Very few things beat a day on the water fishing. But it is always more enjoyable when you are able to catch some fish. To better your chances of a successful fishing trip it can be helpful to use a fish finder. But bulky fish finders have now improved to provide portable options as well. This means that whether you are in a large boat, a small boat or with a group of friends, you can easily use your fish finder without having to worry about transporting it or trying to make room for it.
Top Ten Best Portable Fish Finders of 2019
Full Reviews for the Best Portable Fish Finders on the Market in 2019 Are:
Lucky Wireless Portable Sonar Fish Finder
The Lucky Wireless Portable Sonar Fish Finder is designed to be available for a wide variety of people and situations. Lucky features three language settings so you can operate the system in either English, Russian or Deutsch. It also allows you to control a wide variety of settings that will be saved so you don’t have to redo them every time you want to use your portable fish finder.
- Castable portable fish finder
- 394 ft wireless operational range
- 433 MHz wireless frequency
- 125 kHz sonar frequency
- 135 maximum depth
- Waterproof bag for display console
- Temperature on display screen
- LCD monitor with backlighting
- English, Russian and Deutsch available
- Depth and fish alarm
- 90 degree beam angle
- Zoom capabilities
- Fresh and salt water capable
- Works in temperatures between 14 degrees F and 122 degrees F
- 550 hour battery life
- Neck strap included
- Live updates
- Shows big and small fish differentiation
- Adjustable settings
- Built in memory to store settings
- Automatically switches off when not in water
- 128 x 64 pixel screen
- Black and white screen
- Lack of customer support
Venterior Portable Wired Fish Finder
Designed to locate and show you the difference between fish, weeds, sand and rocks, the Venterior Portable Wired Fish Finder is a low cost gadget that is high quality. Venterior can differentiate between big and small fish as well as let you identify anything your line may get stuck on. This model of fish finder can work in a wide variety of situations, including ice fishing and can be submerged into the water in four different ways to get a reading from your transducer. You can cast the transducer on your line, attach it to a pole, affix it to the hull of your boat or simply dip in into the water.
- Multiple ways to submerge the transducer
- LCD screen
- Fish Alarm
- 25 ft cable
- Ice fishing capable (-4 degrees F to 158 degrees F)
- Can work in any almost body of water
- Imaging differentiates between fish size, sand, rocks and weeds under the water
- Water depth range between 3 feet and 328 feet
- Battery saver mode
- Depth displayed on the screen in feet or meters
- 2 year warranty
- Customer service available
- Works on the water or from shore
- 45 degree beam angle
- Uses four AAA batteries
- Black and White Screen
Hummingbird Piranha MAX Portable Fish Finder
Hummingbird was actually the originator of the fish finder and the company has strived to live up to that and then some. With the Piranha MAX portable fish finder they have continued the trail of excellence by providing you with a compact, yet detailed image of what is below the surface to help you find the perfect spot for fishing. Including Fish ID+ and a color screen that features 256 individual colors to differentiate the different objects and areas, you can easily spot fish in the water and find the perfect spot to cast your line.
- 240 x 320 resolution
- Colored screen with 256 colors
- 600 ft depth
- Easy to use
- Fish and depth alarms
- Fish ID+
- Zoom capabilities
- Suction cup transducer
- Battery powered
- 5 inch display
- Not castable
FishHunter Directional 3D Wireless Finder
The FishHunter Directional 3D Wireless Fish Finder aims to give you the highest quality and most detailed imaging possible of what is below the water’s surface. This portable fish finder provides you with five tri-frequency transducers that transmit the images directly onto your smartphone. This means you can have a screen as big as your phone or smart device, as long as you have downloaded the app onto said device. The FishHunter Directional 3D portable fish finder can provide you with five different types of images including bathymetric (contour) mapping, 3D fishing, 3D structural mapping, directional casting and flasher view for ice fishing. You can also save all of these maps onto your smart device so you can review them any time you want.
