DIY Portable Fish Finder

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As a follow up post to our recent article about how portable sonar fish finders are being used on Lake Michigan, we thought it would be nice to share with you how to make your own DIY portable fish finder. To do this, you must begin with the best portable fish finder for sale online.

portable fish finderRecently, several of our readers have asked us to show them how we turned our Lowrance DS-12 Gen3 fishfinder into a portable fish finder. It’s rather simple, actually. Through the years we get a few ideas from our readers, and ultimately we devised this solution. However, we have seen quite a few other, very unique versions used by other anglers.

The way that our portable fish finder is set-up, the LCD display can be
utilized in the bag or it can be removed and attached onto the gunnel of a canoe or small boat. The depth finder transducer is affixed onto a little shelf bracket, with a spring loaded clamp bolted on it so that it too can be easily and quickly released or attached. We picked up this idea from a fisherman named “Hoss” who used to deliver salmon trolling seminars some years back. The idea worked so well, that we have been using the same old bracket for 15 years now! Now only is it cheap, it also takes only a second or two to attach onto the stern of your boat.

Do It Yourself Portable Fish Finder

To start, the transducer needs to be bolted on to the 25″ shelf track, and then the 8″ Spring clamp needs to be bolted onto the opposing side of the shelf track. These items can both be bought from any local hardware store. It is important that you use stainless steel bolts and nuts to connect them. Additionally, you will need an electric drill, and a few cable ties.

When it comes to the fish finder bracket, you should use a Rite-Lok “Grunnel Clamp” on to which you then will be mounting a small piece of Starboard or wood. We simply went with a small piece of a bamboo cutting board that we bought for only $5. To this piece of bamboo we mounted the portable fish finder bracket. Depending on which type of bag that you buy, you will need to make adjustments to the mounting position and the size of the wood in order to get everything to fit properly. After you have that situated, you can begin to bolt everything together. Do yourself a favor and be sure to fit the whole thing in your bag first.

For the portable fish finder bag, we like to use soft lunch box coolers. We found a couple at the Walmart, but we really prefer the “Gusty” brand of lunch cooler that you can find at Lowes or on Amazon. It’s super strong and costs only about $18. The bag is padded to help protect your portable fish finder, and it also features pockets for your fishing tackle.

Once you have your bag selected, you need to install a 12 volt sealed battery inside of the bag. 12 volt batteries come in a variety of sizes, but a battery between 6 amps and 13 amps should suffice. We used to use a 6 amp battery with our older black & white depth finder. However, now for our newer color portable fish finder, we had to use something more a bit more powerful, so we now use a 12 amp battery. A battery this size should easily last you all day while fishing, but you could also dim the LCD display as a way to conserve power. Perhaps because our Lowrance has GPS and Sidescan technology, it probably consume a lot more power than our old B&W portable fish finder, in conjuction with the backlit display. Suitable batteries can be found online for around $20. You want to be certain to also buy a decent charger.

You may be able to see that we made our transducer able to disconnected. In order to do this, we purchased a transducer extension cable from Lowrance and simply spliced it in. This should be simply if you are comfortable with soldering and splicing small wires. This is optional, however, as you don’t have to make the transducer detachable. Instead, you would simply hardwire the depth finder transducer to the back of your portable fish finder. Either way will work and is totally up to you.

We have included a video below which helps to better illustrate how this setup works. We wrote this post not necessarily as an instructional guide, but more so to simply give you some an idea of what is possible if you wanted to make your own portable fishfinder. If you would instead like to pick up a true portable fish finder for sale, check out LakeForkProFishingGuide.com for more information on portable fish finders.

Using Portable Sonar Fish Finder In Lake Michigan

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There are many great things to do in Jean Klock Park and the nearby water front. From volleyball and biking to building sand castles and playing golf. My favorite activity, by far, is fishing out in the beautiful waters of Lake Michigan that line the shore of the park. If you think about it, though, we don’t really know what lies under the surface of Lake Michigan. With the help of a team of scientists using portable sonar fish finders, we are starting to find out.

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Boat On The Bottom Of Lake Michigan

Most of the Lake Michigan floor has remained unexplored. However, with new portable sonar fish finder technology, a research project is underway to find out what is under the water just beyond the beaches of Jean Klock Park.

Since spring of 2015, a team of research scientists has been cruising Lake Michigan along the Jean Klock Park shore, as well as to the north and south to create a complete map of the lake bed.

A few weeks ago, I had a chance to briefly speak to Robert Klapper, the Chief Scientist for the project. According to Mr. Klapper,  “A traditional nautical chart has a few depth soundings on it, you know, just simple discrete locations. However, our underwater map is continuous. What that means is that we are able see the peaks and valleys, the ledges, and the ridges of the lake bottom. This is all important info for us as researchers to draw the linkages between the lake floor’s habitat and the various types of living organisms which inhabit it.” Mr. Klapper was referring to the portable sonar fish finder that the researchers are using.

Once a week, the boat ‘Tilly Mae’ zigzags across the water, utilizing a portable sonar fish finder to scan the lake floor. The boat emits sonar pings in a wide fan, creating a picture on an LCD screen from data of the lake floor. This is not your average cheap fish finder. This portable fish finder uses side sonar imaging, much like the one in the following video.

After several weeks of back and forth cruising, the sonar fish finder provides traditional chart info, such as depth, in amazing detail. Again, this is not your uncle’s regular old cheap portable fish finder.

The portable fish finders sonar data reveals much more than just depth. Thanks to the advanced sonar echo of their portable fish finder, the scientists can decipher if the bottom is soft, sandy, hard, has seagrass or any other objects on the lake floor. To be sure, I would love to have one of these the next time that I go tiger muskie fishing out on Lake Michigan.

The sonar fish finder technology that they are using is somewhat similar to commercial fish finders, except these fish finders use scientific grade echo sounders.

The portable depth sounder transmits a ping, or pulse of sound. The ping is then transmitted up and down through the lake’s water column and the ping reflects off of everything that is in the lake’s water column which is of a different density than any of the other surrounding media.

Each day and night as the boat cruises back and forth to shore, the sonar fish finder ‘sees’ the fish and plots this important info onto the maps.

By joining the sonar fish finder data with their own direct observations, the research team is able to create detailed maps of the lake bed habitat.

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In addition to the physical habitat, what else are the researchers studying? Robert Klapper explained, “Why are salmon, muskie, and other fish going to a particular location? Can we see certain behaviors common among the fish that are going on? Maybe only certain species of fish are going to that location. So, this is a very focused scientific application. Additionally, we conduct other science and experiments, which we can then apply toward a fishing and wildlife management community.”

Mr. Klapper went on to say, “Clearly, underwater habitats are extremely important, but we would like to better know how the fish are utilizing those underwater habitats. Then we will better understand how we can more effectively manage those natural habitats for the area wildlife.”

All of researchers scientific data that is collected along Jean Klock Park shores will help fish biologists to better understand the fish in the area, in particular salmon and musky, and will provide insight into lake and water changes elsewhere in the state.