I use a fish finder when I go out fishing. “A fish finder?” you ask. “Surely fishing can’t be that easy.” My friend, it can. We are truly in the 21st century. There are a variety of devices designed to help you locate or attract fish in order to make the process easier. The common phrase says there’s a reason it’s called fishing and not catching. I say I like catching fish, so why not make the most of today’s technology?
Fish FindersFish Finders use sonar to map our underwater environments and pinpoint where fish are based on the sounds they make as they move.
Depth FindersDepth Finders use sonar and temperature readings to map out the depth of a body of water.
FADsFADs, also known as fishing aggregate devices, are structures made of man-made or natural materials to attract fish by mimicking their environment.
Fish LightsFish lights can be used in or out of the water to attract fish at night. The most popular fish light color is green.
Fish finders use Sound Navigation and Ranging (SONAR) technology to locate the buggers under the water. Depth finders are fish finders that can also measure the depth and temperature of the water below you. This lets you guess more effectively what kind of fish will hang out in the area. You could also use fishing aggregate devices to get fish to come to you.
As a low-tech option, you could use a waterproof fish light to draw fish to you as the nearest light source. These fish finding and fishing aggregate devices take care of the hard part of fishing so you can do the fun part. Rather than spending all day waiting around for a bite and tugging your line around, you can use technology to find your targets right away. It’s enough to make your grandpa go “Bah! Back in my day…”
1. Fish Finders
Fish finders are valuable investments. Sure, your weekend trips to the lake have been fun. But wouldn’t they be more fun if you… supercharged your ability to actually find and catch fish? The most basic systems really only help you identify where the currents would encourage fish to gather.
The more advanced a system gets, the more accurately it can help you target fish, from spotting clusters to helping to track down a specific species. You want halibut, not trout? A finder can help you do that. You want bait fish? You can get that too. Be the king of fish with a fish tracker.
Fish finders can be as cheap as $100, or they can set you back more than $1,000 depending on your budget and interest. You can get some devices to record your location so you don’t have to stumble around finding the same spot in the future. A majority include a built-in GPS system that can help you navigate through the waters and maintain your position. You can ask around for recommendations from local fishers about what device works best. According to fish finder reviews on Amazon, some of the best models on the market today include:
- Tip: If you’re looking for a kayak fish finder, choose a lightweight option like the Striker 4 Garmin fish finder. Navigating a kayak with a really big fish finder will be hard and there’s a good chance you’ll knock it into the water. A small device like the eight-ounce Garmin won’t weigh you down.
2. Depth Finders
Depth finders are both identical to fish finders and completely different depending on how much money you’re willing to fork over. The simplest models do little more than read the depth and the temperature of the water below you. This works well if it’s a sunny day and you’re over clear waters. However, if you’re dying to throw some money at fancy technology, you can get a really advanced depth-finding device. The better models include a display and help you see fish, much like a fish tracker does.
Don’t waste your money if you won’t derive the benefits. If you only ever hang out in shallow rivers and lakes, you can get a cheap depth finder like the Humminbird 407860-1 HDR650 Digital Depth Gauge ($100) and it will meet your needs. If you really plan on exploring the open ocean, consider shelling out the cash for a better model. Popular recommendations include:
- The HawkEye D10DX.01T ($148)
- The Hook-3X Lowrance depth finder ($179 for a 4-inch screen)
- The 551dv Echo Garmin depth finder ($330)
Download this mastering fishing guide for more tips on improving your fishing game.
3. Fishing Aggregate Devices
Fishing aggregate devices are some old-school fishing technology. Here’s a secret about fish: they like finding things floating in the water. Anything. A plank of wood, a gathering of seaweed, a buoy. Finding an object floating in the water is a whole party for the fish community. Everyone gathers and hangs out and catches up and has a great time.
Little do they know that in many cases, the floating object is an intentionally planted FAD designed to lure fish to an area. Fishers have been using FADs for thousands of years to improve their haul, particularly in the open ocean. If you’re sailing in the middle of nowhere, it can be hard to stumble across a school. Drop an FAD and wait — they’ll come swarming.
The most popular use of fishing aggregate devices is to catch larger predatory fish like mahi-mahi or tuna. FADs tend to attract small bait fish looking for shelter, but the big guys will be following them. Some FADs can be anchored to the bottom, but that’s typically reserved for major commercial fishing productions.
Most line and rod fishers will use a portable one. You can easily learn how to make a fish aggregating device on your own. You also have the option of buying one pre-made. American FishTree sells a bunch you can buy if you absolutely refuse to try building one.
4. Fish Light Attractors
You want to catch fish but you don’t really feel like building a whole FAD and the sonar devices are… unkind to your wallet. Or maybe you’re over searching through the waters and just want to throw your line in and out of the water pulling out fish like you’re in a video game. It’s actually fully possible to recreate that exact experience with a cheap tool: a fish light attractor. It will literally do the work for you.
- Tip: If you’ve got a submersible light attractor, check to make sure it’s appropriate for a fresh or saltwater environment before using it.
Fish love light sources. A blue or green light will really grab their attention but really, any bright light will do. A well-placed light on a dock will draw them out like a moth to a… well, light. You can straight up make this yourself with, literally, any pre-existing lamp. Technically, you can pull out your iPhone and shine it into the water and see some results. You probably shouldn’t do that, though.
However, light from an iPhone is going to be relatively dim compared to some of these popular fish light attractors on Amazon:
- The Amarine-made Night Fishing Underwater Light ($14)
- The Lightingsky Fish Finder Lamp ($19)
- The 12V Green Lantern Submersible Fishing Light ($23)
- The Goture Submersible Fishing Light ($30)
- The Firewatermarine Underwater Submersible Light ($50)
Learn more tips and tricks to become a better angler by downloading our guide on mastering fishing here.