What Do Fish Look Like on a Fish Finder? And How To Locate Them

What Do Fish Look Like On A Fish Finder

If you are a beginner at fish finding and struggling with fish finders you may be wondering what do fish look like on a fish finder? But don’t you guys worry about this we got you. Though fishfinders help you a lot for clear navigation of your boat and prevent your boat from not budging into something that may be present under the boat.
But, that’s not it, they are also great for having a clear view of the fish present under your boat and around your boat. They also allow you to have a better understanding of how fishes react to the baits and how long they took to interact with the bait.

To read a fish finder one must be aware about its features that are common in modern day fish fidners and that is “Depth finder.” Most of the fish finders are equipped with the depth finder mostly placed on the transducer, with the depth finder the angler becomes capable of estimating the accurate depth from the boat to the sea bed. As you estimate the water depth you become capable of estimating the fish species that are usually found at certain water depths. So you know what you are going to expect under the water. On most of the fish finders, the depth is displayed on the top right screen.

What Do Fish Look Like On A Fish Finder?

Fish returns are those images that you will get on fish finder screens. A hard return means a hard surface that the fishfinder has detected like a rock or coagulated sand. It usually appears as a bright yellow image on the screen, the color depends on your color palette.

While using a traditional sonar it is easy to better identify fish arches. You can clearly point out fish arches either on left and right or under your boat. You can also have an estimation of the size of the fish.

What Do Fish Look Like On A Fish Finder

On the other hand, structured downscan fish finders are more concerned with fish structures and the returns you will get will be more precise, and fish structure will be more dotted.

Most of the fishfinders rely on the SONAR technology where the machine sends a radioactive beam into the water to get an image of what is present beneath. In addition to providing you with the image, you will also get some of the bottom coverage.

However, even with the SONAR don’t expect an HD view but still, it helps a lot in screening the objects around the water, especially fish. The help of little tips and tricks that we are going to provide you in this article will help you a lot in the better screening of the movement of the fishes using s SONAR.

Most of the time fish sensing depends upon the size of the fish. In traditional SONAR, the smaller the fish, the more difficult it is for the finder to trace it.

There are two types of sonar; traditional and structured downscan. As both of their names suggest, traditional sonar imaging is more suitable for the better identification of fish arches and fish bait. On the other hand, as it is evident from the name structure, the downscan is more suitable for the identification of fish structure, sunken sea objects, and plantations.

What Do Fish Look Like On A Lowrance Fishfinder?

On a Lowrance fish finder, it is very difficult to estimate the fish’s size. Why? Because it can be greatly altered depending upon the depth and sensitivity adjustments. You must have noticed that at a depth range of 20 feet fishes usually look bigger than the depth of 100 ft. In addition, you can also judge the fish’s size by the fish arch’s color and the width or thickness of the arch.

Lowrance fish finder serves a lot when it comes to fish finding. It helps you to assess what is under your boat so that you can prevent your boat from hitting any rock or hard surface. For reading a Lowrance fishfinder you must know about the down scan and side scan.


The Lowrances’ downscan is much better than the 2D Sonar as the former integrates the wider cone that aids in the detection of the targets. For example, you are trying to detect fish around weeds and other plantations. But! It can be a tiresome activity because the Sonar can make the fishes and weeds look smaller.

However, understanding the downscan feature in your fish finder will help you to have a better experience because the downscan keeps its focus on the object rather than what’s around the object.


For most anglers finding fish using a fish finder can be a strenuous activity mainly due to the fact that boats do not possess enough screen for locating fish. As a result, most of the anglers forget about side-scanning and focus on Sonar, and down scanning.

However, by completely understanding it and using the appropriate conditions, finding fish can be much easier and more effective. One of the major disadvantages of the side scan is that a hard surface like a rock bottom reflects back so aggressively, and the return is quite enormous because the fish can easily hide under the rock.

However, in the case of soft bottoms and surfaces, it is much easier for the screener to screen the fish on the image.

You should know How Does a Sonar Work?

Where Are The Fish You See On A Fish Finder?

Being a fish finder the first thing you need to learn is the identification of the fish you see on the returned image. For professional fish finders having a fish finder ID, the process can be a sweet breeze. Why? Because the technology converts the raw image captured by the Sonar into a user-friendly image that makes it easy for the finder to read and interpret it.

Fish Icons:

Sonars having fish ID technology will project tiny fish icons on the images. You can see them in different shapes and sizes. Other than that this technology also allows you to locate other things like rocks and plants surrounding the fish. As a user what do you have to do? You just have to identify each icon and understand them in depth.

However, it may seem quite easy but that’s not true. Most of the fish ID technologies come with their own drawbacks. The screen may display an image of fish which can only be a group of plants when you throw the net. But after frequent practice and experiments, you will get the hang of it.

Fish Arches:

If you are using a Sonar with fish arches technology, then you must expect structures and lines to return. This type of fish finder is quite effective but hard to understand, but once you master it, it will save a lot of time. These fish finders represent fish as fish arches that are better than the fish icons.

The bigger the arch, bigger the fish is and smaller the arch means the fish is small. However, it mostly takes time for people to completely master it. It will give you a hard time to understand rocks and plants as arches. Once you have done your digging and practice it will get easier for you to identify fish size and shape.

How Do You Identify Fish On A Sonar?

