Author Topic: Fish Finder/Chart plotter questions  (Read 10326 times)

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Offline polarbill1999

Fish Finder/Chart plotter questions
« on: February 15, 2011, 09:01:55 AM »
As I posted in the new owner thread, my father just bought a 96 Sea Chaser 16.  The boat came with an early 90's Eagle Ultra Plus fish finder.  I am guessing this was a pretty good unit in the mid 90's but seeing as how 5 years old is obsolete for electronics, 15+ years must be extinct.  Before I ask what one's to consider or what others are using I was hoping someone had some background info on what current FF/CP's have for features and how they are being used.  What are some of the absolute must have features?  Is a chartplotter really necessary?  Is it used to find your way around or used more for fishing purposes?  Can you mark points where you have seen/hooked fish? 

I did a very minimul amount of research and it sounds like something nice but not crazy expensive would be some of the 5" dual units.  It sounds like a couple people like the Lowrance HDS-5.  Has anybody tried the Elite 5 that is a little cheaper?  How does the HDS-5 compare to the Raymarine A50D and the Garmin 541?  I have heard people complain about the customer service of Lowrance but my dad likes them a lot.  He dropped off his radar dome/rotating piece from his Ocean Alexander and dropped it off at Lowrances building in Vancouver(somewhere close I think).  They fixed it the next day and sent it back to him at no charge.  The crazy part is the radar is 20 years old and they did this. 

I am just starting to look and plan on buying something for the boat in a couple months but wanted to gain some knowledge and see what people's opinions were of some different units. 
 
Brett
1996 Sea Chaser 16 the "Rhumb Runner"
70hp Envinrude VRO
6hp Tohatsu 4 stroke

Offline CanvasGuy

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Re: Fish Finder/Chart plotter questions
« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2011, 09:27:23 AM »
Well what i have on my 16' chaser is...
 a garmin 440 fish finder 5"screen
and a 7" screen standard horzion 330i with a bathametric fishing c-card piped into my standard horzion vhf with ais...http://www.standardhorizon.com/indexVS.cfm?cmd=DisplayProducts&ProdCatID=83&encProdID=F858763BB81027701141A0167DE2A031

http://www.standardhorizon.com/indexVS.cfm?cmd=DisplayProducts&ProdCatID=84&encProdID=786FA3B62DC4B9B5DD197438F18995CD&DivisionID=3&isArchived=0
 this works great for me as I fish from 1 yard off shore to 25 miles out in the big O... :arms:

now the garmin with gps would be my only other choice but the screen is limited... :berry:

my :twocents:

Gary
Gary Smart
-1980 Hardtop Glasply Sedan"VistaCruiser" 
 http://www.smartcustomcanvas.com
“Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.” Arthur C. Clarke

Offline polarbill1999

Re: Fish Finder/Chart plotter questions
« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2011, 09:51:06 AM »
That was probably a pretty spendy setup wasn't it.  I think to reduce clutter we may try and do just one unit.  A 7" would be nice but is a lot more money.
Brett
1996 Sea Chaser 16 the "Rhumb Runner"
70hp Envinrude VRO
6hp Tohatsu 4 stroke

Offline Danno

Re: Fish Finder/Chart plotter questions
« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2011, 09:58:20 AM »
Probably the single biggest price driver is the size of the color screen.
Previously owned a 1998 19' SR

Lures are designed to catch fishermen not fish.

Offline Threeweight

Re: Fish Finder/Chart plotter questions
« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2011, 09:58:41 AM »
The quality of the sonar in the $500-$800 units now is pretty astounding.  When I was shopping last year, I was just amazed.  That is the big difference I see between stuff today and units I used years ago.  My HDS, with a basic stock transducer, can mark a 16 oz halibut jig all the way to the bottom in 200' of water.  The software for them now have lots of options for noise reduction, water density (saltwater vs. freshwater), speed you run the boat, etc...

