How to Read a Fish Finder Screen

How to Read a Fish Finder Screen

Understanding how to read a fish finder screen can significantly improve your angling experience. Let’s dive into this fascinating world of sonar technology and make it work to our advantage.

What is a Fish Finder?

How to Read a Fish Finder Screen

A fish finder is an invaluable tool for any angler, using sonar technology to depict what lies beneath the water’s surface. It provides crucial information about the water depth, temperature, bottom structure, and most importantly, the location of fish.

Understanding the Fish Finder Screen

Fish finder screens may seem complex at first glance, but with our comprehensive guide, we’ll make it seem like a breeze. There are several components to understand.

Reading the Depth and Temperature

The depth and temperature readings usually appear at the top of the screen. Understanding these is straightforward. The depth is measured in feet or meters, while the temperature is given in degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit.

Deciphering Fish Symbols

Fish symbols are icons representing fish detected by the sonar. These symbols vary in size and color, typically indicating the size and depth of the fish.

Interpreting Sonar Returns

The raw sonar return provides a more detailed view of what’s under your boat. It might be harder to decipher than fish symbols, but with practice, you’ll be able to spot fish arches, vegetation, and bottom structure with ease.

Understanding the Bottom Structure

The bottom contour is usually shown as a thick line on the screen. A hard bottom will appear as a thin, strong line, while a soft bottom will be thicker and less defined.

Tips for Reading a Fish Finder Screen

Tip 1: Identify Fish Arches

Fish are often represented as arches on the sonar return. The size and intensity of the arch can tell you about the size and depth of the fish.

Tip 2: Recognize Bait Schools

Bait schools usually show up as dense, cluttered areas on the sonar return. Recognizing these areas can help you locate predatory fish nearby.

Tip 3: Understand the Bottom Composition

Learning to distinguish between hard and soft bottoms can help you locate fish habitats and feeding grounds.

Advanced Fish Finder Features

Modern fish finders come with advanced features that provide a more detailed view of the underwater world.

Side Imaging and Down Imaging

Side Imaging and Down Imaging offer a detailed, three-dimensional view of the water column and the bottom structure, helping you locate fish and structure with precision.

GPS and Chartplotting

GPS and chart plotting features allow you to mark productive fishing spots and navigate with ease.

Choosing the Right Fish Finder

When choosing a fish finder, consider the type of fishing you do, the size of your boat, and your budget. Fish finders come in a wide range of prices, with more advanced features available in higher-end models.

In conclusion, understanding how to read a fish finder screen can greatly enhance your fishing experience. Practice makes perfect, so don’t be discouraged if it seems complicated at first. With time and experience, you’ll become a pro at using your fish finder to locate and catch fish.

Fish and vegetation have different appearances on a fish finder screen. Fish appear as individual arches or fish symbols, while vegetation often appears as dense, cluttered areas.

Fish finders use sonar technology, which detects objects within its frequency range. Therefore, it can detect all types of fish within its range, provided the fish are large enough to return the sonar signal.

A hard bottom appears as a thin, strong line on the fish finder screen. It contrasts with a soft bottom, which is depicted as a thicker and less defined line.

On a fish finder screen, fish usually appear as arches or fish symbols. The size and color of these indicators provide information about the fish’s size and depth.


Q5: Can I Use a Fish Finder in Any Type of Water Body?

Yes, you can use a fish finder in various water bodies, including oceans, lakes, rivers, and ponds. However, the effectiveness may vary based on the fish finder’s specifications and the water body’s depth and composition.


Demystifying the fish finder screen can significantly elevate your fishing game, providing you with real-time, valuable data about your underwater surroundings. While it might seem daunting initially, understanding fish symbols, interpreting sonar returns, and recognizing bottom structures becomes intuitive with practice.

Modern fish finders equipped with advanced features like Side Imaging, Down Imaging, and GPS can further enhance your fishing experience, helping you navigate waters like a pro. Remember, the key to mastering any skill is patience and practice, and reading a fish finder screen is no exception. Happy fishing!

Joshua Collier
"Joshua Collier is an experienced angler and writer based in Florida. With over 10 years of experience fishing in freshwater and saltwater environments, Joshua has become an expert on everything from fly fishing for trout to trolling for marlin.