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Ask a question or post what you've learned

10900 Views 39 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  Ouachita
Got an installation problem?
Can't make sonar work right?
Can't decide on what to buy?
Don't have a clue how to use sonar?
Want to start learning how to put it to use?
Interested in viewing your day's sonar session on a computer?
Already know how? Then pass it on.
This thread is for whatever about sonar is on your mind.

As for me, I started with a flasher in the 1980's, and so far am in love with a Lowrance 332C. Sonar and GPS has been a large part of my resonsibility at work for the Corps of Engineers, and I've had hands-on with most brands and models helping boaters at ramps, now working as a park ranger. I get taken out fishing quite often so a boater can learn about his unit, and lately I've been involved in installing new units in my garage, as well as the NMEA2000 system. I keep as many manuals on my hard drive as I can find, so don't mind looking things up for a unit I don't own. However, my emphasis in on getting you familair with the online searchable manuals for yourself, as there are trimes I can't visit here. So I'll depend on others sharing their expereinces. Between all users we should be able to figure out most problems, and know when the time has come to contact a manufacturer.

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Hey, Ouachita, I just posted a ? that belonged here in sonar basics.
I couldn't move it within the Electronics section. Maybe Jared knows how. I'm glad to see a question posted ;D

You know I am almost embarrassed to say that even though I have all the fancy e tools sometimes I find myself wondering what the heck that darn thing is trying to tell me. I know there is a deep dark secrete somewhere on the screen (no pun intended) so I look and look and look and look and adjust the sensitivity until I cry. Little fish symbols are swimming across my screen, but only a few ever get to experience my world. This “E” stuff is a true mystery to me. The little black box will speak to me and will help me from running a ground if the alarm goes off and I a bother to take time to lheed its warnings. We all know there is so much info about this subject on this web (NOT!). I learn like most from trial and error and error and error. Thanks for starting this discussion. Point me in the right direction oh guru of the “E” clan
Step #1 is TURN OFF FISH ID. Most units will show every piece of floating debris and stuff on submerged tree limbs as schools of non-existent fish. Leave it off. They say that's in there for training. I say it's in there to sell the unit on a display.

Let me know make & model when saking questions and I'll be able to discuss yours. Anything goes, however "dumb" it sounds. This is one topic that is least covered on the Web, so lots of folks don't know where or what to begin asking.

I have a Pinpoint TR320 with GPS mounted on the bow matched to the Motoguide PSTv trolling motor and a Garmin 188c in the console. Any guidance on max usage would be appreciated. Thanks Tom
That's a broad request. How much experience do you already have? Are you new to the technology? Have you gone through the sticky post general stuff already posted, Sonar Basics and GPS Basics? Those posts serve to focus a discussion on the things those posts don't answer.

That Pinpoint is a cool machine. The one thing I like most about it is you can split-screen dual transducer pages, watching what's happening under both transom and trolling motor transducers at the same time. The screen resolution is a little low for me.

They've discontinued the 188. I think Garmin will continue supporting it, but I'd consider replacing it with higher resolution unless you are happy with what you have. If you do most of your gamefish searching from the console you need the better of two units there. In my case I just want general indication of baitfish and structure, studying details from the bow, so my choice is best unit there.

Thanks Jim, sorry for the late response but I just got in town. I am still learning when it comes to electronics. I use the console for looking at depths, contours and structure definitions. I understand the 188 has been discontinued. If you had to recommend a console unit that would not take refinancing the house what would you recommend? I have read most of your post regarding electronics and have picked up valuable information. I do thank you for your time and expertise.
I'm glad you found some helpful tips. My setup is a Lowrance 332C at both console and bow. Each has it's own GPS antenna to pinpoint waypoints. My most valuable points are under the bow transducer where catching a stringer gets honors for a return visit to that same spot. So, I wouldn't want console-set waypoints on the bow unit. My transom antenna is right over the transom transducer, so the console unit captures sonar data matching the coordinates there.

Possibly a great majority of folks agree the 332 was and remains the single best investment for the money. I could have bought models twice the cost, but can't see enough advantages yet to do that. Mine provide everything I need. New with antenna module they run about $650 max, but ought to be coming down since the 550 has replaced it. I'll stick with these until they can't be repaired, and might buy a backup 332C when the price drops enough.

One of the nice features is being able to record sonar along a route. While fishing whatever was on screen gets saved to a blank memory card in the bow unit, while the map card stays in the console unit. When I get home I can review anything I missed using their free sonar viewer. When I see something very interesting I missed on the water, I can set waypoints so I can return to those spots.

I always recommend spending the money on screen resolution first, then color, then power if only fishing inland freshwater lakes. 480 X 480 pixels is now a standard for square screens. It won't be long until that's sub-par. The ultimate goal is a plasma-perfect view. Stick with a 20 degree transducer. If you get a 480 pixel unit you will be far better off than with less, able to get a more sensible image you can interpret easier. If you have that grayscale is OK, but the difference between that and color is about like between B&W TV and color. 480 gives sharpness more like Cable TV compared to rabbit-ear antenna using lower resolution. That usually costs an extra $100 for color, $100 for more pixels.

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Jim in reading sonar basics I see you mention blotches. While fishing a 5 to 8 ft.weed flat one day I could not get any bites flipping or with other bottom hugging presentations all the while I noticed black ink like blotches on my LMS480 suspended below the surface.These images stuck out like a sore thumb compared to the images of the weed clumps I was passing over. I changed presentations to a Senko and a free falling spinnerbait and began to whack them good. Do you think these blotches were the suspended bass or were floating debri and I just got lucky changing presentations?
In water less than 10' deep those blothes can be most anything. Backwash from a trolling motor. Shore minnows. Hatched insect larvae. In most cases they are likely some source of food, attracting panfish & bass. General floating debris tends to be scattered over a large area, or all has settled from say a big rain days ago. If I see patches or debris or lots of single pieces pretty much everywhere I call it debris. If it's localized, not easy to find, it's food. My guess is you were close to predators finding the baitfish, then hit on your meal offering they liked most.