- 5 tri-frequency transducers
- 3D wireless sonar
- 160 ft depth maximum, 100 ft depth maximum for ice fishing
- 150 ft WIFI casting range
- Can save the maps on the device
- 5 different sonar imaging options available
- Smartphone connected display
- Castable from shore or on the water
- Must have a WIFI connection
Deeper Smart Portable Fish Finder
Working with most all smart devices, the Deeper Smart Portable fish finder allows you to have your display screen right in your pocket. The imaging capabilities of the Deeper Smart Portable fish finder are so strong that you can actually see enough detail to identify the types of fish you are looking at, not just the size. You can use this transducer anywhere, whether on the water or from the shore, and you will have up to four hours of battery life to map where you need to be before needing to recharge.
- Compatible with over 7,000 smartphones, tablets and devices
- Works for Android and iOS
- Lightweight transducer
- Image clear enough to identify fish species
- Tracks water temperature fluctuations
- Works from shore or on the water
- Works via Bluetooth
- 130 ft depth maximum
- Free app download
- Must have a WIFI connection
- Only four hours of battery life
Lowrance FishHunter PRO
Designed to be tough enough to handle just about any situation, the FishHunter Military Grade Fish Finder can be used in almost any This portable fish finder’s transducer has a casing made of rubber around it that will not only stop water from leaking in, but prevent damage from occurring and messing with your readings. The casing also allows you to search in colder temperatures or in areas with rocks or other things that could cause damage to the outside of the transducer. The FishHunter Military Grade fish finder also allows you to transmit the information right to your smart device via Bluetooth without having to use a cell tower or cell data.
- Advanced sonar
- GPS tracking, mapping and navigation
- Rubberized outer casing
- Drop absorbing
- Leak resistant
- Wide temperature range
- Bluetooth up to 80 ft
- 100 ft depth range
- Save information to reference and use later
- Display is your smart device
- No notable downside
Signstek FF-003 Fish Finder
Ideal for beginners, The Signstek FF-003 is designed to be straightforward and budget friendly. The FF-003 is perfect for those who simply want a fish finder but don’t need all the bells and whistles. If you are just starting out, or are a more casual fisherman, it may not be in your best interest to get an extremely high tech piece of equipment. You will still be able to identify size differences in the fish as well as read the screen in bright, sunny days. While it won’t work for ice fishing, you can easily use the FF-003 in lakes, streams and oceans and find the ideal spot for you to fish.
- Ideal for casual use
- Easy operation
- Identify size of fish
- 100 level sensitivity setting
- Multi levels depth range
- 240 ft depth reading limit
- Doesn’t have a lot of extras
- Low resolution screen
- Smaller display
- Not for ice fishing
NorCross HawkEye F33P Fish Finder
The NorCross HawkEye F33P fish finder is designed specifically for those who want to fish but don’t have a boat. The HawkEye F33P can work from shore, a dock, a bridge, on the ice or in a tiny boat like a kayak or canoe. You hold the device in the palm of your hand and, even though it is small, can easily be turned on and controlled to locate the fish below the surface. This portable fish finder fits right into your tackle box and you can easily transport it alone with all your other fishing gear without needing to worry about another container or carrier.
- 25 degree sonar beam angle
- Accurate depth readings
- 9 ft depth limit
- 0 degrees F minimum temperature limit
- 35 ft of cable
- Easy to use
- Ideal for on shore use
- Compact and fits in your palm
- Two stage alarm
- Not ideal for ocean use
Vectorcom Portable Wired Fish Finder
The Vectorcom portable wired fish finder is designed to give you a clear picture of what is below the surface, even through your boat’s hull. Because it can give you an image through a surface you can put it on top of clear ice and still get a picture of what is happening in the water. The Vectorcom can also differentiate between fish and the other things in the water like sand, rocks and grass.
