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Understanding Sonar

By Capt Andy LoCascio - 11/26/2009 - Short URL: http://bit.ly/12FDGiL - Views: 348129

Fish FinderGet the most out of your fishing sonar unit by understanding what you see on the screen.  Sonar technology has come a long way in recent years.  Even the least expensive fish finders can provide great results if used properly.  Before continuing it is critical that you learn how to adjust sonar sensitivity manually.

Distinguishing Bait, Fish, and Bottom

Once your sonar unit is properly tuned you should be able to see the following:

  • Small bait (shrimp, sand eels, etc.) will appear as clouds either suspended in the water column or just off the bottom.
  • Larger bait and fish will appears as arcs either suspended or just off the bottom (where they can be confused with rocks and structure).
  • When you are moving slowly (drifting) and fish linger beneath the boat the arcs will be even larger and stretched horizontally.
  • When you are moving quickly  the arcs will be compressed even to the point where they appear as spikes off the bottom or wide vertical lines suspended in the water column.
  • Multiple fish will appear as overlapping arcs.
  • You may seem partial or faint arcs when fish are on the edge of your sonar cone.  These should not be ignored.
  • Rocks and structure will be clearly defined.  The echo beneath the bottom can help you determine whether you are seeing bottom structure or fish directly on the bottom.
  • Flatfish such as fluke and halibut are virtually impossible to detect on most machines (more info below on that).

Detecting Bottom Fish (Fluke/Halibut) with Your Fish Finder

Fluke and Halibut are nearly impossible to read because they lay directly on the bottom (often partially buried in the sand).  However, the fish are more aggressive than they appear.  Experienced anglers target areas where they see significant concentrations of bait.  This can make a big difference when trying to determine what depth to target along a slope or ledge.

Fish ID Features

If your fish finder has a fish ID feature, turn it off and NEVER turn it on again.  Those features are made for anglers who do not have the time or skills to properly tune their sonar units.  The fish IDs are almost always misleading.  It is critical that you see the actual composition of the makrs on your screen so that you can determine exactly what they represent.

Watch Your Fish Finder When the Bite Is On

Pay careful attention to your sonar unit when the bite is on!  When the bite is on and fish and bait are under your boat it is critical that you pay careful attention to how they appear on your fish finder.  That is the only time you can be absolutely certain what you are seeing.  Anglers often miss this opportunity because they are so excited catching fish, they never look back to the sonar unit.

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