How to Choose the Best Boating Apps

By Debbie Hanson

Sep 27, 2021

How to choose best boating apps for navigation, trip planning, weather alerts, best fishing times. Selecting digital apps for your adventures on the water

While you shouldn’t depend completely on your cell phone when on board, learning how to choose the best boating apps can help make pre-trip planning easier and maximize your time on the water. Find out how to narrow down digital boat app options to find the best navigation, weather, fishing, and boating safety resources for your boating adventures.

Boat Navigation App Options

Whether you want the convenience of a boat map app aboard a small boat that doesn’t have a built-in navigation system, or your goal is to turn your smartphone into a chart plotter as a backup to your electronics behind the helm, check the reviews of boat navigation app options that have detailed marine and lake charts as well as some of the same advanced features that can be found on the best GPS plotters.

Navionics is one of the best boat navigation app options because it has world-wide chartography coverage for oceans, bays, and lakes. You can use it to navigate with advanced features like dock-to-dock autorouting, see user community updates, and sync your routes with your onboard chartplotter. You can test the basic features of the boating app through a free trial, but there is a subscription fee that varies depending on the chart region you select.

Weather App Options

The best boating weather app downloads can help you plan trips based on good weather days, avoid unexpected storms, and pinpoint locations with favorable wind conditions. The best boating apps for weather include those that offer real-time updates and live alerts, such as NOAA Weather Radar & Live Alert and Weatherbug.

NOAA Weather Radar & Live Alert includes real-time weather radar on a background map that’s easy to zoom in and out on, plus the Live Alerts feature is when you’re out on the water and weather conditions change unexpectedly, as they often do. In addition to NOAA Weather Radar & Live Alert, Weatherbug is another popular (and free) weather apps because of the interactive maps that are included for lightning, wind, temperature, pressure, and humidity.

Best Fishing App Options

When determining which fishing apps are the best for the type of fishing you do, you’ll want to consider apps that have beneficial features such as daily tide charts, fishing forecasts, solunar data, and fishing hotspots. Fishbrain is one of the most popular fishing apps since it offers an interactive map of hotspots, a species recognition tool, fishing forecasts, and a huge social network of 13 million anglers across the world (the basic version of Fishbrain is free, but there is a monthly subscription fee for the Pro version). FishAngler is another popular free fishing app option since you can access real-time fishing forecasts, pinpoint the best times to catch fish, get catch stats, bait recommendations, and log your catches with date, time, weather conditions, water temperatures, and solunar phases.

One final piece of advice, be sure to check the online ratings and reviews for any fishing or boating app you’re thinking of downloading. High ratings and unbiased reviews can tell you a lot about whether an app is user-friendly and worth the download.

Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s sport fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide living in Southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has appeared in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit or follow her on Instagram @shefishes2.