If you are just starting to get into fishing, especially with a kayak or canoe, and you do not have much space to spare but still want a large catch, a portable fish finder may be especially useful to you. The best portable fish finders last for years, are accurate, and easily transportable.
We’ll review the top 5 portable fish finders below:
- Garmin Striker 4 with Portable Kit
- Humminbird PiranhaMAX 4 PT
- Lowrance Hook-3X All Seas Pack Sonar
- Deeper PRO+ Smart Sonar – GPS Fishfinder
- Lowrance FishHunter 3D
How to choose the best portable fish finders.
There are several different types of portable fish finders to choose from: castables, GPS trackers, conventional, and flashers. Flashers are rarer to be used since not many are made, if at all, and they are somewhat outdated.
Conventional fish finders usually search through the water with sonar and display the results on a display for the fisher to use. These are one of the more preferred for fishers on boats or kayaks. Some of the other things most models can do are measure water depth, water temperature, and map out underwater structures, vegetation, and objects.
GPS fish finders are usually just conventional fish finders but with GPS. This can be useful for fishers who are planning on traveling long distances with a kayak, canoe, or a boat.
Finally, castable fish finders are small and are usually designed to be attached to the fishing line like a bobber. Once they are cast out into the water, it uses sonar to locate things under the water, like fish or objects. These can be used in boats, kayaks, canoes, and on the shore or a dock, but they usually do not come with a display.
What are the advantages/benefits of portable fish finders?
Regardless if you are fishing in waters or on shore, portable fish finders can help you get more bites and catches because they show you how many fish are in your area. They give nearly instant feedback on if there are any fish around your fishing spot, where they are, and how many of them are there, saving a lot of time.
Things to look for that differentiate them.
If you are planning on fishing in deeper waters, conventional finders might be better for you since they have a depth range much higher than the other type, GPS excluded since they usually have the same specs. The depth range for these is between 300 and 1600 feet or more.
Casting finders usually have lower sensors but are more affordable, lighter, and take up less space. That and most of the newer models connect to your smartphone for the display using the app. The depth range for these is between 150 and 300 feet or more.
What’s the best way to use a portable fish finder?
First, follow all of the instructions when installing, using, and maintaining the finder. Then, make sure you are using it according to the specific instructions when it comes to what kind of waters you are fishing in. This is because most fish finders have their own setting or capacity when it comes to fishing in freshwater or saltwater.
When you are done using it, to avoid wear and damage by keeping it dry and secure in its own carrying bag. Always make sure the batteries are changed or charged before and after each use too.
Conventional vs. Portable
Many fishers argue that casting fish finders are inferior to conventional models because of how many disadvantages they have. They are usually less accurate, can easily be lost in and out of waters, have short lifespans, and only run for a fraction of the time as conventional models.
However, others point out that they can be used in conjunction with a conventional model to get a more accurate scan and reading. That and many people who fish on kayaks or canoes like to save as much space as possible for their catch, which these can help greatly since they take up a fraction of the space that conventional models would.
Prerequisites and precautions for using them.
Some states, counties, or towns may have rules or regulations for using fish finders, whether they are portable or not. Make sure you can use one in the area you would like to do your fishing before buying one so that you will be allowed to fish without getting a fine.
You may want to get a protection plan since it is extremely common for them to be lost while fishing, especially when fishing on a kayak or canoe. Also, you may need to get additional parts since many of the fish finders do not come with additional equipment that may be needed like a transducer that is used with ice fishing.
Top 5 Portable Fish Finders
This conventional fish finder uses chirp sonar to find fish and a waypoint map so that you do not run into any brush piles, docks, or stumps. It also has one of the highest depth ranges for most portable fish finders, being able to read as low as 1,600 feet in freshwater and 750 feet in saltwater, depending on the conditions.
It is heavier than most models, weighing nearly 11 pounds, but this is mainly because of the waterproof case and mounting brackets. Like a few models out there, it has a built-in flasher to view the sonar display in the classic flasher view, a trait favored by those who ice fish or use vertical jigging.
