The 6 Best Portable Fish Finders Reviewed & Tested ( Hands-on 2019 Guide )


How do Fish Finders Work?

fisher on kayak with fishfinder

In the simplest terms, fish finders emit sound waves from a device called a transducer. These sound waves travel through the water until they eventually hit something and bounce back to the depth finder’s receiver.

The returned signal is then processed by a small computer which analyzes the strength of the returned signal and the time it took to hit the distant object and bounce back to the receiver.

This allows the computer to determine how far away different objects are — such as the lake bottom, creek channel, sunken tree or big bass. This information is displayed on various visual styles, allowing the angler to see what is going on under the surface.

Of course, there are also considerable variations among different fish finders. Some send their sonar signal in a single direction, while others bounce signals all over the lake. Some display their information in full color, while others only have a two-color screen.


Modern Models

FishHunter Pro
FishHunter Pro – the only tri-frequency, wireless portable fish finder for Apple and Android smartphones and tablets


Modern fish finder manufacturers are now offering another option that anglers should consider.

Though fish finders were historically considered semi-permanent additions to a boat, some manufacturers are now producing fishing sonars that are portable and some are even castable.

Sure, you could remove an old-style, fixed fish finder when upgrading or selling your boat, but it was more akin to a boat component than a tool for anglers. Meanwhile, these new portable fish finders can be carried around from one fishing spot to the next.


Portable vs Castable Units 

The primary difference between castable and portable fish finders relates to their size.

Portable fish finders usually feature a small transducer that you can put in the water or attach to the bottom of your boat. It has a small display screen that shows the information obtained.

Castable fishing sonars feature a very small, yet rugged transducer, that you can attach to your fishing line. This allows you to cast it anywhere you like to get an idea of what is going on underneath the surface.

Some of these newer units lack a dedicated display. Instead, they simply send an image to your smartphone or tablet with the aid of an (usually free) app, Bluetooth, or WiFi.


Who Benefits most from Portable Fish Finders?

Ice fishing with portable fish finder

Portable fish finders work well in a variety of circumstances, but they are most helpful for anglers who fish from different types of boats and locations:

1. Kayaks, Canoes, Rental Boats

For example, you can attach a portable depth finder at the bottom of your kayak today before using it from a dock the next day. You can even attach it to a rented boat then remove it easily when you need to.

2. Ice Anglers

Portable fish finders are also suited for ice anglers who may want to inspect a dozen holes in the course of a day’s fishing. Fish finders provide more information than depth sounders do, making them a better choice for many anglers.

The only time they are not appropriate is for exceptionally large boats; in which case, the transducer needs to be too far away from the receiver.

Additionally, professional anglers or charter services may prefer a bigger and more feature-packed unit which is too large to make a suitable portable unit.


Final Thoughts

Portable fish finders are incredibly helpful tools for locating fish. They do not only expand your fishing horizons, but they also aid you to catch more fish. Review the recommended units above and pick one up today!


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