FishFinder Tips for Beginners
Like with any other electronic device, if you’re new to using a fish finder, it’s going to take some practice to operate the equipment effectively.
A fish finder is an invaluable asset for bountiful fishing … if you know what you’re doing, of course. Otherwise it’s just another fancy piece of equipment taking up space on your boat. Here are some tips for beginners on how to use a fish finder marine electronic device.
Know How a Fish Finder Works
Fish finders work by sending out a sonar pulse down through the bed of the body of water you’re on.
When the sonar wave hits an object (such as a fish), it bounces back to the fish finder, which analyzes the sonar echo it received and displays the information on a screen. The display shows a cross-section down through the water column to the bed, including any fish that may have been within that column at the moment the sonar pulse was sent down.
Buy a Quality Fish Finder
Fishfinders are not exempt to the old “getting what you paid” for expression.
A fish finder with GPS will obviously be more expensive that one without, but it’ll be much more adaptable too. Buy a fish finder with a larger screen that allows you to add programs to create maps and records. Fish finders commonly employ either side-scanning or down-scanning sonar. However, down-scanning sonar is better for shallower water; offers much more detailed information; and is generally easier to use, especially for beginners. Side-scanning sonar scans a larger area and is better for deep water fishing, but also more difficult to operate.
Update or Upgrade Your Fish Finder
Periodically updating your fish finder’s software maximizes its potential and keeps it from being outdated.
Once you’ve become more adept at using your fish finder, you may want to upgrade the transducer too. The transducer is the component that sends and receives the sonar pulse. A larger, better quality transducer will gather more detailed and accurate information.
If your transducer is inside your boat’s hull, consider upgrading to a transom-mounted or thru-hull transducer. Inside-hull transducers are limited by having to send sonar through the hull itself, whereas transom and thru-hull transducers both transmit directly into the water. Thru-hull transducers are less susceptible to turbulence, but require far more work to install than transom-mounted transducers. Technology waits for no one, and a fish finder considered state-of-the-art today may seem clunky and out-of-date within a couple of years. Consider buying a new fish finder every 4-5 years.
Install the Fish Finder Correctly
The fish finder head unit should be mounted away from other electronic devices that may cause interference.
The transducer must be mounted in an area that won’t be affected by turbulence, but gets an undisturbed flow of water across it. This is particularly important with transom-mounted transducers. Also, make sure the transducer is mounted level and is completely submerged below the water.
Take Your Time
Read your fish finder’s owner’s manual first, then practice using it in areas you fish regularly.
By learning how to use it in familiar waters, you’ll be able to comprehend the information on the fish finder screen much faster. Stay at 1-2 knots for the best readings. This way, the transducer won’t struggle to analyze the sonar echoes it’s receiving, so it can relay the information more accurately to the fish finder’s screen. For example, if you go too fast, a large fish may appear small on the finder’s screen and schools of bait fish may not show up at all. However, if you go too slowly, small fish may appear larger than they should on the screen. A little trial-and-error will help you find the right speed at which your fish finder delivers the most accurate readings.
Watch the Right Side of Your Fish Finder
Down-scanning fish finders display information in a linear fashion on the right side of the screen.
As the transducer sends new information, it appears on the right and the older information scrolls to the left. Even when your boat is stationary, the fish finder continues to cycle the display from right to left. Side-imaging fish finders typically display information from top to bottom, with the information at the very top of the screen being the most up-to-date.
Timing is Everything
Keep in mind that your fish finder is showing you what happened at a precise moment in time.
If the screen shows a huge fish under your boat, don’t instantly cast a line off the stern because chances are that fish is no longer there. The fish finder doesn’t tell you the speed or direction the fish was moving, so unless it’s heading on exactly the same course and speed as your boat, that fish could be just about anywhere. Your fish finder serves to identify areas where fish are active, not to track their every move. However, with practice you’ll be able to interpret your fishfinder’s data to make informed estimates on finding the most bountiful fishing spots.
With the exception of reefs, mangroves, etc., usually the bed of the body of water you’re on will be flat.
Your fish finder shows the bed as a wildly undulating surface when your boat is moving up and down. As your boat moves, the distance between the transducer and the bed increases and decreases, but your fish finder shows information as if the transducer was a fixed point. Keep in mind that the height of the boat remains constant on the display, while the changes in distance between the transducer and the bed give the impression that it’s the bed that’s getting higher and lower.