Side Scanning Fishfinders: Marvelous or Myth?

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Are side-scanner fishfinders more hype than help? No, but there are some over-blown claims to contend with.

Side-scanning fishfinders are all the rage, but there’s little doubt that there’s a lot of marketing hoo-ha that just doesn’t live up to reality. That’s why I spent a day on the water testing units from most of the major manufacturers, side-by-side. You can find the complete results in Peripheral Vision: Side-Scanning Fishfinder Myths, Debunked! Here’s a quick look at some of the major findings.

fishfinders

Are side-scanner fishfinders more hype than help? No, but there are some over-blown claims to contend with.

  • Individual fish are dang tough to identify. Sure, schools are clearly visible on-screen, but a single fish produces a dot that looks like it may or may not be a solid return. Since you don’t see the arches produced by down-lookers, this makes ID’ing fish much more of a guessing-game.
  • Effective range isn’t nearly as far as published, because when you range out, the screen simply isn’t large enough to produce the detail you need to ID fish, structure, and anything relatively small. Sure, you can see a sea-wall or a giant wreck. But a broken-off piling or a reef ball? Once you’re a good ways off, forget about it. (Exact range effectiveness varied from manufacturer to manufacturer, so you’ll have to read the entire article to get the details).
  • Installation can be a significant challenge, depending on the type of boat you have. Powercats and other boats with narrow hulls, in particular, may simply not have enough room at the transom for the transducer. And some manufacturers don’t even offer through-hull options.

Want to read up on some other fishfinder info? Check out our look at the new Garmin side-scan system; read Shopping for a the Right Fishfinder;  and see Super Cheap Fishfinders: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

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