What should I expect from a Fishfinder... - Colorado Fishing Forum

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Old 06-26-2005, 12:02 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default What should I expect from a Fishfinder...

Last year I got one of those castable fish finders made by Hummingbird. I forget the model, but the transducer looks like a large green bobber and it talks wirelessly to a wrist-watch looking thing with the display. Looked neat in the store, but I found that it really isn't useful for anything other than scopeing out a new fishing spot (to see what the bottom contour/depth is). In short, it's better as a depth finder than a fish finder. I also found that the wireless range is about 75% of what I normally can cast. So it has sat in my tackle box for a long time...

Last weekend for Fathers Day I got a new pontoon boat (of the 1 man, inflateable variety). Today I got to try it out at Lake Estes. Boy are my arms tired! But anyway... Just for grins I tied the fish finder onto it-- basically I towed it on a 1 foot line. The results were disappointing. About 25% of the time the fish finder just didn't display anything. I could tell the wireless link was fine, but the transponder wasn't picking up anything (no fish, no bottom, etc.). The rest of the time the fish finder would report the water depth, but nothing else. Even though fish were everywhere (trout were swimming to within 4 feet of the boat at the surface), not once did a fish show up on the display. When I dropped anchor (a 5 pount weight) it did show that. And it didn't show the bottom makeup (rock, sand, mud, etc.).

I assume that most of the problems I've had with this fishfinder are due to the small display and low power sonar transducer-- but I could be wrong.

I see that there are several "normal" fish finders in the $80-120 range. I'd put one on this boat if I thought it would work better than this "bobber with a ping". So, what's your experience with fish finders? Are they more substance than hype? What should I reasonably expect from one? Can you pick out a 10" fish halfway between the surface and bottom? Can you pick it up 1 foot off the bottom?
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Old 06-26-2005, 12:26 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: What should I expect from a Fishfinder...

the more you spend the more fish you'll see and the less you spend the more you'll miss

with that said

i have a $100 walmart finder on my boat i think it is a lowrance/eagle unit i know i miss a lot of fish but i do see some arches and it does a fair job of showing the diff between a hadr and soft bottom and you can tell if there are dense weeds on the bottom and how high off the bottom they are and it has a surface temp gauge

it cant hold a candle to my old several thousand $ sytex color unit i used to use in the ocean

with my cheapy i can find the temp im looking for and get a good idea of bottom contours and find the structure like log piles and drop offs


in a previous post here someone posted a link to a cool little finder and a mount for float tubes i think it was a "fishing buddy" or something like that it was on the cabelas catolog site i think

it looked like a small unit with a shaft sticking out the bottom with the transducer and it was powered with a few "D" batteriers i think


hope that helps a bit
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Old 06-26-2005, 02:54 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: What should I expect from a Fishfinder...

There are other variables to consider with a fish finder. Especially when you ask if you can spot a 10" fish half way to the bottom. It depends! If the fish is in your cone you will if the fish is not in the cone you will not. Fish Near the surface are often missed simply because they are not in the cone. Cones are measured in degrees and the deeper the water the wider the cone becomes. Its still the same amount of degrees at 30 feet as it is at 5 but distance broadens the area covered.

Judging the size of fish is not always accurate either. On some models a fish near the top of the cone filling a larger area in the cone may appear bigger than a similar sized fish a few feet deeper. A fish that sits in your cone may also appear larger. A fish that only partially enters your cone may appear smaller than it is. Lots of variables. A fish finder with better algorhythms is more accurate. But none are perfect.

There is a lot good information on the net explaining what the various thicknesses of the arcs and the lengths of the arcs generally mean.

You also have a dead space at the bottom. If the bottom is 30 feet the center of your cone will be at 30 feet and the outside edges will not register well beyond the 30 feet even though from the diagonal angle the outside the sound wave may travel 32 feet or so before it hits the bottom.

Your little casting fishfinder probably has a narrow cone maybe 9 degrees or so. Therefore you do not 'see' a lot of the water and bottom especially in shallow water. Kinda like looking through a pipe in the water. You can see directly underneath but not nothing to the side. So you are right it probably is better for determining depth, It could be very useful to find drop offs and to make adjustments on a slip bobber. But they are very inexpensive and as with anything the reliability can vary especially with use, I imagine they tend to take a lot of shocks and hard bumps and who knows what that does the the innards.

Your best bet is to buy the best one you can afford, but the most expensive is not always the best. All fish finders have a learning curve to them to understand what it is telling you since the different models function with somewhat different algorhythms for fish identification etc.

