How To Use A Portable Fish Finder for Inshore Saltwater Fishing


by Robert Ceran

Portable fish finders have been around for years, assisting anglers in locating fish and navigating through unfamiliar waters.

Using these gadgets make fishing more fun and less frustrating, but while there are many portable fish finders buying tips, there are fewer guides on how to use them in saltwater. 

This article aims to change that, and we’ll be looking at how to make the most of your fish finder so you can make the most of this handy device.

3 tips for using a portable fish finder for saltwater fishing

Here are our top tips for using portable fish finders effectively for inshore fishing:

Scan widely

The ocean is vast and knowing exactly where to fish isn’t easy, even if you’re a seasoned fisherman or woman. Fish finders are able to scan areas and determine more or less how many fish are around, as well as identify their hiding spots. 

You can move from one location to the next until you find an area with more fish so you have better chances of catching something. To fully get your money’s worth, make sure you’re scanning widely so you get a broader image of what’s happening underneath your boat. 

Photo of the display of Lowrance Hook 2 portable fish finder showing fish arches

When you can see the areas where more fish are congregating and how they’re reacting to your bait, you’ll have higher chances of actually catching something.

You’ll know where to cast your lines and it will be easier to tell if you’ve exhausted a specific area. With wide scans you don’t have to rely on your instinct alone, you can get technology to guide you in the right direction.

Tune the sensitivity

Although most fish finders come out of the box already set up to work perfectly, you may have to tune the sensitivity a little bit while out at sea. If you’re in water with a lot of algae growth or thick planktonic, you’ll have to tone down the sensitivity. If you don’t, the fish finder will show you a lot of clutter that won’t do your fishing any favors.

Photo of the display of a Garmin Striker Plus 4 showing depth reading

You should peak the transducer and work your way down, lowering sensitivity until the clutter is gone. You may not get rid of all the clutter, but you’ll definitely improve your experience. Also, don’t boost filters to reduce surface clutter because you’ll end up messing with the fish finder’s general sensitivity.

Transducer location matters

If you have a transom-mounted transducer, you should adjust its location if you’re not getting good results with your fish finder. It may even be necessary to completely move it and find a new location that works better.

Turbulence caused by your boat can negatively impact your fish finder’s performance, and adjusting your transducer mounting location can help you get better results. It may take a few trial and error attempts before you find the best location, and after that, you’ll be set for more accurate results.

What are the advantages of using a portable fish finder for inshore fishing?

Using a portable fish finder in saltwater can offer several key benefits to inshore anglers. Here are some of the advantages:

Fish identification

Portable fish finders excel at distinguishing between fish and other objects like rocks or seaweed. Through their display screens, they showcase fish icons or arches, providing clear indications of fish presence beneath the boat.

Photo showing display of fish finder with sensitivity adjusted to maximize fish arches

This valuable feature helps anglers discern productive fishing spots from less promising ones, enabling them to focus their efforts where fish are more likely to be found.

Location accuracy

A portable fish finder is a valuable tool for pinpointing the exact whereabouts of fish in saltwater. By using sonar technology, it effectively detects submerged structures, contours, and schools of fish. This level of precision empowers anglers to focus their efforts on areas with a greater probability of encountering fish, thereby maximizing their potential for success.

Mobility and convenience

Designed with convenience in mind, portable fish finders are compact, lightweight, and effortless to install, making them the ideal choice for anglers who fish from different locations or boats. Their portable nature allows for easy transportation, and they often come equipped with rechargeable batteries, eliminating the need for complex installations. This versatility enables anglers to use them on various vessels without any hassle, ensuring a seamless and enjoyable fishing experience.

Depth information

Having knowledge of the water depth in saltwater environments is essential for successful fishing, as different areas can exhibit varying depths. A fish finder plays a vital role in this regard by offering instantaneous depth readings.

This valuable feature allows anglers to pinpoint drop-offs, channels, or submerged structures where fish tend to gather. Armed with this information, fishermen can make informed decisions about selecting the right bait and employing suitable fishing techniques to maximize their chances of a fruitful catch.

Water temperature and thermoclines

Optimizing the chances of a successful catch involves considering the preferred temperature ranges of saltwater fish. By utilizing fish finders, anglers gain access to valuable water temperature readings and the ability to detect thermoclines—distinct layers of water with varying temperatures. Armed with this information, fishermen can identify areas where fish are likely to be concentrated, increasing their likelihood of a fruitful catch.


Beyond their primary function and usability for fishing, portable fish finders also serve as valuable tools for enhancing safety in saltwater environments. They aid in the identification of shallow areas, submerged rocks, and other potential hazards, thereby reducing the risk of running aground or causing damage to the boat. By providing critical information about the underwater terrain, fish finders contribute to a safer and more secure boating experience.

Learning Tool

Making use of a fish finder in saltwater presents anglers with a valuable opportunity for learning. Through careful observation of the readings and comprehension of patterns, they can acquire valuable insights into fish behavior, underwater structures, and the influence of environmental factors on fishing success.

This interactive experience allows anglers to deepen their understanding of the aquatic ecosystem, ultimately enhancing their skills and strategies for future fishing endeavors.

Keep in mind that while fish finders undoubtedly enhance fishing efficiency, it is crucial to employ them responsibly to minimize their impact on fish populations and the marine environment.

This entails using fish finders judiciously, considering factors like sustainable fishing practices, catch-and-release techniques, and respecting fishing regulations. By employing responsible usage, anglers can strike a balance between utilizing fish finders’ advantages while ensuring the long-term health and sustainability of fish populations and the overall marine ecosystem.

Final remarks

Portable fish finders can totally change how you fish, but they’re often not as straightforward or easy to understand and use properly. The three tips shared here with you should help you make the most of your fish finder so you can fish to your heart’s content.