What is the Best Portable Fish Finder (in 2017)?

portable fish finder
Portable Advisor

Having an RV has made my fishing excursions a lot more commonplace I am happy to say. I am not a man who can sit waiting for a bite for hours on end however...

I need to HUNT!!

Using the best portable fish finders have been a great friend to me in this endeavour.

Until the day my wife allows me to get a boat or the day I can afford one, my choice will be these fish finders, which I use when shore fishing, ice fishing or those occasions when I head out on the kayak.

Below I have laid out the crucial points to consider before you make a purchase along with some product choices depending on things like your budget, experience or fishing style.

Review of Best Portable Fish Finders

Product

Feature

  Our Rating

          Price

Aero Cosmetics

Best For 
Beginners

Venterior FishFinder

Best For 
The Money

Meguiar Marine Flagship

Carnauba Wax

What To Look For In Your Portable Fish Finder

Battery

Some portable fish finders will have built in rechargeable batteries while others will need AAA batteries which are usually not included with the product. The type of battery system you should be interested in very much depends on how you are fishing.

If you are going a camping holiday and will be canoe/kayak fishing, portable fish finders with AAA batteries could be a better option for you as you may not have access to power outlets.

On the other hand, if you are doing a lot of shore fishing consider products with rechargeable batteries.

Either way you optimally want to be getting 8-10 hours per charge from either system. One further note on the AAA batteries is that you will constantly need to replace these as they run out of juice. Over time this could add up to a significant cost.

Waterproof

While it is to be expected that portable fish finders can handle some splashed water from time to time, they cannot all handle total submergence.

At a minimum you want to see a waterproof rating of IPX4 which means its splash water resistant. Ideally you want IPX7 which means it’s immersion resistant up to 3 feet.

Again this is dependent on the way you are fishing. There will be greater risk of the fish finder falling into the water in a kayak for example.

Length of Transducer Cable

If you are purchasing a portable fish finder with a wired sonar sensor you need to take note of the transducer cable length.

Some models can have cables up to 30 feet long which are designed for fishing from inland locations like high bridges.

These fish finders would not be suited for canoe’s, kayaks or small boats therefore.

Depth Accuracy and Capability

Less sophisticated portable fish finders can show inaccurate depths due to sonar interference's like seaweed.

It is recommended for those concerned to consider looking at individual reviews (I have noted depth finding accuracy in my products reviews to save you time).

Regarding depth finding capability, the more money you are willing to fork out the more you can plummet the depths. For casual fishermen, a deep depth reading capability shouldn’t be a key concern.

Carrying Case

Some of the best portable fish finder models will offer a complementary carrying case with purchase. Many of these cases will have a built-in rechargeable battery with charger and a suction cup transducer mount so this can be an extremely useful feature to consider before purchasing.

Phone Connectivity

Many portable fish finders now have wireless connection allowing you to receive sonar information through an app on your phone. Both Bluetooth and wifi enabled fish finders are now popular with wifi offering more range and reliability.

The first thing to note is: NO you don't need to be anywhere near wifi!!

The fish finder itself broadcasts its own wifi connection and connects with your phone. Having used a wireless portable fish finder recently, you won’t be surprised to hear that I had more issues conserving the battery on my iphone through using the app than I did with the fish finder battery.

Having all the info on your phone is fantastic but consider having the phone fully charged before using these models. Also, it is a risk to take your phone out on a bumpy canoe or kayak trip so consider other models if this is your preferred way to fish.

Can The Fish Finder Be Mounted?

Some models will offer a complementary bracket which can then be used to mount the transducer to the boat. Also, portable kits often sold together with the fish finder as a bundle offer suction cup transducer mounts which can easily to attached to small boats, canoes and kayaks.

Others brands sell the arm mounts separately which can range in price from $10-$30.

Your final option is DIY.

The video below shows a step by step on installing a transducer on your kayak which is also a technique that can be used on small boats and canoe’s.


Considerations for Ice Fishing

Ice fishing finder
  • Debates still exist as to whether fish finders are more effective than flasher units for ice fishing. One distinct benefit for fish finders is their larger cone of sound. While flasher transducers have a cone angle of between 9 and 19 degrees, fishfinders have cone angles of up to 120 degrees. This gives them a much bigger coverage area.