Some other notable features it has are audible alarms, GPS, and past tracking so that you can save into the GPS where the fish were last time on your trip. However, it can only mark one spot at a time. Bait fishers beware: unless there is a large school of baitfish, they will most likely not show up.
- Screens are available in 3.5, 5, and 7 inches long
- Can detect some fish when ice fishing
- Gives fast and accurate readings
- The mounting brackets break easily
- Has technical issues occasionally
This model only comes in one screen size, 4.3 inches, but it does have some redeeming features like the dual beam sonar. Depending on the settings and frequency you would use, it can detect fish up to 600 feet deep. You can also adjust the settings to get a wide, general reading or a more narrow and accurate reading.
Between the case and the finder itself, it is actually one of the heaviest models out there right now, weighing over 20 pounds altogether. It also requires 6 AA batteries, but 6 are provided with purchase.
Some other features it has are depth and fish alarms, down imaging, fish ID, and even a zoom setting for easier visuals. It is also waterproof, so you do not have to worry as much if a few slashes get on it. However, you should try to avoid completely submerging it in water so that it cannot fry the circus.
- Has a long lifespan
- Has a bright screen with vivid colors
- Simple and easy to install
- Less popular model
- The depth sensor is often inaccurate
This model has a slightly smaller screen than most, only being 3 inches long, but is easily seen even in bright sunlight since it has a strong LED backlight. The resolution is a little lower than most, only being 320 x 240 pixels, but the colors are highly detailed.
While the sensor is decent quality, better than some but not as good as others, it can still perform well to identify fish, underwater structures and their details, the bottom hardness, thermoclines, and other factors that can affect your fishing.
Along with this, the frequency provides a more accurate target separation and lure tracking. However, it does not have a flasher mode like some of the other models do, but unlike other models, it does come with an ice and boat transducer.
Because of its lower qualities, it is one of the least popular models currently on the market.
- Has decent sensitivity
- Comes with a case and mounts
- Has a bright LED screen
- Is one of the least popular models
- Often has technical issues
One of the few casting fish finders on this list, this is actually one of the most popular fish finders of any type. Mainly, it is because of how light, simple, and easy to use it is.
It can be cast up to 330 feet away and read depths as fast as 260 down using the dual beam sonar. Using the built-in GPS, you can also track where you are and where you would like to go. It also has an ice fishing mode, flasher display, and 2D vertical zoom.
It does this and all other functions by sending out its own wifi signal which you would then connect to with your phone or iPod. Through the device, you can see all of the tracking and sonar results as you would with a conventional fish finder, and sometimes you can do more depending on the app settings.
There are no special steps to operate it in freshwater or saltwater and it can handle temperatures as low as negative 4 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Simple to attach to line and cast
- Give highly accurate readings quickly
- Easily synced to phone or iPod
- One of the most popular products
- Not durable, easily damaged
- Has a short lifespan
Another one of the castable fish finders, this model is actually one of the less popular ones, possible because of the uncommon design. Unlike the last model, this one looks like a traditional bobber on the top and an unfinished bobber on the bottom, where the sensors are.
Unlike other models, it has an LED light so that it is easily seen during the day and night, a big convenience if it is accidentally dropped in the water which happens often. Like the last model, it also connects through its own wifi generated signal instead of Bluetooth.
Through the app which is used to connect to the fish finder, you can check the water depth, create custom color charts and map structures of your favorite fishing areas, and track and identify fish. You can even log your catches, create waypoints, follow friends, and live stream your fishing.
- 3D and bottom mapping work well
- Structures in the water are shown clearly
- The app is easy to navigate and use
- GPS is not that accurate
- Does not connect well with devices
The one that is the best out of all of the best portable fish finders available right now is possibly the Garmin Striker 4 with Portable Kit which was the first on the list. The pros far outweigh the cons along with all of the features that it has.
It has one of the longest lifespans, is one of the most accurate with the highest depth sensor, and can be used for ice fishing and vertical jigging. Between that and the conventional design with the GPS, it would be hard for other models to top this one.