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About Fishing: Today's depth sounders features and functions at a glance

Electronic depth sounders are available to fit individual fishing needs.

Marine depth sounders or fish finders are ever-changing. But the good news is, whether you fish deep or shallow, for walleyes, bass or panfish, electronic depth sounder choices are available to fit your individual fishing needs.

Manufacturers are reacting to consumer demand, who want an affordable, full-featured depth sounder, by introducing consumer-friendly priced units.

Chirp technology, a feature reserved for high end units only found on the market four years ago, is technology available in the lower priced units produced today. With such a dizzying choice of chirp and traditional digital non chirp units, why choose chirp in the first place? Chirp, if it is available either on high- or low-cost depth sounders, offers clearer screen images of what lies below the boat. It separates targets from the bottom and from each other with less interference noticeably better than digital non-chirp units.

Touch-screen depth sounders came on the scene at the same time touch-screen phones became popular. Touching the depth sounder screen to change the functions, depth range, transducer types allows the angler to navigate easily through the depth sounder menus, but not without disadvantages. Water on the screen, caused by rainy weather or morning dew, leaves the operator useless to change any of the fish finder functions. Frequent wiping of the screen is necessary to keep any dirt, grime and moisture off the screen for the touch functions to work properly.

Panoptix technology, introduced by Garmin, came on the market five years ago. Different then digital or chirp sonar, it provides live views of the bottom and fish below and ahead of the boat. Technology that takes getting accustomed to also comes with a high price tag. Transducers alone range from $800 to $1,400 dollars. Being able to see fish ahead of the boat or down below is a noticeable advantage. Some relate it to the crash avoidance technology, common on today's ocean-going ships.

Down scan and side scan technologies has realized significant improvements since their introduction 10 years ago. Three-dimensional imaging is one improvement, along with increased range and clarity of the scanned images. Hummingbird released their Mega side scan technology, setting the trend for the best in image clarity for other manufactures to follow.

Lowrance Electronics was the first company to release ethernet network capable units showing images from multiple transducers or depth sounder screens. Anglers are able to have depth sounders at different locations in the boat; for example, one at the bow and at the transom, both networked to share images and GPS coordinates.

Will Wicks from Delaneys Sport Center had this to say: "Mega imaging and GPS capable units are of the most interest to local anglers."

Smokey Hills Outdoor Store's Josh Severtson commented, "Our customers like GPS capable units that allow summer 'boat' waypoints to be transferred to ice packs for use in ice fishing." Both Wicks and Severtson agree the new down scan and 3D imagery produces imagery of the bottom layouts, which are in high demand by their customers.