    Thankfully companies have started to include the flasher as an extra built-in feature in many of the best portable fish finders which means we get the best of both worlds.
  • Some regular portable fish finders can be affected by very low temperature (-1 or lower) and such conditions can create inaccuracy and a lag in readings. If you are predominantly an ice fisher, you should only purchase fish finders that are stated as suitable for ice fishing in the product description.
  • If you want to detect on the surface instead of drilling into the ice, you should always ensure that you clear the snow from the surface of the ice creating a smooth surface before using your portable fish finder. Then put some water on the ice before you put the sensor onto it. This will improve the accuracy of readings.
  • Below is a helpful step by step video showing our choice for the best portable fish finder for ice fishing.

Considerations For Kayaking / Canoeing

Kayak Fishing
  • Laying the fish finder on the base of the kayak is not optimal given the lack of space and the likelihood of the fish finder going overboard. Purchasing a flexible arm mount solved the space problem for me. It allowed me to fasten my fish finder outside my kayak while giving me enough room for my bait and to paddle and fish. It is easy to quickly remove when beaching the kayak as well.

    There are a lot of DIY options out there like the scupper mount, the goop mount and wet mount but the flexible arm works for me! Use the video below to see mistakes to avoid when installing a transducer mount on your kayak.

What Is The Best Portable Fish Finder?

Below I have summarised the top portable fish finders available on the market today. Whether you are newcomer or just looking for a technology upgrade, these three recommendations should match your requirements. 

Deeper Smart Fishfinder

Deeper Smart Sonar PRO+ - GPS Portable Wireless Wi-Fi Fish Finder for Shore and Ice Fishing

Made For 

Best All Rounder

Price

Our Rating

The Deeper Smart Fishfinder would be my pick for those of you who do mostly ice fishing or shore fishing. It uses wireless Bluetooth to connect to your phone using the Deeper App, and no, you will not need wifi connection or mobile data to use it!

Specifically, for ice fishing it offers ice fishing mode which other brands just do not have and it has the traditional flasher installed for all you purists out there.

The battery life on the Deeper itself is also strong feature, a single charge can get you up to 6 hours.

Always be aware of the drain the Deeper app can put on your phone battery however.

The Deeper will also reliably reach depths of up to 130 feet which should suit fishers and shore fishers alike.

Pros

  • Ice fisher mode with traditional flasher system
  • Excellent battery life.
  • Easy to use app.
  • Very accurate depth and composition readings.

Cons

  • Bluetooth connection issues.
  • Weight of product requires strong rod.
  • Can't sync data onto other devices.

Garmin Striker 4

Garmin Striker 4 Built-in GPS Fish Finder

Made For 

Best For Beginners

Price

Our Rating

The Striker 4 is an ideal introductory fish finder due to its easy set up and easy controls.

The main thing l like about the Striker 4 is that when you take into account its size/weight and features you are getting value for your dollars spent. 

The Striker 4 GPS technology also allows you to mark your fishing hotspots so you can return to bountiful spots at a later stage as well as helping you back to shore. Overall, good for newbies and kayak fishing too.

Pros

  • ​GPS marks your hotspots and helps you return to shore.
  • Easy to use/install and very lightweight.
  • Good customer support.
  • Quality made product with few faults noted.

Cons

  • No chartplotter limits usefulness in saltwater.
  • Mount is not highest quality.
  • Difficulty supporting accurate readings at medium to high speeds.

Venterior Fishfinder

Venterior VT-FF001 Portable Fish Finder, Fishfinder with Wired Sonar Sensor Transducer and LCD Display

Made For 

Best On A Budget

Price

Our Rating

Coming in under $40, the Venterior is our choice for best portable fish finder for the money. 

Venterior has a straight forward set-up using 4 AAA batteries(not included), and familiarising yourself with the settings is simple even as a beginner. 

As the depth reading and fish finding feature also have a respectable level of accuracy, I think this is the best bargain you will find if you don't care about the extra features my other recommendations have.  

Pros

  • ​Very affordable price.
  • Easy, quick set-up.
  • Accuracy readings of depth and fish.
  • Value for money.

Cons

  • Can reset settings when switched off.
  • Transducer cable can be too long for kayaks.
  • Not waterproof. Would recommend getting case.

My Pick For Best Portable Fish Finder (In 2017)

In summary, the best portable fish finder for me is the Deeper Smart Fish Finder due to its unmatched ice fishing mode feature, its long battery life and the app connection with the iphone.

About the Author Rick Rose

Irish-American husband, dad of three and gadget enthusiast! Sandy and I have been RVing since the mid-nineties after embracing the boondocker way of life. We now practice what we call the 'Portable Lifestyle' - the ability to ‘get up and go’ and explore new places throughout the year while maintaining our income.

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