

The drone prototype lasted a few months, while "something bigger" morphed into footage propelled by an early version of what became the custom-built 360-degree camera FishViews uses today. Taking off-the-shelf technology—GoPros, a GPS, and a water quality meter—the company has created a customized node that’s mountable on most rafts and burly enough to endure class III and IV rapids. During the course of a float, it captures hundreds of geo-tagged, high-def images, including both surface and sub-surface water data.

Gallagher’s first paid project was mapping Texas’ lower Guadalupe River, with financial backing coming from Guadalupe Trout Unlimited Chapter, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and the local recreation district. Following the Guadalupe project, they tackled Illinois’ Chicago River, the San Marcos River in their home state of Texas, and Washington’s Elwha and South Fork Hoh Rivers in Olympic National Park. The latter two projects were funded by the U.S. Department of Interior.

Aside from agency use, guides and fly shops are also starting to see value in having the detail-rich maps available for customers. Chris Long of Gruene Outfitters in New Braunfels, Texas, is working with FishViews to establish the technology in their shop. “It’s a useful tool in a fly shop setting and will be helpful having a handful of river tours to embed into our website,” Long says. “Then our customers can tour the river before they go out, and we can go frame by frame, pick it apart, and I can teach someone how to approach that water.”

But the notion is not lost on Gallagher that this tool could burn a stretch of river and open online scouting to many places previously inaccessible without a little bootstrapping.

“I don’t want us to create a situation where we put so much pressure on a particular river that it dilutes the fun or puts unnecessary stress on the fishery,” he says. “We don’t want to invite too many people to the party, but we do want to have the content accessible at various levels.”

Maps and content are currently available—for free—at fishviews.com. As the company expands its river repetoire, the plan is to set up paid-access or a subscription-based model and add some exclusivity to the various layers of content.

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