Portable Sonar Solutions for Pontoon Boats

You'll enjoy better fishing if you can rig your pontoon boat with a portable fishfinder.

Fishin Buddy

Courtesy Humminbird

I spent a recent Spring rehabbing a Harris FloteBote 200 Sunliner from the deck up.

While the boat was being rigged primarily for pleasure boating, I wanted to fish from it. That meant I had to experiment and get creative with portable fishing accessories that didn’t have to be permanently attached or hard-wired to the boat until I could set to work adding long-term angling options.

Right away, I leaned how much I have come to depend on sonar when fishing. Even though I was using the Harris on a lake I have fished most of my life – much of in my youth without the aid of fish- and bottom-finding sonar – I felt blind without a fish-finder to reference. I found myself using other methods for determining water depth and possible fish locations, including topographic maps, studying shoreline features and even using my rod tip or anchor to physically test the depth of the water under the boat. It was a real learning experience and an exercise I recommend to any angler. You never know when, like me, you may be “forced” to fish without the aid of electronics.

In my search for portable fish finders to use, I found two that served well, and a related accessory worth sharing.

Sonar on the Go

** **The most portable sonar unit I located is a hand-held model from Norcross Marine Products that is the size and shape of a small flashlight. The HawkEye model H22PX from Norcross fits in the palm of your hand and is powered by a four AAA batteries to provide digital readouts on every thing from water depth and temperature, to the location of fish suspended between the face of the HawkEye’s transducer “face” and the bottom. The HawkEye also offers air temperature, as well as being waterproof to 50 feet and a backlit display for night used sells for about $100. The FX model included an integrated LED flashlight with the sonar capabilities.

I used the HawkEye by dipping it over the side of the pontoon boat – or having my wife plunge it in off the bow – whenever I wanted to know how deep the water was or if there were fish attracting structure –or fish themselves – under the boat. You can also point the HawkEye to the side and “shoot” a sonar beam side-scanning-style toward boat docks or other structure that you can’t or don’t want to approach by boat.

I liked the HawkEye hand-held sonar so much that I took it on a fly-in fishing trip to Manitoba and found that I was the only angler in camp with a fish finder. Since rigging the pontoon with a hardwired fish finder, the Hawkeye has earned permanent residence in my kayak – and I have even used to when fishing from my PWC. (hawkeyeelectronics.com)

Fishin' Buddy

The other portable unit that I used on the rehabbed Harris before I could hard-wire a dash-mount model is the Fishin’ Buddy by Humminbird. It’s also a self-contained fish finder powered by 6 AAA batteries. The Fishin’ Buddy comes in three models, 110, 120 and 140; the latter two offer side-finding capabilities and the 140 also features a color screen.

The Humminbird Buddy is larger than the HawkEye but because you mount it so that the transducer stays in the water, like a conventional fish-finder, it's easier to use and read once you have it clamped to the pontoon's bow, which is here we used it most of the time. Once in position, it offers all the features of a traditional fish finder, including a 4-inch LCD screen that displays depth, bottom features and locations of fish, water temperature and includes a fish alarm feature and back-light. You've got to remember to remove the Fishing Buddy unit from its portable clamp-on mounting base whenever you go more than about 5 mph or so, but it's perfect for slow trolling or cruising to find structure and fishing spots. I may even incorporate it in the final version of the boat rigged for fishing as a forward sonar to consult when I'm using the bow-mount trolling motor. The Fishin' Buddy models sell for between $125 and $260 (humminbird.com/Freshwater/Product-Category/Fishin-Buddy/)

Sonar-on-a-Stick

A related item I really liked and might add to the fishing rig as a bow sonar is a portable transducer bracket from Tite-Lok. If you've ever tried to add a sonar bracket to the back of an aluminum pontoon log you know how tough – let alone expensive – it can be to find someone qualified to handle tricky aluminum welds. The Tite-Lok bracket comes in models to fit any mounting application topside and practically any popular transducer puck configuration at the working end to allow you to use a portable or permanent mounted fish finder without having to permanently mount the transducer. The Tite-Lok transducer brackets cost from $60-$100 depending on the model you need and the fittings for your particular transducer. (titelok.com)