The other huge improvement is the quality of the screens.  All of the major makers have brilliant color screens now, with great contrast and high resolution, that you can see anywhere in the boat.  My personal opinion on the screens is that in the $500-800 price range, Lowrance comes out on top, with Raymarine and Humminbird second.  I am not a fan of the more affordable Garmin units visual quality (they have 1/2 the # of pixels in their screens as the Lowrance).  On the other hand, their chartplotter functions are awesome, and they seem to network with other electronics more easily than most units.

Third thing of note is on the chart plotter side, where the availability of Navionics, C-Map, Garmin Blue Chart, etc... electronic charts have revolutionized things.  All the major manufacturers take charts of one kind or another, some are available with a nice basic package built in.  Some of them also support 3d imaging of the bottom, as well as overlaying satellite imagery (a neat feature on the HDS units, as it lets you establish visual reference points around you).

All this new stuff, and the ever increasing $$$, makes the quality and long term durability of the units a sensitive topic.  Lowrance has a checkered history in this regard.  Humminbird is well-liked, as is Garmin.  Raymarine apparently went through a rough patch on quality control, but I can't speak to their current performance.

If you are going to do a lot of offshore fishing, you might consider going with two units.  Standard Horizon makes some nice, fairly inexpensive ($350 or so) chart plotters that take C-map chips.  Combine that with a straight sonar unit... gives you the advantage of not losing both functions during a fishing trip if your unit dies.

If you are in the Portland-area, you might check the classified ads over on Ifish... there are several nice chartplotter/sonar combos for sale over there now, as well as a sweet Furuno sonar (the Cadillac of marine electronics.)
Former Sea Chaser 17 owner
Wild Card, Hewescraft Ocean Pro 220, Honda 225 and 9.9

“Never turn your back on fear. It should always be in front of you, like a thing that might have to be killed.”
       --- Hunter S. Thompson

Offline Enniberg

Re: Fish Finder/Chart plotter questions
« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2011, 10:02:16 AM »
Brett, I have ordered the Elite-5, should be arriving by the end of this week.

I had the HDS-5 on my previous boat and loved it - it is very powerful, superb fish finder, and the screen is amazing.

The Elite-5 is a step down, still a great screen, but fewer colors, still a powerful sonar, but not as sophisticated as the HDS sonar, and not expandable in features like the HDS units, but for the money, it still looks very appealing to me - at least on paper. Real life report to follow - hopefully next week :party:

I know that there are quite a few horror stories about Lowrance, and the HDS units have not been spared, but I have never been let down.

my :twocents:

Johan



Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. (unknown)

Offline fishing eagle

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Re: Fish Finder/Chart plotter questions
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2011, 11:01:28 AM »
I currently have a Humminbird 917C combination fish finder & GPS unit on my Arima. I have probably owned more than a dozen different electronic units in the past 25 years of owning fish finders and I have owned and used Humminbirds, Eagle, Lowrance, Magellan and Garmin electronics. I first started with Humminbird and then went to Eagle when they seem to be progressing with better features. After some time I became upset wit Eagle and their products failing so I tried Lowrance products because they were the parent company of Eagle and more expensive, so I thought better products. After some terrible repairs and support I have returned to Humminbird. After trying others, I am using Humminbird again and have purchased two different models. I must admit that Lowrance offers some better features with their networking abilities where. you can connect to fuel sensors and other features that you can't do with Humminbird, also Lowrance offers a 2 year warranty while Humminbird only offers a 1 year warranty. Garmin manufactures some nice electronics but they are priced on the upper scale and they do not offer much in combination units.

There is a lot to offer by different companies and it really depends on your budget and what features you want. From you post I think Humminbird will be a good choice for you. Threeweight really explained some things and gave you some good information as has others. Yes larger size display screens will make the price climb. A 5 inch screen is a good place to start especillay if you buy a combination fish finder/GPS unit. A 3.5" display is okay for a single use unit.
(Reel Delight) a 2001 Sea Ranger 19, 2003 Honda 90, 2010 Yamaha T8 w/power tilt, Panther T4 steering system, Hummingbird electronics, & Scotty 1116 electric downriggers.
U.S. Navy Veteran, member of U.S. Power Squadron & Past President of Lake George Fishing Alliance (Retired & ready to fish!)

