Fish finders are wonderful tools that can be utilized by just about everyone who goes out on the water in almost any water vessel. These gadgets utilize sonar technology to map out the submerged objects in the water below you that are not visible to the naked eye. Fish finders are great for navigation and chart plotting, path finding, object identification, angling, kayak fishing, ice fishing, bay fishing, diving, and many other activities. The diversity of applications is one reason that fish finders are becoming more and more popular in stores and with everyday people.
No matter how much research you spend on the best fish finder, the most affordable fish finder, the most accurate fish finder, or the fish finder with the most features, a fish finder is useless to anyone who doesn’t know how to read one. Using a fish finder is pretty complicated, as fish finders tend to vary in how they operate. There are a few things that every fish finder owner should know, and some things that should be considered common knowledge with fish finders. This is a quick guide to help beginners to get the edge and begin using their fish finders in order to locate underwater structure, be up to date with technology, and to ultimately catch more fish.
Purchasing a Fish Finder
The first thing that anyone will need to do before they actually use a fish finder is purchased one. There are several guides online about what fish finder is the best choice for you, depending on what you plan to use the fish finder for. There are portable fish finder for kayak fishers, shore fishers, ice fishers, and bridge fishers; there are chart plotters for people who want to be able to utilize GPS functionality on the water; there are HD fish finders for additional visibility no matter what the weather; and there are many more types of fish finders. Without researching the different types and uses for fish finders, it is not wise to spend even a single dollar on any unit. These devices are typically expensive, so you need to know that you are buying the right one before you commit to the purchase.
After you find out which fish finder best suits your specific needs, the next step is to actually buy the fish finder. Fish finders are becoming more and more common, so finding them is no problem. You can find fish finders at sports and outdoors stores, boating retailers, lakeside vacation destinations, and most convenient, online. If you are having trouble finding a specific model, then look deeper to see if the model was discontinued or recalled. Though this step may seem fairly simple, it is one of the most important steps to take your time on. If you purchase any old fish finder, you may not get the best results that you could have if you took a little more time and had done some more research.
How To Setup A Fish Finder
Mounting the Transducer
After purchasing a fish finder, you should celebrate a little bit. You passed your first major milestone, and are now that much closer to being able to effectively use one of the most useful tools available to every fisherman and angler. Next is the setup. Before you can go out and catch boat loads of bass, you need to learn how to setup your fish finder. Unfortunately for you, it is not as simple as it may sound. Setting up a fish finder will differ based on the mount type, your boat, and once again – your objectives.
Transom Mount Transducers
How you will have to mount your transducer depends on what type of transducer it is. There are three basic classes of transducers that include all the many other transducers that are available on the market. The most common transducer type is a transom mount transducer. These are so common because they are less expensive to manufacture, can be adjusted from 3 to 16 degrees, and are typically easier to set up.
Most fish finders will have a transom mount transducer in the box when you purchase them. To setup a transom mount fish finder, you must first identify the center of the boat or vessel you plan to mount the fish finder on. The transducer won’t go in the middle, but rather slightly to the right, or more accurately on the side that the propeller rotates downward. You also want to find a place that has a low amount of turbulent waters, bubbles, and other debris that could end up causing disruptions in readings. You need to keep the transducer about 15 inches away from the motor on most boats. Misplacement of the transducer can cause disruptions in sonar readings, decreased functionality of your fish finder, a broken fish finder, and even a less effective boat based on the placement. It is important to do sufficient research for mounting your transducer.
In-Hull and Through-Hull
In-hull transducers are less complicated than the other types. All you need to mount one of these is some epoxy and a place to mount it. Unfortunately, there is a large drawback to using in-hull transducers: these types of transducers cannot be used on any material besides fiberglass. This is because of the fact that wood, metal, rubber – anything besides fiberglass will block out the sonar signals that these types of transducers emit. A positive is that unlike other transducer types, in-hull transducers create no drag, and are still accurate at high speeds.
Finally, we have through-hull transducers. Through-hull transducers are probably the most labor intensive types of transducers. To mount a through-hull, a fairing block must be purchased because these blocks will help to secure your transducers. You need to place your through-hull transducer in front of your motor, because like transom mount transducers, turbulence will interrupt the sonar readings. Now run the power cables to the power supply, and you’re ready to begin learning how to use a fish finder.
