An Outdoor View: Tomorrow’s charter

Judging by the increasing use of robots, in a few years they’ll be doing pretty much everything.

Imagine a halibut-fishing charter in, say, 2027. You’ll board an autonomously operated “bot” boat, programmed to deliver you to various predetermined fishing spots. Sensors on the boat will detect tidal and weather conditions, and vary the boat’s course and destination accordingly. The boat’s quiet and reliable electric motor and a system of pump-jets will maintain a smooth and level ride at all times.

A folksy recording that old-timers might recognize as that of a charter-boat captain from the old days will greet you as you step aboard. The bot captain’s cool, calm voice will usher you into a climate-controlled cabin and guide you to a comfortable swivel chair.

Ask the bot captain a question about anything, and it will answer promptly and factually. It will offer you upgrades, such as meals, drinks and extended fishing time, which will immediately be charged to your bank account. It will comment on subjects of interest that you’ll pass along the way, interspersed with a selection of humorous anecdotes that are constantly updated for timeliness and screened for political correctness. The jokes will be different each time you fish aboard this boat, a welcome change from the present.

Upon arrival at the programmed fishing spot, the boat’s propulsion system will automatically hold it in “anchored” position or slow it to trolling speed, depending on the fishing method you’ve selected. You won’t have to get up from your chair, because an electric motor will drive it to the stern on tracks in the deck. Fishing rods will then automatically deploy, and electric reels will automatically feed out the proper length of line.

To avoid the expense of losing the expensive rods overboard, they’ll be fastened directly to the boat. This will not only relieve anglers from the strain of pulling in fish, but will allow them to keep both hands free for using their smart phones and other mobile electronic devices.

When a fish bites, a sensor will turn on a recording of “Fish on!” There will be no need to worry or to become excited. If you’re busy texting, playing a game or checking the stock market, the reel will automatically engage within 5 seconds and reel in the fish for you.

There will be no more walking on slimy, bloody decks. Fish won’t be allowed on deck, but will be sucked into a port in the stern. There, in a matter of seconds, a bot will unhook, fillet, vac-pack, flash-freeze and store the fish in a freezer.

For a small fee, your entire fishing trip, complete with shots of scenery and wildlife, will be captured by the boat’s cameras and uploaded to Facebook. If you’re feeling nostalgic, you’ll be able to rent a headset and hear a captain from the old days — that would be now — talking on his cell or radio to other skippers about where the fish might be and complaining about the high price of diesel fuel.

The “party-boat” rule — everyone can fish until everyone has a limit — will be legal. However, due to increased fishing pressure caused by population growth, the weekly bag and possession limit will be only one halibut, and none can be released. Enforcement of regulations will be by drones.

On the upside, fishing from a bot boat means you won’t have to tip anyone. On the downside, with robots doing all the work, hundreds of millions of people will have more time for recreation.

And you think the Kenai River is crowded now.

Les Palmer can be reached at

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