Offline polarbill1999

Re: Fish Finder/Chart plotter questions
« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2011, 12:22:40 PM »
Enninberg, the elite 5 sounds like a nice little starter unit.  Is the World Basemap suppose to be any good or is something better like the navionics going to be a huge upgrade?  If you end up upgrading to Navionics it is another $200 which is almost the same price as the HDS-5 with Nautic Insight.  Is the US coastal that comes with the HDS-5 comparable to the Navionics?  In addition the HDS-5 comes with a $50 rebate so essentially it is $200 more for the HDS-5.  It seems like a pretty good start with the Elite 5 and maybe upgrade the chartography if need be.  It would also then be cool to add a second Elite 5 and have dual screens in case one went out and to see full screen of both charting and FF.  

Now I was just looking at Best Buy's website and they have the Elite 5 with Navionics gold for 629.99.  If that is a really nice chart then it seems like a nice complete setup. 
« Last Edit: February 15, 2011, 12:29:30 PM by polarbill1999 »
Brett
1996 Sea Chaser 16 the "Rhumb Runner"
70hp Envinrude VRO
6hp Tohatsu 4 stroke

Offline Enniberg

Re: Fish Finder/Chart plotter questions
« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2011, 01:13:13 PM »
The Elite-5 Gold, includes Navionics Gold cartography for all of US and Canada - lakes and offshore, which is what makes it such a great deal to me.

Again, the gold chip is not as feature loaded as the Platinum chip that you can run on the HDS - but for the price you pay, it is excellent.

Johan
Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. (unknown)

Offline Threeweight

Re: Fish Finder/Chart plotter questions
« Reply #9 on: February 15, 2011, 01:29:26 PM »
I have the Nautic Insight package on my HDS... I have found the saltwater maps to be pretty good.  I bought a Navionics Platinum chip for the Columbia River/OR Coast (mainly for the Columbia), and the level of detail is significantly greater.  Navionics also makes a "Fish-n-Chips" map package that is crazy detailed with bottom structure info for coastal and inland US... used to be a free upgraded to the Platinum chips, now it is a $199 stand-alone purchase.
Former Sea Chaser 17 owner
Wild Card, Hewescraft Ocean Pro 220, Honda 225 and 9.9

“Never turn your back on fear. It should always be in front of you, like a thing that might have to be killed.”
       --- Hunter S. Thompson

Offline polarbill1999

Re: Fish Finder/Chart plotter questions
« Reply #10 on: February 15, 2011, 01:42:49 PM »
Thanks guys.  That makes sense.  Here is another question.  Let's say I wanted to start with a single unit with the posibility of adding a second identical unit down the road.  First of all do they make splitters for the GPS antennas, transducers and any other signal inputs to the units?  Could I start with lets say an HDS-5 and then add an HDS-5M or -5X and have full use of both units?  Meaning the HDS-5M or X would be able to be used as FF, CP or both?  Or does the M signify it can only be used as a chartplotter and the X can only be used as a sonar?  It kind of sucks if you have to buy all the extra stuff(transducer, GPS antennas, charts, etc...) if you already have those cables hooked up to the original full function unit?  Then again maybe I have no idea how this works.
Brett
1996 Sea Chaser 16 the "Rhumb Runner"
70hp Envinrude VRO
6hp Tohatsu 4 stroke

Offline Threeweight

Re: Fish Finder/Chart plotter questions
« Reply #11 on: February 15, 2011, 02:10:26 PM »
Most of the units under $1k now have built in GPS antennas that work pretty well.  External pucks are extra $$.  I know the Lowrance HDS and Garmins are pretty easy to hook into a NEMA 2000 network, but I don't know if that would allow for the sharing of an transducer as well.  Also don't know if the less expensive Lowrance's have the same features.  All the HDS units require is their power cord, a transducer (usually bundled with them), and a mount (I like RAM mounts). 

I'd really like to network my Suzuki motor's computer "brain" into my HDS... then I could get a read out of engine temps, oil pressure, alternator output, and rate of fuel consumption all without spending any $$ on extra gauges.  There are some cable issues I need to figure out though.  Someday.

