Marine technology continues to push the envelope year after year. Portable fish finders match this trend as new and improved models get released.
When looking to purchase a unit for your fishing adventures, the choice doesn’t have to be a difficult one. Think about where and how you are going to use it. Matching the features with your own fishing abilities will ensure that a fish finder is the right move for you.
It should enhance your fishing abilities, not distract you with a bunch of complicated settings. The following will break down our top choices and explain what you should look for when choosing a portable fish finder.
Our Top Picks
Deeper PRO+ Smart Sonar
LUCKY Kayak Portable Fish Depth Finder
Best for Ice Fishing
Garmin STRIKER Plus 4 Ice Fishing Bundle
The Deeper line of portable fish finders has been popular among anglers since they were first introduced. The sleek design and ease of use make this unit a perfect option for someone looking to get started with marine technology.
The Deeper Pro+ model comes standard with premium features like GPS that will allow you to see your location in relation to mapping, giving you pinpoint accuracy with your casts.
With a constantly updated app, there is no shortage of options and features to choose from. Its 4-season capability also allows for extended use when other fish finders are put up for the season.
- Easy setup
- 2 sonar beam frequencies for added clarity and coverage
- Can be mounted to a boat or kayak with no drill holes
- Must have a smartphone compatible with the app
- Stability can be an issue in windy conditions
- The pro+ version comes at a steeper price
For how affordable this portable fish finder is, there is no wonder why this is a popular unit for beginner anglers. While it won’t give you extreme detail on the cover in the area, it will show water depth and fish.
Simply throw the transducer into the water and adjust the sonar sensitivity to start scanning what is below. Another fun feature of this portable fish finder is the fish school alarm, alerting you when fish are nearby.
If you are looking for basic information like water depth and to see if you are around fish, the Lucky portable fish finder is a great option for you.
- Affordable price
- Simplified view and options
- Stand-alone unit
- Very little detail
- Takes 4 AAA batteries
- Limited with how far the transducer can be out in the water
Best for Ice Fishing
Portability is very important to the ice angler. Here in Minnesota, ice fishing is a popular hobby during the coldest months of the year. The Garmin Striker Plus 4 has everything you would want in a portable fish finder if you want to take it ice fishing.
The first thing to notice is the rugged carrying case. It positions the fish finder so it is protected and stable when set on the ice. It also has ample storage for extra gear and tackle.
Simply put the transducer in the water and start getting real-time readings on the 4-in display. The added colors included in the display give you a better understanding of what you are looking at.
If you are looking for a portable fish finder and you plan on using it for ice fishing, the Garmin Striker Plus is the perfect mix of advanced settings and usability to get the most out of your unit.
- Comes with a carrying case and mount
- Multiple screen views are available
- Color Display
- Won’t fit into a backpack or tackle box
- A more expensive portable option
- A shorter cord limits your range from the transducer
Another option for a portable fish finder where you can cast a wireless transducer out into the water is the Venterior Portable Rechargeable fish finder. This is a great alternative option to the Deeper Pro+ because of its affordability and included display unit.
The wireless connectivity between the transducer and screen is capable of up to 80 meters, allowing you to cover a bunch of water if you are fishing from the bank or pier.
The screen options are easy to adjust with a few simple buttons. Water temperature and depth come standard. This unit also takes the guesswork out of what you are seeing by displaying fish icons with relative sizes to give you more details on the fish below.
- Rechargeable battery
- Transducer equipped with a wireless transmission
- Affordable price
- Not as much flexibility in screen settings as in other units
- Limited screen size and clarity
- Depth range is only up to 80 meters
The Reelsonar iBobber is another great option for wirelessly transmitting sonar to an app. Oftentimes compared to the Deeper Pro+, this portable fish finder is a favorite among anglers.
With a 135-foot sonar depth and over a 10-hour run time on a full charge, there is no limit if situations you can put this portable fish finder through. Its easy-to-use design is suitable for all ages.
This compact device fits in the palm of your hand and truly embraces what it means to be portable. It’s another unit that is packed with features. Use GPS tracking, along with saving fish species and waypoints. This tool will make you a better angler.
- 10+ hours of run-time on a single charge
- Extremely compact for extra portability
- State-of-the-art app
- Must have a mobile phone with a data plan for GPS
- Basic sonar capabilities
- Will need a separate rod/reel to cast out
Portable Fish Finder Buyer’s Guide
With a wide variety of options and features, it can be challenging to narrow down the best portable fish finder for you. With these few considerations in mind, the choice doesn’t have to be a difficult one.