- Ideal for ice fishing
- LCD display
- 328 ft depth maximum
- 45 degree beam angle
- Fish depth icon display
- Fish alarm
- -4 degrees F minimum and 158 degrees F maximum temperature
- Battery save mode
- Tell the difference between rocks, sand and grass
- Black and white display
- 40 x 39 screen
ReelSonar Smart Fish Finder
If you are looking for a portable fish finder that works as a camera as well, the ReelSonar Smart Fish Finder portable wireless sonar fish finder is the device for you. This portable fish finder can be attached to helmets, surfboards, bikes, boats and more, or just hold it in your hand. The 1080P quality display provides the clearest images possible and allows you to not only look for fish, but record video that you can review and use later on. The image provided by the MadBite will give you an incredibly realistic view of what is happening in the water and will look so good you will think you are watching a professional movie.
- 1080P HD display quality
- Recording capable up to 9o minutes
- Fast forward and rewind capable
- Waterproof case
- 1050 mAh battery powered
- Easily attach and mount to a wide variety of objects
- Motion detection
- White balance adjustable
- Can work as a security dash camera
- Loop recording capable
- 150 ft depth maximum
- 90 degree sonar frequency and coverage
- Smart chip stores your settings
- LCD screen for even the brightest days
- Freshwater and saltwater capable
- Not ideal for ice fishing
What Is A Fish Finder?
Fish finders are designed to give you a view of what is going on under the water without having to be under the water yourself. Sound navigation and ranging, or SONAR systems are used in the fish finder to search for fish over greater distances and locate fish that would be hidden to the human eye. SONAR transmits sound waves from the device and those wave continue to flow until it hits something. Once it has located an object, in this case a fish, the sound wave pings off it and returns to the device to show you where it is. It can also be helpful in locating any possible debris you might get stuck on when casting your line so you can avoid wasting time or fishing line.
Fish finders allow you to find the best location to optimize your chances of catching fish as well gauge the size of the fish the SONAR is bouncing off of. They can work in murky waters, waters with a lot of debris and even ice fishing if you choose the right model. The fish will appear on an screen display and have a different symbol than things like rocks or other debris. This avoids any confusion as to what you are seeing and allows you to pick the best location to catch the most fish.
What Makes A Fish Finder Portable
Standard fish finders are designed to be mounted right into your boat to have it ready on every trip. But standard fish finders can be cumbersome and take up unnecessary space in your boat. It can also be impossible to mount the standard fish finder in rented or inflatable boats. Portable fish finders are ideal for those who fish in a wide variety of boats or want to expand where they can use it. Portable fish finders don’t require mounting so you don’t need to worry about whether or not you will have enough space in your boat or if it is properly secured. Portable fish finders can be used in any kind of boat as well as from the shore or dock. They are also easily moved from one place to the next so you can bring it with you without worries and most come with carrying cases that will keep your fish finder compact and organized.
What Is The Difference Between A Fish Finder And A Depth Sounder
Much like fish finders, depth sounders are used when fishing to gauge what you can’t see below the surface. While both are incredibly useful tools to have while out on the water, they serve different purposes. Fish finders are used to locate fish and any possible debris under the surface. Depth Sounders are used to see how deep the water is around you. This means you may be able to locate issues like rock formations in the water or the temperature of the water, but this will not help you see where the fish are. You will instead need to use the depth of the water and the temperature to calculate whether or not the fish will be in the location. Fishfinders take all of the guesswork out of try to find the right spot and maximize your opportunities to catch as many fish as possible.
Types Of Portable Fish Finders
There are three different types of portable fish finders you can choose from. While you won’t see a huge difference in results or quality, it will give you more options for finding the right type of portable fish finder to fit your needs.
Portable Fish Finding Unit
The traditional portable fish finder comes in a carrying case and includes all the necessary pieces. This includes a three to a seven-inch screen to display your results, a plastic base for mounting if you want to set it up to be hands-free, a portable transducer to transmit your results and a rechargeable battery. They can be used in lakes, oceans and even ice fishing, but are designed to work best in small boats.