If you are price shopping, be sure and check out BOE Marine.

http://www.boemarine.com/

Also, if you bring in a print out of a price you found from a legit web retailer, West Marine will match it (but they include some $$ for shipping).  West Marine's prices are high, but their customer service is very good.
Former Sea Chaser 17 owner
Wild Card, Hewescraft Ocean Pro 220, Honda 225 and 9.9

“Never turn your back on fear. It should always be in front of you, like a thing that might have to be killed.”
       --- Hunter S. Thompson

Offline polarbill1999

Re: Fish Finder/Chart plotter questions
« Reply #12 on: February 15, 2011, 08:09:08 PM »
What is the difference between a transducer that is 50/200 and 83/200?  Is one better at one thing vs the other.  We will probably fish mostly around puget sound and around vancouver island.
Brett
1996 Sea Chaser 16 the "Rhumb Runner"
70hp Envinrude VRO
6hp Tohatsu 4 stroke

Offline Threeweight

Re: Fish Finder/Chart plotter questions
« Reply #13 on: February 15, 2011, 10:07:52 PM »
My understanding is that the 83/200 is better for shallow water, 50/200 is for deep (100+ feet) water.
Former Sea Chaser 17 owner
Wild Card, Hewescraft Ocean Pro 220, Honda 225 and 9.9

“Never turn your back on fear. It should always be in front of you, like a thing that might have to be killed.”
       --- Hunter S. Thompson

Offline SRanger

Re: Fish Finder/Chart plotter questions
« Reply #14 on: February 15, 2011, 10:25:48 PM »

Think it has to do with the size of the cone.  A narrow cone vs a wide cone.  Found this page via google with some basics.  Very new to all of this myself.  http://www.fishfinder-store.com/howfifiwo.html

Quote
Frequency Most of the sonar units that we sell accessories for operate at 192 or 200 kHz (kilohertz). Some models use 50 kHz. A few are dual frequency capable, meaning they can use both 50 and 200 kHz transducers. Typically, high frequency (192 or 200 kHz) sonar units provide the best resolution and definition of structure and targets. They excel at showing minute details of the underwater world. 50 kHz units have much greater depth penetration capability, but show less definition. 50 kHz transducers also usually have a much wider cone angle than 192 or 200 kHz transducers.

You must match the transducer's frequency to the sonar unit. For example, a 192 kHz sonar unit requires a 192 kHz transducer.

Cone Angle A transducer's cone angle determines its coverage area of the underwater world. The wider the cone angle, the greater the area that's covered. We offer a variety of 192 kHz transducers with either a wide (20°) or narrow (8°) cone angle. We also offer a variety of 200 kHz transducers with either a wide (20°) or narrow (12°) cone angle. The 50 kHz transducers come with a 35° cone angle. And the dual frequency transducers come with both a narrow (12°) 200 kHz and a 50 kHz cone angles

Some people say you can scare the fish away with the wrong setting?
99 19' Arima Sea Ranger HT,  Honda BF130/BF8.
88 17' Arima Sea Ranger ST,  Yamaha F80/Merc 8 (sold)

Offline Croaker Stroker

Re: Fish Finder/Chart plotter questions
« Reply #15 on: February 16, 2011, 12:20:45 AM »
Like FE, I have owned Lowrance, Garmin, Eagle units before. This is my second Humminbird and I am thrilled with it's performance.

The Hummingbird comes with a program called "HummingbirdPC".  I really like this because you can plug your chip into your computer. Then you can add locations, tracks, and routes. In Hummingbird PC, you can click on the Google Earth button and see your locations in 3D.  You can also use Google earth to find the Lat/Lon of destinations, then transfer them to your chip.  Then you just plug the chip back into the Hummingbird unit and go.

This is a great feature that I didn't even know I was getting when I bought my unit.

The Navionics maps are only slightly better than the standard map that comes with the unit and I decided that I don't need it.


Here's a couple of screenshots.... (notice the split screen has "bottom lock" on the left showing only 25 feet from the bottom, while the right side of the screen is showing from the surface to 120 ft. depth.)







