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How To Read Fish Finder Screen

Table of Contents

It’s a useful device that helps divers, anglers, and casual fisherman alike. A fish finder is a wise investment and for many reasons. First thing you should do is some research on the device itself just to understand the way it works.

There are many different models, and it’s up to you to decide which one you like the best. Once you do that, it’s time to install your fish finder. Though setting it up isn’t the hardest thing to do, it’s a little tricky.

If you want to catch something using a fish finder, you’ll have to learn how to read all the information on its display. If you don’t know how to do this, no problem. Many of experienced anglers never actually saw a fish finder let alone used one because the technology hasn’t been around for that long.

Reading its screen isn’t as easy as many people think. However, it’s recommended you learn to do this before you actually buy the device.

Here’s some of the data your fish finder may show:


The device’s depth finder feature is a part of most modern models. In this case, the device features a depth sensor on the transducer that allows you to tell how deep the water below is. Knowing the depth is overall helpful though mainly because it tells you what species are there and what else you can find underneath.

The depth is usually displayed at the top left of the screen. Its accuracy mostly depends on the model you chose, though most are fairly accurate and clear. The depth is measured in meters.


Knowing the temperature of the water can also tell you what exactly lives there. You can locate specific fish with ease as soon as you see what’s the temperature of the water, since some species like warm and others cold water.

The water temperature is shown right below the depth reading. Just by using depth and temperature you can already tell what probably lives in the water.

Speed Sensors

Another useful feature you can find is the speed sensor. It tells you how fast you’re moving, much like a speedometer would tell you. This is important as any other information and knowing it is what makes you a good angler and fisherman.

Using the speed sensors as well as all other information displayed at the screen is crucial. Besides sonar readings of the ocean, fish finder has many other things to offer. Make sure to remember how to read the speed sensors, depth and all other before you actually buy a certain model.

Color & Echo Strength

Some models are in colors while many are only in black and white. Color is what shows how strong is the echo that returns to the transducer. The echo return strength also tells you the density and how hard is the object. The stronger and darker the color, the stronger is the echo that returns.

Don’t think that the one in color is a lot better than the one in black and white. It’s a matter of preference but overall, the color doesn’t do much for the quality of the device.

The seabed is often the darkest object. The bottom of the river, lake or pond could be a thick, bold line, or a thin, light one. The lighter like means that the bottom is soft ground like clay. A thicker line means that the bottom is harder and less porous.

You should know what kind of fish lives in the environment. These small details will help you improve your skill, which is why it’s important you know to read the information the device shows.


Once you figure out how to read the colors, you can move on to actual results the fish finder shows. First thing to do is to set it up and move around slowly. The key is to watch the finder and figure out the speed that works the best for you.

Monitor the display and get comfortable with it. It’s important you get used to looking at the screen as well as the overall process of using the finder. Finders generally offer different results at different speed, though the best results are those you get at slower speed.

Once you get used to having the device mounted to your boat and reading the data it shows, you can get into more detail.

A finder displays the results from right to left, the opposite way of how you’d read a book. Recent results are on the right side of the display, while the oldest results are on the left side. All the time you’re still, the unit will have a somewhat stable image.

The moment you start moving, the finder shows the current results on the right side, and the old ones on the left side. At this point, you’ve probably figured out what’s where and how to read it. What’s great is that the finder allows you to zoom on an area that you want to focus on or look closely at.

Side & Down Imaging

The two new technologies are side imaging and down imaging. These two give a much more life-like picture of the world that’s underwater. Both use SONAR waves to deliver the detailed image.

The difference is that side imaging and down imaging transducers operate at 455 or 800 kHz while normal transducers operate at 50/83/200 kHz.

Side imaging is the it technology. It covers a lot more water than down imaging because it shoots sound waves on both sides of your boat. It would take you only a few runs up and down the area to have to completely mapped out. It would tell you where the good structure is. If you’re looking into buying the best side imaging fish finder, then make sure you consider the Humminbird Helix 5 Chirp.

Down imaging is only handy if you’re examining a certain area of structure. In this case, any large object shows up as a stain of colors varying in shades depending how hard or soft it is. However, you can tell exactly what the object is.

Down imaging is somewhat cheaper than side imaging. If you’re on a budget, don’t think you have to go with side imaging in order to achieve any success. Down imaging will work just as fine, especially because something is better than nothing.

Fish ID

Now that you know how to tell if something’s under your boat and you know what color means, you can learn to really read the fish finder.

What you need to learn now is to tell fish apart from other objects. It’s also important to know how schools of fish and structure looks like on your finder.

Most often, there are two ways the device shows the sonar waves when they return to the transducer. Some show the actual data, while others show little icons that are much easier to read.

Fish ID technology is the one that converts the raw data into icons that are fairly easy to read. Where there are fish, you’ll see a fish icon that can vary in size depending on the size of that the finder found. More modern models will show icons for schools of fish, rocks and plants.

Pretty much what you’d have to do is read the icon and the depth, and cast. However, Fish ID isn’t always accurate, and sometimes it will show a rock as a plant or group of plants as a group of fish. This is kind of annoying, but using one will save you time overall.

Arch Data

Another display type is the arch or raw data. Finders with this type of display show exactly the arches and lines that the transducer receives. Many people will tell you about how hard these are to read. However, once you get a hang of it, it will save you a lot of time and spare you some trouble.

The display will show an arch if the sonar wave is reflected off of a moving target, while the line appears only when the target is stationary. Fish appear as arches and there are less errors than with Fish ID.

Rocks and plants are harder to tell apart, but once you get a hang of it, you’ll realize the efficiency of it. It’s important you take your time when learning to use this because it’s hard to explain and a bit hard to understand it at first.

Final Thoughts on How to Read Fish Finder Screen

The easiest way to analyze a finder screen is to take your time and pay close attention. In most cases, experienced anglers can tell you how useful and effective the device is.

It’s crucial you do your research regarding the best finder for you. Once you do that, you should test and try the device until you’re certain you understand it well. Whatever model you choose, you’ll understand it well enough with time and effort.

Hopefully, with information above, you have some sense of how to analyze finder screen. Remember that this is a useful investment, so don’t give up on it since it can help you improve your skill greatly.