With this new "sightings" feature, supposedly you see pokemon that are near you.

When they are no longer near, they should disappear from that list, returning when you move back in range.

Now, how can I use that information to find the pokemon in that list?

  • 12
    In the military there's something called spiral recon, what it is, you start in the center of an area, and start walking in a spiral for approximately 100 meters out. I've used this method in the game and had great luck with it. It's not a shit load of random math that you don't need, it's simple and effective.
    – 13aal
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 1:21
  • 2
    There is also the ingress method, which is kind of cheating..
    – Sayse
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 6:54

6 Answers 6


There's been a rather good post about how the sightings work on reddit, whereas I will summarize what's written there. Nevertheless, credits go to the OP 'Zakrael'.

For the following steps take this image, which is also contained in above mentioned reddit post.A visualization on how to the sightings feature may be used

  1. You see a Pokemon, say following the reddit post, a Pidgey, in your sightings list. Let's call this Point A. Up until now, you know just that the Pidgey is within 200m of your current position A.
  2. Walk straight ahead until the Pidgey disappears from your sighting's list. Note this Point, hereby called 'B', as accurate as possibly somewhere as you'll need it later.
  3. Make a 180° turn-a-round and walk again until the Pidgey will disappear from your sightings list, this Point we will call C.
  4. Now make a line between Point B and C, mark the exact midpoint D and go to this Point D. Once you're at position D, you can either go right or left (relatively to the line of BC).
  5. Say you turned left and the Pidgey has disappeared again from your sightings list, you eventually landed on Point E and therefore you took the wrong direction. Turn 180°, walk straight ahead until you encounter that Pidgey.

Keep in mind thought that Pokemon will stay spawned for approx. 15 minutes, so if you take too long, the Pidgey might have despawned and therefore all the work has been useless.

  • 22
    That's an awful lot of geometry/measuring for a game that really should just have this built in to begin with. sigh Oh well. Excellent answer regardless.
    – Mage Xy
    Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 19:26
  • 13
    And now i have a question to post at Math.SE: in the worst-case scenario, how much would I walk to find that pokemon. Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 19:35
  • 2
    I would have said around 1 km. Assuming Point A is at the very middle of the circle. You will have to walk 200m to get to Point B, 400m to get to Point C, 200m to get to Point D, and the remaining distance to the Pidgey, approx 200m --> a bit less than 1km. But if you take the wrong direction from the Point D, you will have to walk 200m to Point E, turn around to get to the Pidgey, so another 400m additionaly to the distance from D to the Pidgey, which adds up to approx. 1400m. I hope I have neither a major logical fault, nor made a miserable explanation.
    – GrizZ
    Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 19:40
  • 7
    Well, if point A were in the middle of the circle (or even within the spawn distance, which seems generous to me), you wouldn't have to walk at all to find it.
    – Set Big O
    Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 19:45
  • 2
    @KevinL one would only go through this trouble to get a rare or uncommon one, it is very hard to get two inside the range. Nobody would walk 1175m for a pidgey Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 21:00

Here is an alternative method that only uses some very easy high-school geometry. Let's say that you see the pokémon pop up in the sightings list at some point A below. (If you just happen to be somewhere inside of the spawn circle when you start, rather than at the edge, simply walk forward until the pokémon despawns and turn around)

  1. Mark out where A lies irl in your mind or by placing some rock or the like. Then you are on the edge of the spawn circle.

  2. Now, simply head straight forward until the pokémon disappears in the sightings. You are now at some point B at the edge of the circle. Mark out where this point B is in your mind or by placing some rock.

enter image description here

  1. Try to slightly move to the left and right w.r.t. the line AB, just to figure out on which side of AB the pokémon appears in the sightings list. (This should take like a couple meters of pacing to both sides and checking the sightings list for the pokémon)

  2. Once you know on which side of AB the pokémon lies, make a 90° turn from point B w.r.t. the line AB in that direction and walk straight until the pokémon disappears again. You are now at a point C. The line AC is then the hypothenuse of the right-angled triangle ABC, and ABC has all vertices lying on the circumference of the spawn circle. Therefore, by the inscribed-angle theorem, AC is the diameter of the spawn circle!

  3. Simply walk from C towards A, and halfway there you will literally be on top of the pokémon.

Of course, it might happen that AB is the diameter itself, in which case you encounter the pokémon already in step 2, but it might be that your path reaching A is just a tangent to the spawn circle, in which case you can just make some pacing about in step 2, just like in step 3, to determine a good starting direction for the line AB, but that is sort of trivial for a sensible human being to do without further details.