Professional fish finders use different types of Sonar to identify and locate different fish species. When the sonar beam hits a fish it reflects back an image with a specific mark locating a fish. Different types of fish produce different types of marks.

What makes an excellent fishfinder? The fisherman must know in which area he is locating the fish, what are the common fish species present there, and what are their swimming patterns

For instance, a fish called carp that is a slow swimming fish will produce a short but fat mark on the screen. On other hand, stripers are very swift and they move around a lot. That is why they appear as dotted lines on the screen.

Similarly, baitfish tend to swim in circles and hence produce a ‘3’ shape image on the screen. The former are just a few examples, each type of fish finder produces a specific type of mark for different fish species. Thereby, in addition to fish finders, most of the expertise depends on the finder and his experience to better identify fish type and size. Close watching and frequent practice will ease the process of observing different fish patterns and fish identification.

What Do Fish Look Like On A Garmin Fishfinder?

Garmin fish finders are excellent when it comes to locating and finding fish. As soon as this finder detects a fish it will appear as an arch or a half-moon. The fish comes in the radius of the cone and appears as the arch. If a dish just passes through the side of the cone then you may not get a clear arch or just a black spot on the screen.

On Garmin fishfinders, the baitfish usually appear as lines and dots and even in the dashes. Collective groups of baitfish can also be seen as balls and they will look suspended in the returned images. In the green-colored vegetation, the baitfish will appear in yellow color on the screen.

On the other hand, hard surfaces like rocks, seashells, chunks, and gravel will appear as thick and also of yellow color. However, as soon as the bottom gets thinner and muddy e.g. Soft mud. The finder will represent them as translucent or darker in the shades of red and blue.

How Do Fish Look On Side Imaging?

Side imaging is much similar to the down imaging that we usually present on a regular fish finder that produces a 2D image. However, the sonar beam does not only travel straight to the boat’s bottom but also scatter around and is sent to each side of the boat.

Side imaging scans on each side of the boat instead of just sending the beam to the bottom. The sonar waves are transmitted to each side of the vessel at such an angle so that the reflected return will project an image of the thing present beneath the vessel as well as the left and right of the vessel.

The side imaging does not actually produce the exact image of what’s underneath only down scan imaging can do that. However, it means that using a side imaging fish finder you will obtain images from every angle (side images) along with the bottom. It allows you to have the best view of what is present beneath the water and also it aids in locating fish easily.

Can You See Fish On Down Imaging?

With fish finders that use down imaging technique to scan the fishes and underneath structures utilize a razor-sharp thin beam of very high frequency to produce picture-like returns of structures, vegetations, and fish.
With the down imaging the returns are of high quality and you can see exactly what is directly under your boat. The information returning from the down imaging appears on the right side of the screen.

What Does Hard Bottom Look Like On A Fish Finder?

In order to read fish finder, it is essential for you to know how hard bottom look like on it. Hard surfaces like gravel, chunky rocks, and thick sea bed usually appears yellow on the fish finder. On the other hand, when your kayak passes through a sea bottom that is thin you will acknowledge a transparent thin blue or dark red color on the screen.

What Do Salmon Look Like On A Fish Finder?

Fishfinders work by bouncing off the signals at objects that have different densities than the water. It means stuff like rocks, pebbles, gravel, metal, plastic, etc. However, in the case of salmon fish, they do not possess air bladders. Secondly, they generally have the same density as the water. So it is quite hard to identify salmon on fishfinders but that is not impossible. Sometimes, you can do spot them but if you have enough experience and knowledge.

Here is how you can spot salmon on a fishfinder. That is, salmon fish breathe by extracting oxygen from the water which means at some point salmon’s density is different than the density of water. At that moment, one can spot salmon on a fishfinder in the form of a herring or a dark spot that will look static. So, if you got a fine fishfinder with a nice fish ID you may be able to spot salmon but most of the time it is very difficult to spot a dot in the arches. It is similar to looking for needles in the hay.

Do Sharks Show Up On Fish Finders?

Sharks do not show up on fish finders and there are obvious reasons for that. You could have dozens of sharks under your boat but it is hard to spot even one. This is because most of the fishfinders try to locate air bubbles or air pockets in the water.

It’s not that they are totally invisible to SONAR technology. Experts with the latest technologies have been able to detect sharks with sonars but the imaging is not that easy because sharks do not have inflated air bladders like other fishes.

A general rule of thumb states that 50% of returned images are fish’s bladder, while 25% is their scales, and the rest of 25% is their flesh. Now depending upon the fish species, the ratio can differ due to several reasons like size and depth of the water. Other factors that affect the returned image include SONAR technology used like beam and frequencies. A sonar with high display resolution will give you more details.


Fishfinders usually use SONAR technology that produces sound waves from a transducer that hits an object and then returns with the image of the object. Fishfinders using different types of technologies like downscan, sidescan, and side imaging have let us better understand the fish structure and fish location beneath the water.

With the right expertise, the right tools, and the right knowledge one can easily master the art of fishfinding. On most of the fish finders different fish species appear differently on the screen. For example school of crappies appear like collection of white dots on the screen. Though it takes time but once you get the hang of it you will be compared to no one.

Ricki Cooper

I have been fishing for 11 years. I believe in the famous saying "If fishing is interfering with your business, give up your business".

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