1987 - 17' Sea Pacer - 2004 Evinrude 90 E-tec
15' Sea Sprinter - **SOLD**

"If a fish will, he will… if he won't, he won't… and that's about it… except… he may take this when he won't take that."

Offline Kimbrey

Re: Fish Finder/Chart plotter questions
« Reply #16 on: February 16, 2011, 12:50:44 AM »
I'd suggest the 50/200 ducer.  The 50 kHz will get you deeper and the 200 kHz will have the best resolution but not the depth range as the 50.  The lower the frequency the deeper the sound ping will travel.  This frequency combination is what I bought for my Raymarine unit.  I haven't ran the unit yet but I'm expecting it to be decent.  I'm hoping the 200 will be good for spot fish like salmon and tuna in the mid-water.  General rule of thumb---with the same amount of power going through the ducer the lower frequency will "see" deeper,  the higher frequency will not "see" as deep but will have better resolution and more detail.  Might be good for seeing individual fish. 

I made a tuna trip last summer on a charter (Rampage) out of Westport.  He was seeing fish that weren't coming up to the jigs with his 200 kHz.  One time he saw fish, made a tight circle while tossing chovies over the side and sucked them up to us.  We went nuts on that stop so I'm hoping the 200 will do me some good.
2005 Sea Legend --Sold--replaced with 26' Duckworth

Offline Threeweight

Re: Fish Finder/Chart plotter questions
« Reply #17 on: February 16, 2011, 09:24:07 AM »
One time he saw fish, made a tight circle while tossing chovies over the side and sucked them up to us.  We went nuts on that stop so I'm hoping the 200 will do me some good.

Bait stops rock!
Former Sea Chaser 17 owner
Wild Card, Hewescraft Ocean Pro 220, Honda 225 and 9.9

“Never turn your back on fear. It should always be in front of you, like a thing that might have to be killed.”
       --- Hunter S. Thompson

Offline Croaker Stroker

Re: Fish Finder/Chart plotter questions
« Reply #18 on: February 16, 2011, 10:43:35 AM »

The lower freq. gives you a wider view. (83hz - 60 degrees)
The higher freq. gives you a narrower focus (200hz - 20 degrees)

1987 - 17' Sea Pacer - 2004 Evinrude 90 E-tec
15' Sea Sprinter - **SOLD**

"If a fish will, he will… if he won't, he won't… and that's about it… except… he may take this when he won't take that."

Offline polarbill1999

Re: Fish Finder/Chart plotter questions
« Reply #19 on: February 16, 2011, 11:42:55 AM »
Thanks croaker.  I see that the model you ohave comes with the 83/200 transducer.  It sounds like you have been happy with that setup.  Good to know abou the maps as well.  Does the 788CI have the ability to have a VHF hooked to it?

Here is another beginner question.  Do the dual frequency transducers use both at the same time?  Is that why there is slip screen fish finders like Croaker's screen shots?  Do you pick what frequency you want to use depending on the depth or your preference?
Brett
1996 Sea Chaser 16 the "Rhumb Runner"
70hp Envinrude VRO
6hp Tohatsu 4 stroke

Offline polarbill1999

Re: Fish Finder/Chart plotter questions
« Reply #20 on: February 16, 2011, 01:35:45 PM »
I just looked online and saw Humminbird has a black and white 581I for around $350.  Does having a black and white screen make it much harder to mark waypoints or fish?  It seems like a very similar unit in specs to the 788CI.  The main differences I see are the resolution is 640x320 instead of 640x640 and the max depth is 800ft vs 1500ft.  I can't imagine I will ever fish in 800ft of water so that shouldn't be a problem.  If it still has the ability to upgrade charts and have that HumminbirdPC that might be anice little inexpensive unit.  It will still be compatible with a DSC VHF wont it? I obviously still need to go play with the products at West Marine but I am a research nerd at some things.

http://store.humminbird.com/products/313974/581i_Combo
Brett
1996 Sea Chaser 16 the "Rhumb Runner"
70hp Envinrude VRO
6hp Tohatsu 4 stroke

Offline Threeweight

Re: Fish Finder/Chart plotter questions
« Reply #21 on: February 16, 2011, 01:53:37 PM »
My two cents.