Now, who says high-school geometry is without applications? :)

  • 11
    The graphic makes this solution the best :) Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 18:40
  • This is actually an optimized version of the method that looks like a cross, well done! The prerequisite of finding the edge is pretty trivial, too, since you might randomly encounter the Pokemon while looking for it.
    – scenia
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 13:53

The easiest systematic method is walking in an outwards spiral pattern. This way, you reduce the issue of walking in the wrong direction and profit the most from starting near the Pokemon's location. The method is simple and is shown in the following picture:

Outwards spiral search method

There are 2 different scenarios shown here:

  1. The optimal case is that when following your outwards spiral pattern (the path implies a street grid for added realism), you come within the spawn radius of the Pokemon at some point. This point is reached faster the closer your starting point is to the Pokemon.

  2. In some cases, the Pokemon will disappear from your Sightings when you reach point D1. In this case, memorize the point on the map, shorten your spiral and continue as shown until you either encounter the Pokemon or it disappears again at point D2. Look at the map, determine the midpoint M between your current position (D2) and the point D1 you memorized. The Pokemon's location is roughly 200m from that point M in the direction most of your spiral walking path was. Determine that location on the map and go there to find it.

    Another way to continue when you hit point D1 is to directly go 200m roughly in the direction of your starting point (and beyond it), then start in a spiral pattern from there again (unless you encountered the Pokemon on the way, of course). This only works in some cases, if you encounter D1 within the first 3 branches of the spiral, the method is very unreliable and you might walk in a completely wrong direction. Simply put, you should have completed a full circle before using this method.


I use Ingress, Niantic's previous AR game. If I'm in an area where I don't know the nearby spawn points, you can find some by opening Ingress. In Ingress, many Pokemon spawns are at the same location as XM, which are small clusters of lights. PokeStops and gyms likewise are in Ingress as larger, more complex structures with tons of lights around them. If you're in an area with many of those, this trick will not work, as the gyms and PokeStops will obscure the XM. In these cases, I fall back to the triangulation method that GrizZ outlines in his answer.

I try to avoid all that hassle by being prepared before going out to hunt Pokemon. If you're technically inclined (and don't mind breaking the TOS, with the understanding that it could get you banned), you can setup scanning software to scan the area to identify spawn points and what's spawning. Alternatively, you can search online for local Pokemon Go communities, as they will often have spawn points mapped, or at least where nests are located (nests are where specific Pokemon spawn often). I use these so I don't have to depend on the Sightings feature to capture the Pokemon I'm seeking.


When something pops up on the sightings simply do this:

  1. Walk in a straight line till you find it, or it disappears.
  2. If it disappears, retrace your steps to the starting point and repeat steps 1-2 with a different direction.

If you are lucky, you will find it before it despawns, otherwise there isn't much else you can do to find it quicker besides having other people with you and have them do the same steps, but in different directions than you to cover more ground quickly.

  • That's a pretty inefficient method. Spiraling outwards is significantly faster.
    – scenia
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 6:19
  • 2
    @scenia try spinning outwards while in a place that has streets. you can't really, you have to follow the streets.
    – Dragonrage
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 6:22
  • Streets tend to intersect, you can still walk in a spiral pattern in order to avoid walking every street twice.
    – scenia
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 6:29
  • 1
    @scenia you might be able to spiral if you have a nice layout of streets. otherwise, you have to do my method
    – Dragonrage
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 7:05
  • 3
    @scenia near my house there are numerous dead ends and non-connecting streets, and the streets you could potentially spiral out on have extremely long blocks, so walking down the main streets to figure out which way it is actually works best for me.
    – Dragonrage
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 7:27

If you see something in the sightings that you want to catch, walk around the area. The sightings only shows Pokemon within a 70m radius of your position, which is pretty easy to explore. If you can't find it, try closing the game and opening it up again — if the Pokemon disappears from the sightings, it wasn't there to begin with; sometimes they just get stuck on the display.

If you don't see anything exciting, try going somewhere else until you do! The purpose of the widget, and the game, is to inspire you to explore. Your best way to find Pokemon to catch is to cover ground, not to spend your time looking down and doing mental geometry.

  • 14
    The purpose of an answer, and this website, is to answer the question, not tell people how to enjoy games.
    – Blorgbeard
    Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 22:55
  • 1
    @Blorgbeard I did answer the question. I offered the most effective way of using the sightings display to find Pokemon. Geometric tricks make people feel clever, but they're not faster or more reliable than wandering around aimlessly, when all you have is a display that updates when it feels like. Then I made a quick comment on the Gricean implication of the sightings — that is, how the developers shape the gameplay through the user interface and what they provide there. I didn't offer my own opinion on how to have fun.
    – hobbs
    Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 23:59
  • 4
    Regardless of the legitimacy of this answer, insults are not welcome. I've deleted a number of comments here. If you can't be civil, perhaps it's time to walk away.
    – user11502
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 5:04
  • 5
    walking aimlessly is definitely not the most effective way
    – 0x0000eWan
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 7:18
  • 5
    If you really think that a randomized algorithm outperforms the deterministic ones in expectation, then you need to provide a solid proof to be taken seriously.
    – MonadBoy
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 17:17

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .