One of the first things I like to add to any kayak is an echo sounder, more commonly known as fish finders. Well established products at this stage, most are by now familiar with how they work. A small unit sits below the waterline and uses sonar to emit sound waves vertically through the water column. The sound waves are ‘bounced back’ to the transducer when they hit something in the water column or the sea bed itself. The signals are then sent to the screen of the echo sounder and can be interpreted by the angler using it. Solid structure in the water will show up on the screen and the cavities within the swim bladders of fish are what give the returns for shoals of fish. Bear in mind when using the units that some fish with smaller swim bladders such as mackerel may not show up on the finder. What I find echo sounders particularly useful for is seeking out different types of ground to search out different species of fish. If you know where certain species of fish are likely to be found then an echo sounder can take away a lot of the time spent searching for such marks.
There are a few options when installing echo sounders onto kayaks. Because the transducer only needs to sit below the waterline one option is to glue the transducer to the inside of the kayak’s hull. The sonar will shoot through the plastic hull of a kayak and should operate fully when installed like this. One thing to be aware of with this setup is to make sure that there are no air bubbles present in the glue or sealant used to hold the transducer in place; air bubbles will cause inaccurate reads and major frustration! A second option is to use a purpose made ‘transducer arm’. This is a product that allows the transducer some into contact with the water by attaching the transducer to the arm which protrudes from the kayak. I feel that by having the transducer in contact with the water the interpretation of the sounders signals will be a little more accurate than with the through hull style installation. However, transducer arms do create drag in the water when paddling and also create a potential snagging point for fishing lines.
The final option and the one I prefer to use is one that kayak manufactures are starting to incorporate into their ranges of angling kayaks. Many kayaks are now coming to the market with removable consoles for echo sounder installations. A large scupper hole can be found under the console which allows the transducer to sit in the water when mounted its base. The advantages of these systems are many; consoles can accommodate the screen, wiring, battery and transducer so that all can be kept neatly in one unit. Also easily removed, the unit can then be stored separately inside your car for safety and security when transporting kayaks to the water. With the scupper hole allowing the transducer to sit flush with the kayak’s hull there is little danger of damage and no drag created when paddling. The units also remove the need for messy installations using glue.
When wiring up your echo sounder follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and if in doubt get an electrician to do the job. Use good quality components like decent connector blocks when setting up the echo sounder. Power for most of the units is delivered from a motorcycle battery. I use a 12V 7ah (12 volts, 7 amp hours) battery and this power source is sufficient for a day on the water. Some of the more powerful units may require more power but for most units suitable for kayak fishing the above should be perfect. One final consideration when looking for an echo sounder is to make sure that the unit is fully waterproof! Sounds silly but some units are not fully waterproof which is fine for boat use but given the nature of kayak fishing a fully waterproof unit makes the most sensible option.
Echo sounders will not automatically put more fish onto the kayak and they do take some time to learn how to use and to interpret the signals. Team this technology with a bit of thought and watercraft and it will certainly go a long way to improving the quality of your time on the water.
Article seen in Sea Angler