I’m often posting screenshots from my Humminbird fish finder on the Catfish Edge website and on social media. When I post these images I always get lots of comments from anglers about how their fish finders don’t look anything close to mine and they just don’t get the same images from their fish finder.
With that in mind, I decided I’d put together a few videos covering some tips for better fish finder images using side imaging, down imaging and 2D sonar. I’m starting this week with tips on getting better fish finder images from your side imaging and will follow up in future videos covering the other types of sonar.
It’s important to note that although I’m using a Humminbird Solix 15 in this tutorial the information covered in this video pertains to all sonar fish finders, not just Humminbird or just the Humminbird Solix.
I rely heavily on side imaging for catching shad and finding and catching catfish both, I use it more than any of the sonar technologies. It’s an awesome tool because when setup and used correctly it lets you see crystal clear images and you can cover a huge section of water when scanning for fish, a much larger area than any of the other types of sonar.
When I’m helping people to troubleshoot their side imaging issues and understand why they’re not getting good images the issues usually fall into two categories, installation issues and issues with improper use.
Installation issues means the fish finder unit is not installed correctly. Some of the common issues include inadequate power sources or power sources causing interference, transducers not being installed correctly and transducers not being leveled.
the improper use issues are what I’m covering in this weeks video but it’s important to note that if you’re getting interference or having issues because of transducer installation there’s no amount of tweaking or adjustments to your settings or use that will fix the issues. You need to have a good clean install, good transducer placement and the transducer leveled.
3 Three Tips For Better Side Imaging Images (and Finding More Fish)
Here’s the basic fundamentals on using side imaging and getting good clear images from your sonar fish finder. If you’ll follow these basic fundamentals you’ll get much better images and be able to find more fish and underwater structure.
1. Chart Speed Match Boat Speed
The first fundamental of getting good clear images from your side imaging fish finder is to match the chart speed to your boat speed.
What’s this mean? Go into the chart speed setting on your Humminbird fish finder and set the chart speed to 3 or 4 and then keep your boat at a speed equal to the chart speed.
If you set the chart speed at 3 you’re going to keep the speed of your boat while scanning with side imaging as close to three as possible, if you set the speed to 4, you’re going to keep your boat speed as close to 4 as possible.
Why does this matter?
When you’re traveling slower or faster than the chart speed you’re distorting the images. When you’re moving slower than the chart speed fish will be elongated. When the boat is moving slower the same fish will be shorter and in both situations you won’t get the clarity that you will when the chart speed is matched to the boat speed.
There are some exceptions to the chart speed and boat speed rule but these are more advanced techniques. When it comes to the basic fundamentals of getting good side imaging fish finder images, chart speed needs to match boat speed.
2. Scan Range Roughly Three Times Depth
Side imaging sonar will scan a range of 300 feet but for the best results set your scan range to a much smaller area, you’ll be able to see more, and you’ll see a good proportion of the water column and the surrounding areas on either side of the boat.
Again, there’s always some exceptions but to get the best images, see the most details and find more fish you want to set the scan range as roughly three times the water depth with the minimum scan range being about 50 feet when scanning in extremely shallow water.
• Water that’s 20 feet deep set your side imaging scan range to 60
• Water that’s 30 feet deep set your side imaging scan range to 90
• Water that’s 40 feet deep set your side imaging scan range to 90
Why Does This Matter?
There’s a few reasons:
• You’ll see more details and it will be easier to find fish, structure and cover.
• The large the area you’re scanning with side imaging the smaller everything gets and the more detail you’ll lose (even more critical with smaller screens).
• When you set the scan range significantly further you’ll make the water column or area directly below the boat smaller on the screen losing critical details.
• In many cases you’ll miss critical information when the scan range is set too far and the farthest area outside the screen may be very dark,
• Scan Slow and Straight
For best results with side imaging you need to scan slow and more importantly in a straight line.
I scan at a boat speed of 3 more often than anything and have my chart speed set to 3 as well this is a good speed for covering water and still getting good details while scanning.
Next time you’re on the water set your chart speed to 3, maintain your boat speed at 3 miles per hour and scan an area that has some good structure or a good concentration of fish while going in a straight line and not turning. Once you’ve done that go through the same area at the same speed and scan and when you see the structure make a slight turn to one side and then turn back. You’ll quickly see that the images get distorted and how much clearer they are when you maintain a slow straight line.
If you need to turn while scanning with side imaging you’ll get the best results from making very slight turns.
Why Does This Matter?
The best performance comes from scanning in a slow straight line because turning distorts the images.
If you’ll follow these basic tips for getting the best images from your side imaging fish finder you’ll find that you’ll get much better images and you’ll be able to find more fish.
Be sure to check out the other Catfish Edge resources on fish finders in the links below and be on the lookout for future articles and videos with more sonar fish finder tips!
Sonar Fish Finders For Catfish
Five Fish Finder Installation Tips
How To Read a Fish Finder: Thermocline
How To Level a Fish Finder Transducer
Fix Fish Finder Power Cycle and Interference Issues (EASY)