A relatively new version of portable fish finder, the castable portable fish finder can be attached to your line and cast out along with your hook. The fish finder has a small transducer inside a floating ball that will transmit the information right to your smartphone. You will need to download the app for that particular model of castable fish finder and you will need a WIFI connection, but it will take up far less room in your boat. Castable portable fish finders also have a bonus of being easily used on shore as easily as on the water. This makes them much more adaptable then normal fish finders.
Mountable Fish Finders
While not designed to be as permanent as a standard fish finder, a mounted portable fish finder can be mounted to your ship temporarily. This makes them more ideal for those who are in larger boats but don’t want a lot of hassle to remove it or switch it to another boat.
What To Look For In A Portable Fish Finder
There are certain features that you need to consider when looking for a quality portable fish finder.
The majority of portable fish finders will run on batteries, but there are also newer options that can be charged before use. You can choose whether you want to use standard batteries or rechargeable ones in your portable fish finder and some models allow you to both use batteries and USB chargers to keep your device charged.
Larger screens allow you to see more details more easily. While a smaller screen option is typically cheaper and less cumbersome, you need to consider just how much you will be able to see on the screen. Screens that are too small can cause you to misread them or for information to be overlooked. Screens range from three inches wide to 16 inches wide and you should look for something in the middle range like a nine inch wide screen.
Different models of portable fish finders are capable of reaching different distances between the transducer and the console. For example, a castable portable fish finder will have a much greater distance that can be reached from the transducer to console because the transducer connects directly to your fishing line. It is important to consider the depth of the water you are fishing in as well as how large the body of water is. You don’t want the transducer to hit anything so it is important to not have too much distance between the two parts.
A transducer is the source of the sound waves that are sent out in SONAR technology. The transducer will send out the sound waves and will receive them once they bounce off an object back to you. You need to look for high quality transducers that will withstand the conditions you are using them in, as well as be reliable enough to work without worrying about breaking down or glitching.
Different sound wave frequencies will allow you to see better in certain locations. Your transducers have difference capacities for frequencies and it is important to have a fish finder with a frequency range that will fit your needs. Lower frequency sound waves are ideal for locating fish in deeper waters. The higher the frequency is, the shallower the water will need to be to get a solid reading. Consider the depth of the water you want to fish in and if you want a greater range of frequencies to be use in a wider variety of locations.
A beam is the term for the actual SONAR sound wave being emitted. If you have a portable fish finder with one beam it means that you can emit a sound wave in a single direction. Portable fish finders with dual beams can emit a sound wave in two different directions and cover a greater area in a shorter amount of time. It is important to consider how large the area you are fishing in is and how much time you want to spend searching the different directions. If you frequently fish larger bodies of water it is better to choose a portable fish finder that has at least two beams, if not more, to cover as much as possible without having to spend too much time trying to find the fish.
The angle of a cone is the width of the sound wave being emitted. Portable fish finders have cone angles ranging from a nine degree angle to a 60 degree angle and the higher the angle is, the greater the distance that your beam will cover. But larger cone angles do have a downside. As you increase the width of your cone angle, you decrease your SONAR’s sensitivity in deeper waters to locate the fish. It is advisable to use a cone angle between 16 degrees and 20 degrees wide. This range will not give you the widest view, but will give you the most range without sacrificing the sensitivity of your SONAR.
Sound Wave Power
The power of the sound wave reflects how far the sound wave will travel. The more power your sound waves have when sent out, the more accurate the picture the product will be. This is because higher power means faster sound waves. The faster sound wave travels out to the fish and pings off it back to you is a shorter amount of time. This means that when you see the image on your screen, the fish are more likely to still be in that location. Slower sound waves means you have to wait longer to get your image back and it gives the fish more time to move to a different location, making the image less accurate and reliable.
