Use your fish finder correctly to catch more
A couple of experiences over the last week reminded me it might be good to remind you how important it is to trust your fishing electronics.
Fishing spots is not as successful as fishing fish. If you are on a favorite spot and not graphing fish, move until you find them. Fish have a habit of swimming. They will move up and down the break from shallow to deep, or deep to shallow. They will also travel along a break line as they forage for food. Sometimes you may graph baitfish in an area with very few fish. Hanging in on them can be productive as most of the time if game fish aren't present with the baitfish, they will be shortly.
Most of the time when searching for fish you may be moving quickly. Spotting one or two fish on your electronics may be all you need to see. As you slow down and cover the area you may see more fish. When you stop seeing and catching fish, move until you find them again.
It is better to fish out of a tin can with good electronics than it is a great boat with "bad eyes." Trust what you see. If your fishing sonar is equipped with the "fish ID" symbol, make sure it is turned off. The fish ID shows pictures of little fish, while the standard mode shows pixels. The pixels will make the fish show up as arcs or lines. Some things are sold to catch fish and some are sold to catch fisherman. In my opinion the "fish ID" feature is to catch fisherman. Use the features on your unit that will help you really identify fish so you can catch them.
Fish that are belly to the bottom do not tend to be as active as the fish that may be slightly off the bottom. Your sonar will also be able to show you if the fish are suspended. Being able to see the fish can help you make adjustments that can increase your chances to catch them. It is fishing, and just because you find them, doesn't mean they are always willing to bite. Finding fish with your electronics, and being able to stay on them, does increase your odds.
With the new color units, fish size is easy to detect as the bigger the fish, the stronger the return of the signal, and the brighter the color. For the grayline, or black and white units, the smaller fish will be dark and the larger fish will have gray in the center of the arc.
Most all units, even the really high-end sonars, will not read fish well in shallow water. The cone angle, or the size of what the unit is interpreting, is very small in shallow water. You may see an occasional fish or pod of baitfish, but the better use of your unit in shallow water less than 10ft is to see changes in bottom hardness, weeds, or changes of a foot or two in depth. In shallow water the changes can be areas that will hold fish. As you get deeper and get to the drop off areas, the sonar will read better because you increase the amount of area that the sonar signal is interpreting.
If you need to upgrade your fishing electronics, the winter season and the spring boat and sport shows will usually have good deals on fishing electronics. Most of the sport shows will have electronic experts that can also walk you though features on the units. The information they provide can help make the sonar units user friendly. Get out and practice with your electronics and develop a trusting relationship with your unit.
(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)