Webcam business gives anglers views of bay and Gulf conditions
Sometimes, the germ of an idea comes from personal experience.
Urs Schmid and Broc Adams, both 30-something born-on-the-islanders who have been friends since childhood, like to fish in their kayaks. But on some days, after loading their boats and gear and reaching the water, they found conditions unconducive to fishing, they said.
If only there was a way to scope conditions before driving to the water.
That’s how Saltwater-Recon was born.
“The main goal is to provide anglers and boaters and any recreational user the ability to know what the water conditions are before going out, before packing up your boat, before grabbing your fishing equipment,” Schmid said. “It’s really about safety. We really aim to allow people to make a better judgment call on whether or not it’s safe enough to go out.”
On a March day, Schmid, sitting at a beachside bar, pointed outside to underscore his point. The day before had been beautiful, with light breezes and sunny skies. But the past 24 hours had changed dramatically, with strong winds creating whitecaps in the Gulf under gray skies.
“We know the weather in Texas is crazy and things on the ocean and in the Gulf change second to second,” he said with a snap of his fingers.
Saltwater-Recon, at its core, is a cam streaming site. People who want to get a look at water conditions can look at one of eight cameras the company has set up in Galveston County to get a live view. The high-definition, top-of-the-line cameras point at the Gulf of Mexico, the Houston and Galveston ship channels and at Galveston Bay, in spots frequented by anglers.
The site also acts as a fishing concierge. It includes weather forecasts, tide charts and the phases of the moon. A new online forum allows anglers to share their favorite bait camps and prime fishing spots. Maps show how to get to the nearest boat ramp or where the nearest offshore oil rigs are.
The site launched in March 2016. It now averages about 2,000 hits a day.
“People always want to know what the water looks like,” Schmid said.
About 98 percent of the site’s viewers come from the greater Houston area, but Saltwater-Recon has gotten hits from as far away as Russia and Germany.
Schmid quickly found that anglers aren’t the only ones that use the cameras. The site crashed in late August after so many people visited it trying to watch Hurricane Harvey as the storm approached.
The company has since upgraded its equipment, and has reached agreements with local news stations and national cable networks to share its live feeds when the sunrise is particularly nice, or when the next storm comes in.
The site expected higher traffic in April as a caravan of tall ships planned to sail into Galveston.
Saltwater-Recon hopes to grow, Schmid said.
“We plan on expanding beyond Galveston to cover the Texas coast and then farther,” Schmid said. “Once we’ve covered Texas, we’ll probably expand out.”