When fishing in shallow water turn the sensitivity down until the screen is clean then back up about 5-10%. Also reduce the ping rate to under 50%.

Hey, Ouachita, give me/us more info about the ping rate. How does it affect the onscreen image? What are the best settings given water depth? Also please go into more detail on sensitivity. I m not sure where to set that up, sometimes my screen looks cluttered, and others it looks too durn blank, even with the same settings. Also, is it true that the turnover causes the water to look exsessively cluttered? I've got 100 more of these. :p :-*
The ping rate is how often a sound pulse is generated. In general you need more at speed, less at rest. With the transducer out of the water and running you can often hear the ticking sound of the crystal inside generating sound at the current ping rate setting.

Sensitivity is the ability of the processor to pick up echo returns coming back to the transducer. The transducer broadcasts each ping, then rests an instant to receive echoes. It has to sort out a huge variety of strong and weak signals, separating two weak signals coming from say two fish close together. The higher the sensitivity, the less is missed, but images can end up confused, showing blotches instead of individual items. If bottom isn't showing sensitivity is too low. If a double bottom it's too high.

The best way to get close to an ideal sensitivity is to put sensitivity in auto mode and enable ASP. From there you can go to manual mode with ASP off and tweak the sensitivity up or down a little. Once in manual mode double the automatically selected range. If it shows 0-40 on screen, change it to 0-80. Increase sensitivity until it shows double depth and a second bottom. Then switch back to 0-40' range to view an optimized display. Bump the sensitivity back down if the screen is cluttered or not showing enough detail.

When a lake turns over lots of debris floats up. It's about like filling a dark room with smoke then shining a flashlight through it. A lot of that small stuff will show up on screen, more with high sensitivity. Be sure to get a good bottom signal first then tweak up as much sensitivity as you can stand without too much clutter.

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Jim, TY sent me your way with this issue:

I have one Lowrance 332c at the console, transom mounted transducer with the GPS antenna mounted on the back of boat directly above the transducer. This is the unit with trouble.

I also have a bow mounted Lowrance 332c with a trolling motor mounted transducer and the GPS antenna mounted inside the very front of the boat. This unit is working correctly all the time.

All was working well until we noticed the console unit depth now blinks almost all the time in sonar mode. The GPS seems to be ok, just the depth keeps blinking in sonar mode and the sonar gets screwed up.

They, the transducers, are installed on an 18' Nitro, and are about 17 feet apart. The rear unit is mounted outside on the transom and seems to be mounted correctly and is not loose.

Any ideas to what could be causing the problem?

Thanks, Mark
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Make sure the transom transducer connector is tight at the back of the head unit, and there is no corrosion on a pin.

If the temperature isn't blinking 32 the cable and connector ought to be OK and at least half the transducer is OK. Look for a kink or scrape in the cable anyway wherever you can see it. You can temporarily patch a damaged cable, but signals will continually degrade. If the bow unit depth moved to the console blinks after checking out the obvious, there are some things to check out before you replace the transom transducer.

Make sure the transducer is mounted with it's flat belly aimed straight down and remains in position at all speeds. It needs to be clean, smooth black plastic only. A little light fine sanding keeps it in good shape. Remove deep scratches, stains, oils.

Turn off the bow unit leaving the console unit operating to eliminate the possibility of interference head to head. Turn the bow unit back on and look for interference. If so, we can discuss a remedy. If none, operate the console unit in still clean water. If the display is right there, do this: if turbulence from running the outboard starts problems, the transducer needs a new location. We can discuss that in detail if needed.

Eliminate the possibility of the trolling motor, a bilge pump motor, a livewell pump, or other electrical device causing interference by turning them all off, then each back on one at a time.

Your Lowrance has noise canceling features that can kick in in spades so much any signal getting to the unit can be wiped out. Electrical interference is the main culprit. You can turn those features down or off to help solve the sources of problems. Sometimes turning them off will restore an accurate depth, but allows so much clutter on the display the screen is useless except for a depth reading. In that case you go back to the first steps, trying each unit on a known good transducer. If the console unit still acts up on a good transducer, the head unit probably needs repair.

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What are the winning numbers to next weeks lotto, and I learned that it's called "fishing", and not "catching" for a derned good reason :lmao:

Transducer looks new, is tight and clean. All pins look great, fastened nice and tight. Cable looks good from unit to transducer, no kinks.

As for all the other stuff, can I do all of this while the boat is on a trailer in the garage?

And with the unit on now it reads 1.5 - 2' for a while then starts to blink again. Nothing else is turned on except the console unit. Should the units blink when not in the water or should they still work?

Thanks, Mark
I believe if its out of the water it will always blink. Atleast my eagle cuda does that.
Jared got it right. Out of the water you might get a blinking depth or maybe 900 feet. Sonar can't work in air. You could try putting a trash can full of water under the transducer.

Joe, its 31-21-3......naw, I think I'll go for it myself. Could use a hundred million, apply it toward the bills as far as it will go... :cool1:

As long as the transducer is pointed at the ground, it will acquire the a reading. The reading in the air to ground is about 4X off due to the difference from air and water density. I have done this several times to check out my electronics.
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