Lack of color and less pixels makes a huge difference.  That is why the price is so high on the units with large color screens.

Without color, actually being able to read the contour lines and depths on the Navionics chips is very hard.  With the lower resolution and no color, the sonar image is more blocky and it is hard to see the differences in shading between a ball of bait fish or just weeds or noise on the screen.

My backup GPS/sonar is an older Eagle with a black and white screen.  It is useful for giving you the depth you are at, and being able to pull up the raw GPS data (your lat/long, speed, routes traveled, etc...)  It is very hard to pick out any kind of detail on it.  $350 for a black and white chartplotter/sonar is no bargain.  If money is tight, consider going with one of the $350 stand alone Standard Horizon plotters, and keep your current sonar.

Best thing to do is go to your local fishing store, or West Marine, and just play with a few different units.  Have the sales guy run them in demo mode so you can get a sense of how they look.  Then try and operate them yourself to see how intuitive they are.  If you are in the Portland area and would like to play around with a couple of units to compare and contrast, you are welcome to check mine out.  I'll be out of town this weekend, but I'm planning on fishing for springers the weekend after, or you could look at them in the garage.

Former Sea Chaser 17 owner
Wild Card, Hewescraft Ocean Pro 220, Honda 225 and 9.9

“Never turn your back on fear. It should always be in front of you, like a thing that might have to be killed.”
       --- Hunter S. Thompson

Offline Threeweight

Re: Fish Finder/Chart plotter questions
« Reply #22 on: February 16, 2011, 02:03:01 PM »
Couple of screenshots that may help.  These are not from my unit, but they are from a Lowrance HDS-5 (snagged them off a website review of the HDS-5)





Compare to screenshots from the Humminbird black and white unit you mentioned (note that they don't show it with a high detail base map):




Former Sea Chaser 17 owner
Wild Card, Hewescraft Ocean Pro 220, Honda 225 and 9.9

“Never turn your back on fear. It should always be in front of you, like a thing that might have to be killed.”
       --- Hunter S. Thompson

Offline polarbill1999

Re: Fish Finder/Chart plotter questions
« Reply #23 on: February 16, 2011, 03:52:10 PM »
Thanks guys.  Still trying to gain as much knowledge as possible.  I really need to go screw around with some of these.  Some of the ones that look like I should be looking at are the Humminbird 788CI, Raymarine A50D, Garmin 541S, Lowrance HDS-5 and then as a cheaper option the Lowrance Elite 5.  Doing a quick comparison makes it look like the Garmin just doesn't have the features for the price and the raymarine is really expensive.  The Elite 5 actually looks like a nice little unit.  I think I am going to head to West Marine in the next couple of days and take a look at Elite 5, HDS 5 and the 788CI.  If West Marine price matches boemarine.com then both the Lowrance units are cheaper then the Humminbird.  The HDS-5 with Nautic Insight adn 50/200 transducer is $685 and the Elite-5 with Navionics gold and 83/200 transducer is $566.  There is actually a $50 mail in rebate for the HDS-5 which puts it in at only $70 more then the Elite-5.  The HDS 5 sounds like it has a better suited transducer and some other nice features but if the insight doesn't include the Canadian west coast then another couple hundred would need to be spent on a different map chip.  

Enniberg, does the HDS actually have a better screen?  Both the elite and HDS have 480x480 according to west marine's website.
« Last Edit: February 16, 2011, 04:36:32 PM by polarbill1999 »
Brett
1996 Sea Chaser 16 the "Rhumb Runner"
70hp Envinrude VRO
6hp Tohatsu 4 stroke

Offline Enniberg

Re: Fish Finder/Chart plotter questions
« Reply #24 on: February 16, 2011, 04:57:24 PM »
From what I can tell, the Elite offers the same resolution, but fewer colors than the HDS.

HDS will cost you another chip for Canadian waters, which is why I went with the Elite.

Lowrance has a transducer exchange program, and I will most likely be exchanging for the in-hull transducer.

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. (unknown)