Using a fish finder can be used by anyone who loves to fish. It’s a lot of fun! But If you love to fish in a boat or kayak and you want to up your game to find those huge fish more reliably then today’s article will help you understand fish finders much better and help you get started.
We’ll explain the basics and share a brief overview of what exactly a fish finder is, how it works, how to read it and how to choose the best option for you.
What is a Fish Finder?
A fish finder is a device used by fishermen and sailors to locate fish in the water. Many fish finding devices have an echo sounder or SONAR (Sound Navigation and Ranging) system that measures the overall depth of the water. Its major functionality though is to detect fish underwater.
Your fish finder will display the location of fish on a digital screen with exact coordinates and with a high quality image.
For instance, this instrument uses echo-location to reflect electronic pulses of fish and other underwater features and converts this information into a high definition graphic rendition. Pretty cool right!
The image on the screen represents individual fish with a small icon and this enables fishermen to identify suitable targets which allows them to lower their bait to the correct depth.
Fish finders are a must-have product for anyone who loves to find the biggest fish. What fishing enthusiast doesn’t want that!
Since the creation of the original fish finder technology in the 90s it has become a reliable device for fishermen/women to catch all types of fish. It can also come equipped with a GPS navigation tool, marine radar and compass to help you navigate the waters reliably.
How does a Fish Finder work?
A fish finder is an electric impulse which is converted into a sound wave by a transducer mounted on the hull which is sent into the water.
When the sound waves strikes something such as a fish, it is reflected back and displays size, composition and shape.
The frequencies vary, raging from low (infrasonic) to very high (ultrasonic). This information is then displayed graphically on the fish finder screen to represent the distance to the fish.
Basically, this device will show you what you cannot see with your own eyes which is the presence of fish underwater, size and location, with sound wave.
The sound wave near the boat is narrow; however as it penetrates deeper, the sound wave spreads forming a cone, or a thick flashlight shape.
When the sound waves encounter something inside the cone, it gives an image on the fish finder. The time between the sound wave sent and then bouncing on the fish below is calculated to show you the distance between the fish and your position.
If the signal doesn’t encounter anything it will reach the bottom. The fish finder can also gather data from the bottom of the water (within reason and device type), to tell you if the ground is soft or hard. In other words your fish finder can help you discover other things you cannot see other than fish.
The 3 major components of a fish finder:
Normally, fish finders are sold with a GPS combo, meaning they come with a fish finder unit, a GPS receiver and a transducer.
There are also other accessories that complement the fish finder like networking devices, bluetooth, and advance sonar accessories like a 360 imaging sound wave. For now though we will just cover the basics:
1) The Fish Finding Transducer
The transducer is the eyes and ears of the fish finder. The transducer is the tool that does the real work detecting what is below those waters and around the boat; it’s the tool that sends data to the head unit (fish finder) and activates the software to put the image into the screen.
Transducers come is a wide variety of shapes and sizes, but they all perform the same function. It has the ceramic elements (piezoelectric elements) inside that vibrate in certain frequencies, emitting pulses of sound inside the water. For each “ping” there is a return signal. The time and strength of the return is converted to electrical signals for the head unit to process. This is basically the SONAR process.
2) The Built-In GPS
If your fish finder has GPS capability, it can chart your position and track on top of a map. This is mostly used to show your boat position even at very slow speeds. This tool is very useful for fishing, for navigation, scouting fishing areas and making waypoints to be able to return to exact spots later on.
Also, the new fish finders that have a GPS allows the angler to create custom maps of unmapped waters. All you have to do is to idle over an area in a crisscross pattern, and the software builds the map!
3) The Fish Finding Screen
Fish finders come in sizes between 3.5 inches and as large as 16 inches. In general, going with the biggest screen will give you more information you can view at one time. Another thing to consider is the screen sizes and their pixel density for a more refined view. The top manufacturers currently have displays using 800×480 pixels in 5, 7 and 9 inch screen sizes.
How to read a fish finder?
At first, a fish finder is not easy to read, but it’s crucial to properly know how to use it before going fishing, otherwise the device will be useless.
Some fish finders are grayscale and others with color. The devices that have colors will use the colors to visually represent information. If the returning echo returns strong, then the color used on the display will be darker. The seabed, or the bottom of the sea/lake/river will often be shown as the darkest object.
Your fish finder has an instrument that will let you see the fish. This is the Fish-ID technology, which converts the raw data into a user friendly interface, to see different symbols for plants, rocks or school of fish.
There are also devices that are Arch fish finders. These devices will only return your raw data as a series of arches and lines. You will need to interpret them on your own. The length of the line will not represent the size or shape of the fish. To understand how big a fish is you will need to see the arch width. Also, arches can be half or full. A half arch doesn’t mean a small fish. Again, the width is the best clue to spot a big fish.
There are many different models to buy. We recommend to read carefully the fish finder manual and understand the details specifically for that fish finder.
How to choose a Fish Finder?
Before you choose a fish finder you need to know and decide what location are you going to fish. If it’s going to be salt or fresh water, what you are fishing for, how you are going to fish, and how much you want to spend on a fish finder.
After answering the questions above you are ready to search for the best option. We suggest choosing the best options among the transducer, transducer materials, beams and cone angles, grayscale vs color screens, screen resolution, fish finder with multiple frequencies (200, 192, 83 and 50 kHz) and high or low wattage power units. Check out our own fish finders and start your fishing adventure today.