Screen resolution plays a major role in the quality of the images your portable fish finder can produce. If you choose a portable fish finder with a low screen quality you can end up with a blocky and hard to read image that can be nearly useless. While there is not a level of quality that is so high that the image suffers, the higher the screen resolution is, the higher the price tag will be. Screen resolution is determined by the number of pixels the screen contains. Pixels represent a single dot on the screen and every pixel can support its own image. The minimum number of pixels you want on a portable fish finder are 240 pixels from left to right and 160 pixels going up and down. While you want to aim for a 240 x 160 pixel screen resolution, you can opt for a higher number of pixels if you want to spend the money on it.
Portable fish finder screen displays can be either in color or in black and white. The black and white screens are typically a more affordable option because there are only 265 shades of gray that they can use to convey what the sonar is picking up. The color option has millions of different shades to choose from and can be more easily read. If you want to fish in darker or cloudier days it can become very difficult to differentiate between the colors of gray on the screen. Overly bright days can also be difficult for black and white screens because of the glare. Color screens give you the most detail and the easiest to read display, but you will be paying more money for this option.
The display screen can vary widely as far as what information is provided. Some displays will include the time, distance and even your latitude and longitude, along with other additional information depending on the model. Other portable fish finders will give you this information by pressing buttons, but won’t include the information on the display screen. Consider what you want or need to be on the main screen display and what you can handle having to look up. Also consider how big your screen is and how small or cluttered the information might be with what information you want on the display.
When out on the water there can be a major issue with glare coming off the water from the sun. The glare can make it nearly impossible to read your screen and makes the fish finder nearly useless. So it is important to look for portable fish finders with glare protection build into them. This is typically done with an LCD film over the display screen. But you can also opt for a shade visor or a portable fish finder that will allow you to control the brightness and contrast of the display. This will eliminate the need to squint and stress over what the screen is showing you and you can focus on finding the fish.
Low Light Capabilities
Whether you want to get a head start on your fishing and get on the water before the sun is up, or you want to stay out fishing as long as possible, when you don’t have the bright sunlight to view your screen it can be difficult to read your screen. To make sure that you have enough light to see your screen, but don’t want to have to sacrifice time on the water, you need to consider getting a fish finder with low light capabilities. This means that the display screen will either be adjustable or will automatically adjust the brightness of the screen based on the time of day. Low light capabilities can not only be helpful as it gets dark or before sunrise, but also on cloudier days when their isn’t a lot of sunlight to view your screen.
There are some models of portable fish finders that include a GPS system. While it will cost you more money than models without GPS integration, it is important to remember that buying a portable fish finder with GPS means you are getting two devices in one and won’t need to spend the money on a separate GPS system. If you are looking to fish in smaller, shallower bodies of water or from the shore you really don’t need to worry about GPS, but if you want to fish on larger bodies of water or want to fish on a wider variety of locations you should always have a GPS with you.
If you want to fish all year round it is important to make sure you have a portable fish finder that will be able to handle the changes in temperatures. Obviously it is important to make sure that a portable fish finder can handle freezing temperatures for ice fishing, but just because the water isn’t freezing doesn’t mean it can be too cold to function. Consider the climate where you are and the ranges in temperatures you can have. It is important to find a portable fish finder that will provide a large range in temperatures and can handle the job no matter how hot or cold it gets in the water.
While the transducer will obviously need to be waterproof because it must be submerged in water to get the reading, many people overlook whether the actual display and console are waterproof as well. Especially in smaller boats, portable fish finders can be easily splashed or even dropped if you choose to hold the console in your hands. Without being water resistant, the entire system can be ruined and your money will be wasted. It is important to find portable fish finders that not only say that they are water resistant, but have JIS or IPX ratings. This guarantees that they have been thoroughly tested and can handle being out on the water without issue.
You should never spend more money than you can afford, but it is also important to consider the quality of the fish finder as well as the features it has built into it rather than only the price. In some cases you can combine two devices, like a portable fish finder and a GPS system, rather than spending the money on two devices. You should also aim to purchase a portable fish finder that will last for as long as possible and fit your needs, which may mean spending more money. Focus on everything you are getting with the fish finder when deciding whether or not it is worth the money and don’t cut corners and buy an inferior product just to save money.