What is a Portable Fish Finder?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Portable fish finders are simple tracking devices used by professional and amateur fishers to locate schools of fish. Similar in function to larger fishing finding equipment that is permanently mounted in commercial fishing vessels, the portable device can easily be installed in any type of boat and disengaged when the fishing expedition is completed. Sometimes referred to as a fishing GPS, the portable fish finder helps to ensure that no fisherman comes home empty handed.

An Atlantic salmon.
An Atlantic salmon.

Fish finders are normally composed of three main component systems. A viewing screen makes it possible to monitor the tracking activity of the assembled GPS system. The device is equipped with a clamping mechanism that makes it possible to securely mount the display in a convenient area of the boat. A transducer makes it possible to broadcast the signaling that makes it possible to locate schools of fish and provide the coordinates to assist the fisher in moving to the appropriate location.

A fish finder can help locate schools of fish.
A fish finder can help locate schools of fish.

While display capabilities vary from one model to the next, every portable fish finder works in much the same way. The transducer is placed into a position where it is able to broadcast a signal through the hull of the boat and seek activity underwater. As the boat moves around slowly, the transducer picks up on significant amounts of movement occurring underneath. The data is routed to the display screen, providing the fisher with information on what type of activity is occurring and where the largest concentration of action is found.

In order to function, a portable fish finder uses the same type of GPS technology that is employed with GPS systems installed in land vehicles. The display screen may be highly detailed or provide relatively simple imaging that is not unlike a basic graphics presentation. Some models are equipped to accommodate trolling around the river or lake in the boat, while others require the boat to be more or less stationary in order to provide the most accurate readings.

The frequency capabilities will also vary between different brands and models of portable fish finders. Some models are better suited for waters with relatively shallow depths while others are configured to handle much greater depths, as would be common with ocean fishing. More recently, fish finders with an adjustable range for depth perception have become common.

Pricing for a portable fish finder will vary, depending on the features offered with the unit. Models sporting a basic LCD screen will be less expensive than models equipped with full color screens. Units with a greater horizontal and vertical range will also cost more than finders designed to cover a more narrow range.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including EasyTechJunkie, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


@Soulfox -- How do you know these have become almost standard equipment? A lot of dealerships that sell fishing boats install these and sell them packaged with the boat because they know people expect them.

Keep in mind that we are talking about standard equipment on boats that are used in lakes and very deep rivers. They won't help you track down trout in shallow, fast moving streams.

Those things are standard equipment for fishermen. Some people say using them is a form of cheating because a "real" fisherman should be able to figure out where fish are without resorting to using a machine to track them down.

I disagree. For one thing, a lot of people love to go fishing at night because that is the best time to catch striped bass and some other types of fish. Also, so what if a machine tells you where fish are? Using the right bait and employing the right set of skills is what gets fish out of the lake and on your dining table.

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