The Benefits Of Using A Fish Finder
If you're new to the boating and fishing game, there's a good chance you've heard a lot of noise surrounding fish finders.
Also known as depth sounders and sonars, the primary objective of a fish finder is to locate and visualise objects beneath the surface of the water before relaying the information to anglers via the unit's display screen. It's of little wonder then that they're a must-have boating accessory for beginners and seasoned anglers alike.
The majority of anglers around the country will know that for every good session on the water, there's plenty of fishless days in between. So, any advantage one can get over the fish is highly sought after. With the advent of fish finder and sonar technology, that advantage is worth its weight in gold.
In days gone by, anglers had to rely on experience, word of mouth and lining up two or more landmarks to find fish. However, as tends to be the case across most industries, technology has changed the sport of fishing at a rapid rate, and now we're blessed with the ability to see the fish before they see our baits and lures.
Furthermore, fish finders can - depending on the model - provide anglers with valuable information such as water depth, water temperature, bottom structure, side scan, waypoint and GPS coordinate storage and more. Anyone that's spent hours trying to locate bait fish, likely fish-holding structure, drops off, bommies and reef will understand just how beneficial having this information available really is.
Let's take a closer look at how fish finders work before exploring Garmin's exciting new STRIKER Vivid and EchoMap UHD ranges!
How do fish finders work?
As much as we'd love them to, fish finders aren't going to point you in the direction of where the fish are holding. They will show you once they're under or beside the boat though.
Fish finders are only as good as the sum of their parts, of which they consist four: transmitter, transducer, receiver, display screen (head unit).
Fish finders use sonar technology to relay images via a display screen. In order to do so, a transmitter sends a signal to the boat-mounted transducer, which in turn sends a sound wave or pulses into the water via a cone orientation.
When the sound wave hits something solid, such as a fish or structure on the bottom, it reflects to the transducer which sends a visual to the head unit's screen via the receiver.
By understanding that the sound waves are sent back and forth via a cone orientation, it should make it easy to remember that fish seen on the display screen will not always be located directly under the boat. They will be in the immediate vicinity though.
How to read a fish finder
Learning how to read and interpret your fish finder's screen is critical to get the most out of any fish finder unit. As the old adage goes, 'You only get out what you put in', and it certainly rings true in this instance.
Time on the water spent familiarising yourself with your particular unit will provide the most important lessons, however, there are plenty of explanatory videos available online to help you better interpret what you see on your screen. Do yourself a favour and read the manual, as every fish finder works in its own unique way, with different brands and models boasting variations in features.
It also pays to adjust your settings based on the style of fishing you do, as well as your preference for display options, such as fish appearing as symbols or arches.
How to choose the right fish finder
With such a vast array of options on the market, it can be hard to know what sort of fish finder you should buy. As is the case with most things in fishing, you get what you pay for, however, price is not the be all and end all. There are some other things to consider before making your purchase:
- Screen mounting space and options: consider the configuration and space available on your boat's dashboard. This should inform you of the screen size you should go for. While bigger screens provide better vision in various lighting conditions, they will hit your hip pocket harder. They obviously take up more room too, so you need to make an informed decision based on available space and your needs.
- Transducer types: they come in both single and dual frequency. Single frequency transducers will perform best in shallow water across lakes, rivers and inshore bays, whereas dual frequency transducers are required for offshore work. The higher the wattage of a transducer, the deeper the sonar signal can penetrate, which may also increase the clarity of sonar returns. Keep in mind, CHIRP doesn't need as much wattage as non-CHRIP transducers to achieve the same performance at depth.
- Transducer mounts: you will need to think about your mounting options when it comes to the transducer. They can be mounted in-hull if you have a fiberglass boat, but not an aluminum or wooden hull as the signal will be greatly affected. With that in mind, if you have either an aluminum or wooden hull, you are best off with a transom mount or through hull. Transom mounts are easy to install but only work to their maximum capacity in calmer waters and if travelling at a slower pace. Through hull mounts will provide best performance but are harder to install and are more expensive.
- Fishing environments: if you only fish in one or two bodies of water that you know well, you should be able to get away with a fish finder, however, if you're looking to explore a range of new waters, you may want to consider a combo. These will not only provide you with fish finder technology but also the likes of GPS and chart plotting functionality.
If you're in the market for your first fish finder, or looking to upgrade your existing unit, Garmin has recently launched two new series' that cater to anglers of all skill levels and budgets.
Garmin Striker Vivid Fishfinder Series
Garmin's STRIKER Vivid series boasts seven new high contrast colour display options that allow anglers to choose their preference based on time of day, location and contrast requirements. If you've ever been out on the water and struggled to see your screen due to reflection or poor light quality, you'll understand just how important this feature is. It will make seeing fish and structure in maximum detail a constant rather than the exception.
The Vivid series features Garmin CHIRP traditional sonar and CHIRP ClearVü and SideVü scanning sonar technology, which provides a clear view of fish arches and separation between structure. It also comes equipped with a high sensitivity GPS receiver, which will make marking fish and way points a breeze.
Other notable features include Quickdraw Contours mapping software, that allows anglers to create and store up to two million acres of maps with one foot contours. This means you can recreate successful fishing trips with ease, and even share them with fellow fishos via the Garmin Quickdraw Community. The ability to also mark boat ramps is important for safety, especially if you get caught out in a storm when visibility is less than ideal.
Depending on your boat configuration, budget and needs, the STRIKER Vivid series has you covered. It's available in a 4, 5, 7 or 9-inch colour display and comes with a tilt/swivel mount, plus transom and trolling motor mounting hardware and cable.
If you're looking to step up your marine technology set up, the ECHOMAP UHD Series should be on your radar. This series takes all of the best features of a high performing fish finder with a seriously intuitive chartplotter and rolls it into one ultra high-definition package.
An ultra high-definition scanning sonar system allows anglers to see below the boat in incredible detail via a bright, sunlight-readable 7" or 9" keyed-assist touchscreen display. These new models complement the existing 6" model, that has been a hit with anglers across the country.
The series offers built-in support for Garmin's premium sonars, including traditional CHIRP, CHIRP ClearVü and CHIRP SideVü scanning sonars. It also supports Panoptix LiveScope™ LVS12 sonar, the Panoptix LiveScope system and the entire Panoptix™ all-seeing sonar line.
If you have multiple compatible ECHOMAP UHD or ECHOMAP Ultra devices on your boat, the 7" and 9" models can share information such as sonar, user data and charts with them.
The units come preloaded with BlueChart g3 Australia and New Zealand coastal charts with Auto Guidance technology that uses your desired depth and overhead clearance to calculate routes and display a suggested path to follow.
To top it off, built in Wi-Fi gives anglers access to the free all-in-one ActiveCaptain app, so you can manage your marine experience from nearly anywhere. It creates a simple yet powerful connection between your compatible mobile device and your Garmin chartplotter, charts, maps and the boating community.
Check out how easy it is to set a combo screen on Garmin devices, to ensure you maximise the benefits of this technology while you're out on the water.