Dan

PS I have a fishing buddy II about 5 or 6 years old. (i use it for depth finding when Ice fishing) I think that is the type you are thinking about for your pontoon. The newer ones are better than mine, I have seen lots of people using them. One benefit is they run on C cell battereis and that is more convenient and much cheaper than a larger battery required for other styles. You do give up a lot of sensitivity and cone with with the fishing buddies though.
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Old 06-26-2005, 03:56 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: What should I expect from a Fishfinder...

yea i forgot about the cone angles we used to run atleast 2 seperate transducers a narrow one for deep and better definition at depth and a wide angle for shallow and wider coverage the transducers also ran at different frequancys the lower frequancy would penatrate beter but the higher would give better definition

i think the most important thing is to use what you can get and really learn how to read it. if you learn an average unit well you will get more and better info than just buying a high priced unit and not learning it
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Old 06-26-2005, 06:09 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: What should I expect from a Fishfinder...

I looked at the fishing buddy, but decided against it since it wouldn't mount easily to my pontoon boat. While at first glance it seems like it would work well, it seems like it's better suited for a float tube or canoe. For the pontoon boat the only mounting positions would put it too far away to push the buttons or in the way of the oars.

I knew about the beam angles. I guess I didn't make myself clear enough with the question. Let's say that you're in 30 feet of water and a single 10 inch fish, 15 feet down, swims directly through the center of the sonar beam. Will you see it? What about a smaller fish? Or a fish that is 1 foot above the bottom?

I don't believe that my little fish finder would see a 10 inch fish halfway up in 30 feet. Of course, I can't prove it, but that's what I think. And I'm damn positive that it couldn't see a fish 1 foot off the bottom-- even if the sonar could pick it up, the display doesn't have the resolution to show it.

After looking at several fish finders, it appears that the major difference between the low end units and the higher end units is the display and the wattage of the transponder. This makes sense because the more powerful the transponder the easier it will be for it to pick up small fish (assuming all other things are equal). My little fish finder can't have a powerful transponder since it has a tiny sealed battery inside of the bobber that can't be replaced (the entire bobber is replaced when the battery dies).

I'm thinking of the Garmin Fishfinder 240. It has a good screen and high power transponder for only about $150 street price. The transponder has about 4x the power of units in the $120 or less price range. True, the power supply isn't as convienent as the Fishing Buddy, but I play an Electrical Engineer at work so I think I can deal with a battery...

So, what do you guys do with your fish finders? How do you use them and how have they made catching fish easier?


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Old 06-26-2005, 10:47 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: What should I expect from a Fishfinder...

Here is the unit I have. Im very happy with it: http://www.humminbird.com/products.asp?ID=377

For the money I dont think there is a better model out there(For the money)


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Old 06-27-2005, 12:04 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: What should I expect from a Fishfinder...

with the low resolution on my unit i use the zoom function alot makes it possible to see stuff on the bottom much easier
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Old 06-27-2005, 10:44 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: What should I expect from a Fishfinder...

Jay_In_Parker,

I looked at the Humminbird web site and that model (Matrix 27) does look very nice. The lower end models (Matrix 12 and 17) also look nice-- better than the Garmin units in the same price range.

I'm going to stop by Dicks Sporting Goods or Gander Mountain tomorrow to see them in person (and maybe pick one up).

Thanks Y'all! (Gosh, I feel so redneck. Can you have an Asian Redneck?)
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Old 06-28-2005, 02:37 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: What should I expect from a Fishfinder...

I met a guy at Quincy who had a small display screen snapped to his rod with an antenna and the transducer was seperate. I asked him ho2 it worked and he said in boats it works really well. He showed me the screen on "simulation mode" and if it works like it simulates, it shows the bottom really well, shows the fish, depth, and temp. It seemed like a good deal.

He sadi he payed about $150 for it.

I have seen them in stores and figure the mini wrist or rod mounted ones aren just gimicky, but maybe I should try one first.

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Old 06-28-2005, 08:14 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: What should I expect from a Fishfinder...

The rod mounted ones are almost identical to the wrist mounted one that I have. Don't bother. Or at least borrow one for a day and see if it really works for you before spending the money. Hell, you can borrow mine if you're on this side of town (Broomfield/Boulder). There are a lot of fish finders in the $150 range and I'd bet that most if not all of them are better than this one. Even other fish finders from Humminbird are better.
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