When looking for a portable fish finder, durability is a huge consideration and should not be overlooked. Think about where you plan on using this new fish finder.
Most people will be storing them in tackle bags and walking along trails or resting them on rocks and gravel. With the wide variety of situations you will put it through, it better be tough.
Check the outer shell for thickness and construction. Portable units will be thrown as far out into the water if fishing from shore. For long-term use, check if the unit can stand up to the test.
Screens are another area to look at when getting an idea of its durability. Some portable fish finders come with built-in screens. When transporting, it is likely around hard objects like fishing baits and tools. You want a screen that won’t crack or scratch if it happens to come in contact with one of those items.
Getting a chance to hold the unit in hand is the best way to determine durability. If you don’t have that option or plan on buying online, the reviews are a great place to read about first-hand accounts of the product being used.
A portable fish finder would just be a fish finder if you couldn’t easily take it places. When you are thinking about portability and what will work best for you, take a look at your current setup. Are you using a tackle box or do you carry your fishing gear with a backpack?
Depending on your current situation and how you plan on carrying it will be the determining factor in the shape/size you want to get. Some anglers like to pack as efficiently as possible, while others bring everything they own.
The weight of the unit is an important attribute to look at. Battery design has a large impact on weight, and a lot of extra weight carried for extended periods can have an effect on how long you are able to fish.
Design is another component that plays a part in how portable a unit will be. Some portable fish finders come with display screens, while others utilize smartphone capabilities. Generally, the units without display screens are more portable because there is only a transducer housing.
Every brand has a different user interface or how the options and settings work together. Some are very basic, while others can be pretty technical. Portable fish finders come in all different varieties.
Basic user interfaces can include a single button that allows you to turn the portable fish finder on/off and filter through a list of preset screens. This is more of a turn-on-and-start fishing setup that would be preferred by a more novice marine technology user.
More advanced options allow the user to adjust screen and sonar settings, which can fine-tune exactly what you are looking at in the water. Not all fishing conditions will be the same, and having a unit that allows you to tweak settings will give you a more customized experience every time you hit the water.
Sonar technology is what allows you to see what is under the water. A sound beam is emitted and returned to the transducer. There are several different kinds of sonar available in portable fish finders, with the following being the most popular:
2D: The most standard version of sonar. Is primarily used for tracking how deep you are or if fish are directly under the transducer.
Down Imaging: This sonar frequency gives you an extra level of detail. With greater clarity, it will show details that allow you to see what you are looking at.
Most portable fish finders will come standard with 2D or a variation of it. Clarity of what you are looking at can be added with down imaging if the unit has that sonar option.
Depending on the screen type or size, it is possible to look at both sonars at the same time. Viewing multiple sonars at once is often accomplished with regular fish finders.
There are two main categories of displays. One that comes with the portable fish finder or one that connects to a smartphone via wifi or Bluetooth. There are tradeoffs for both.
When the package comes with a display, there is no need to have a phone or deal with pairing issues. Depending on the environment you will be in, a solid transducer and display can work better.
On the flip side, pairing a transducer to a smartphone will give you better screen clarity and, ultimately, more options through the app interface. Nowadays, it seems like everyone has a phone with them at all times, so it’s not a huge burden to have the extra piece of technology.
The downside of using a phone is the ability to hold it. You most likely will need to get another piece of equipment. Propping it up can prove to be frustrating if it keeps falling down.
Regardless of preference, there are plenty of options when it comes to the display with portable fish finder units.
Portable Fish Finder Frequently Asked Questions
Can you use a fish finder from the bank?
Yes, a portable fish finder is the best option to use from the bank. You are able to cast a transducer into the water. This will allow you to see what is going on underwater from a display or phone app.
What is the easiest fish finder to use?
The easiest fish finder to use is a portable fish finder because they come as stand-alone units. There are no messy wires or drilling necessary. Most units also come with simplified buttons that allow you to turn it on and fish right out of the box.
Summarizing Portable Fish Finders
Portable fish finders are a great way to step into the world of marine technology. With all the variations out there today, there is a perfect option for everybody.
It doesn’t matter if you prefer river fishing for catfish or ice fishing for perch, a fish finder can save you hours of not catching fish by helping paint a clearer picture of what the fish are doing. With an abundance of fishing opportunities in the state of Minnesota, a tool like that can be worth its weight in gold.
When looking for your next fishing adventure, check out our fishing library for the best gear recommendations and how-to explanations to catch more fish.