Depth/Range and Sensitivity
Next, your fish finder must be optimized. Many fish finders will have a demo or automatic mode – the settings are just set to placeholder settings and are not likely to be accurate.
First, take a couple of test rides. Experiment with the speeds, look at the display, and familiarize yourself with what a fish finder looks like. Do this until you are comfortable with the device, and then you can begin to tweak your settings and optimize the fish finder. Start with the easy things, and set your date and time settings. For the rest of these settings, it’s a lot of feeling around or trial and error. There aren’t really any perfect settings, but you can mess around a little bit until you find what works best for you and your situation.
Next, you’re going to want to play around with the settings depth/range and auto-depth features. Auto-depth is a good feature for beginners, but eventually, anglers should be able to judge and control the window of information they get back. Being able to adjust the depth will allow for more refined results and is important to be able to set manually. So, after you get used to auto-depth, wander into the depth settings, and get comfortable there. Depth settings literally just affect how deep your transducer will perform up to.
Some fish finders have dual-beam transducers that can operate in both shallow and deep waters, and can be switched between these two frequencies. If your fish finder utilizes this technology, then it is a good idea to understand how sonar frequencies work in water. Generally, high frequencies are best for deeper water. Low frequencies are more accurate, but don’t travel as far as high frequency waves can.
Next, you should adjust a setting labeled sensitivity. The sensitivity will change the quality of what you see on the display, but will also take up more power. Depending on what your power supply is, you should experiment with your sensitivity. It’s generally not ever necessary to put the sensitivity below 50%, but if that is what you’re most comfortable with, then feel free to keep the sensitivity on that. Basically, sensitivity will affect the display quality, but it also relies on what your power supply is so remember to factor that into the equation.
Surface Clarity, Colorline, Noise Rejection, and Other Features
Range and sensitivity are now set, and with these optimized and your fish finder installed, you are almost at the point where you have an accurate fish finder. Minor tweaks can now be made to fit your preferences, but you have most of the hardest parts complete already.
Little settings like colorline need to be set in order to achieve the best image quality you can get. Colorline makes the density of detected objects visible. Settings like these really add clarity to readings and allow users to fine tune the fish finder, though not every device has this specific feature.
Next is the surface clarity. Surface clarity is pretty straight-forward, usually goes from low to high, and depends on your situation. Sometimes, if you are in shallow water, then high surface clarity is important. Perhaps you are looking primarily for spotted sea trout in the warmer portion of the day, and then once again, you will want to have your surface clarity on high. If you want to focus on deeper waters, then set surface clarity to low.
Finally, some fish finders have settings such as noise rejection. Noise rejection increases the accuracy of your results by ignoring some results that it may consider ‘noise’ or unnecessary. If you have noise rejection too high, you may miss important results. If you have your noise rejection too low, you will get muddled results.
Reading A Fish Finder & Conclusion
You finally have all your settings placed! You’re never really finish optimizing settings, depending on the environment you’re in. Don’t get too excited, though, the next step is possibly the hardest for beginners to grasp. To be able to use a fish finder, the last step is being able to read it.
You may want to begin reading a fish finder with FishID technology. This displays fish as icons rather than raw sonar data. This is much easier to understand, and is probably more efficient for you if you really want to get out onto the water as soon as possible, but takes away accuracy in the long run. FishID is fine for learning, but often-times things such as rocks or plants are misidentified as fish. This is bad for accuracy, but as a beginner it’s important to get the feel of a fish finder at first. If your device doesn’t have FishID, then you need to get used to reading arches. These are the shapes that fish and moving objects will create because of the way the sonar waves work. The larger the arch, the larger the fish.
These are all important factors and elements in installing and using your fish finder. You can never be done changing the settings if you want an actually accurate fish finder, but understanding what the settings do allows you to adapt to any environment you’re ever in. With this knowledge it should be easier to optimize fish finder settings, and hopefully you now understand how to use one.
The most important thing is that you keep experimenting with the settings until you have a decent understanding of what everything does. Reading a fish finder can be complicated sometimes, but always remember that it is technology made to help you; not stress you out. Read your manual, look online, and ask friends if you have to. Fish finders can be used for so many things, and that’s why their settings are so broad. Understanding how to read a fish finder is extremely rewarding in the end, and you’ll be catching a lot more fish if you just take a little more time to understand the technology. Hopefully, this article helped you to learn more about fish finders.