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If you want to catch more fish, a depth finder can help. Today’s depth finders are easy to read, very dependable and rather inexpensive. Depth finders use sonar to measure the distance to the bottom of a body of water, with information displayed almost instantly. This comes in handy when you are running the boat at high speeds or unfamiliar with a body of water so that you will be made aware of dangerously shallow water more quickly. And with accurate bottom depth, you know where to keep the boat in the proper position to catch the type of fish you are looking for in different situations. Here are some of our favorite depth finders for use on all types of watercraft or even when fishing from shore.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: HawkEye DepthTrax 1B
The HawkEye DepthTrax 1B Depth Sounder is engineered to give precise depth readings from 2.5 feet down to 200 feet, at speeds over 60 mph. When you are moving fast, the three-stage shallow water and deep water warning system ensures you don’t run your boat aground. Readings can be adjusted for individual boat draft by programming the keel offset function. The glare-free display is viewable even in bright sunlight and a backlight helps you read depth indicators in low light conditions. The depth finder includes a combination transom mount or glue-in hull transducer.
Best Budget: HawkEye DepthTrax 1H
The HawkEye DepthTrax 1H is a handheld depth finder that is waterproof down to 200 feet and delivers accurate depth readings from 1.5 to 400 feet. The device uses HawkEye’s DepthTrax sonar where multiple 300-watt 200 kHz sonar pulses are emitted four times per second at a 14-degree beam angle to continually update the readings. To keep the device waterproof at big depths, the DepthTrax 1H uses a series of magnets instead of buttons to identify user commands. In addition to depth, the unit delivers both air and water temperature readings.
Best Transom Mount: Humminbird HDR650
The Hummingbird HDR650 is an in-dash digital depth sounder that delivers instant depth readings even when the boat is moving. The device comes packed with a 200 kHz transom mount transducer, including installation hardware. The bezels and face colors are interchangeable to complement the rest of your gauge. The unit is easy to install into an existing 2 1/8-inch gauge opening and is completely waterproof. The easy-to-read backlit 1.25-inch LCD display shows depth in feet, meters or even fathoms. Alarms can be set to warn you when your boat hits both shallow and deep water.
Best Depth with Basic Fish Finding: HawkEye FishTrax 1
The FishTrax 1 gives you basic fish finding ability in addition to depth. The dual beam sonar comes with two functional airwave frequencies — 200 kHz and 83 kHz — so you can fine tune your readings for shallow or deep water. Sonar data is depicted in a series of icons for an easy-to-read and easy to understand information readout. After one touch of the power button, you can instantly see the depth of fish, water depth, as well as the composition of the bottom up to 240 feet down. The unit includes five levels of adjustable sonar sensitivity, audible fish alarms and real-time water temperature readings. The transducer is floatable, trollable and boat mountable for a variety of fishing situations. The device is powered by four AAA batteries that deliver 30 hours of operation time.
Best with Temperature: Lowrance LST 3800
The Lowrance LST 3800 comes with a transom mount transducer that delivers accurate depth readings down to 700 feet and responds well at boat speeds upwards of 50 mph. The device fits any 2 ⅛-inch gauge opening on your instrument panel. As a bonus, the unit provides water temperature in addition to depth. The backlit, high-contrast dot matrix screen can be read even in the harsh midday sun and offers three main page displays — temperature, depth or dual display. The displays and setting are controlled via the three button keypad. The depth finder offers deep and shallow alarms that can be set to notify you of water depth, ranging from 1 to 640 feet. Choose between depth in meters and feet with temperature available in both Fahrenheit and Celsius.
Best In-Hull Transducer: Faria Depth Sounder
The Depth Sounders from Faria come with either an in-hull or transom mount transducer that can take depth readings from three feet down to 199 feet. The depth reading can be adjusted for via the programmable keel offset function. Both audible and visible alarms let you know when you hit shallow or deep water. Both the shallow and deep water alarms are programmable via the three button interface. The oversized, backlit display can easily be read in any condition and will display depth in meters, feet and even fathoms. The depth finder fits any standard 2 1/16-inch gauge hole.
Best Handheld: Norcross HawkEye H22FX Handheld Depth Finder
The H22PX handheld depth finder from Norcross Marine is waterproof down to 200 feet and floats should you accidentally knock it in the water. The 200 watt 200 kHz beam is strong enough to power through thick ice, fiberglass boat hulls and muddy water to find water depth from 2 ½ feet down to 199 feet. It will even uncover hidden fish in the sonar beam and return a fish icon on the display. The backlit display updates four times per second for instant depth as well as air and water temperature readings. There is no need to lean over the boat when taking a depth reading as the screen flashes the last reading for five seconds after you take it out of the water. The device includes a high output LED flashlight that comes with four different lens colors and can be used to find channel markers at night while boating or attract fish when night fishing. The depth finder runs off of four AA alkaline batteries and will last for 10 hours of continuous use.
Best for Ice Fishing: Hummingbird ICE-45
The ICE-45 provides real-time digital depth data beneath the thickest of ice. Extreme-temperature backlit LCD instantly finds and reports the lake bottom, setting the flasher scale automatically — no guesswork involved, and the fully adjustable zoom lets you see any part of the water column in full detail. There are four manual and seven automatically adjustable depth scales at 20, 40, 60, 80, 100, 120 and 200 feet. The dual beam transducer delivers 1,800 watts of peak-to-peak power at both 455 kHz and 240 kHz for both shallow water and deep water performance. The backlit, three-color fiber optic display lets you read information even in direct sunlight. The device includes a rechargeable battery that will last for up to seven hours.