The Best Portable Hand Held Fish Finders

Kayaking Photo

Portable Fish Finders are perfect for Canoeing and Kayaking!

Technology has come a long way in the fishing industry since I was a kid, and this is especially apparent with outdoor tools like portable hand held fish finders. I remember how excited my brother and I were when our dad brought home a fish finder. That new fish finder almost made you feel invincible. After all, how could you not catch all of the biggest fish when you actually knew where they were at? Put it on the boat and start trolling for bass!

The only downside to that new fish finder was it did nothing for us kids who were shore fishing and just hoping we weren’t spending two hours casting into empty water. Luckily someone was smart enough to create portable hand held fish finders that are perfect for on shore fishing, kayak fishing, ice fishing, and pretty much any type of fishing where having a big fish finder attached to your boat isn’t an option.

It might be twenty years too late for me, but here are some handy tips and reviews for you to look at when deciding on what type of fish finder you should buy.

How do Portable Hand-held Fish Finders Work?

Every setup is going to be a little bit different, but the first steps are going to be pretty basic. Batteries will be installed, transducers/sonar sensors will be connected to the portable screen, settings will be formatted, and the transducer will be connected to a floating device. The transducer will be thrown into the body of water and it will start gathering data like water depth, fish detection, and even what type of structure is at the bottom of the lake or river for you. Our best advice is to always read your user’s manual to see all the special features your fish finder has – because you may be pleasantly surprised by some of the options!

Signstek FF-003 Portable Fish Finder Review

Signstek FF-003 Portable Fish FinderThis is a very highly rated portable fish finder on the different review sites we checked out, and we can see why. It’s very easy to use – just hold on to the screen and cast out the sonar sensor into the water. It works in both fresh and salt water.

We really like the colored screen which presents a clear picture and works well in sunny conditions. The ability to show a wide range of different colors and blends (they claim an amazing 512 different shades of color can be shown) helps paint a very clear picture of what you’re looking at when using this device. In addition to the great display screen, this premium portable hand held fish finder is also programmed to read water depths from 2 ft. to 240ft.

That is quite a range! Depending on what type of fish you’re going after, the depth information can help you make an educated guess on the best place to find them. In addition to this, you can also get data about water temperature (which many other units do not offer) and you get to see what type of structure is at the bottom of the body of water. If you can increase the number of fish you catch and cut down on the number of snags while shore fishing, that’s a win-win situation all the way around.

The Signstek FF-003 Portable Fish Finder will also receive very high marks when it comes to its overall battery life. This particular model requires 4 AAA batteries, but it can also run 5-6 hours at a time for multiple days in a row with very few issues and sometimes none at all. That’s a lot of juice coming from some pretty small and easy to replace batteries.

The transducer can be permanently mounted to a boat with the appropriate instructions included in the owner’s manual. However, doing that kind of defeats the purpose of having a portable fish finder. To each their own.

You can also attach the adapter to a broomstick handle. This allows you to maneuver the sonar to give you readings under docks, boats, or you can use this technique when ice fishing, making it an extremely popular portable ice fishing fish finder. There aren’t very many that can answer the call when someone looks for this specific of a fishing aid.

The manufacturer does include a note that extreme cold weather is hard on the electrical components of the fish finder, so they recommend keeping the unit in temperatures above zero degrees when in operation. This is our top choice for serious fisherman or anybody that needs an easy to view, easy to use portable fish finder. It is also a very good choice for your conventional shack setup for ice fishing.

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Hawkeye Portable Hand Held Fish Finder Reviews

NorCross HawkEye F33P Fish FinderOne of the best portable handheld fish finders from a pricing standpoint is the NorCross HawkEye F33P Fish Finder. This fish finder has been on the market for a few years, and has a very loyal following, and for good reason. It can read water depths from a mere 1.5 feet of water (shallow stream level) up to approximately 100 feet for those deeper lakes.

Besides water depth you can also see fish, weeds, and get readings on the overall shape and contour of the bottom, helping give you the information you need to make smart decisions about lure use and style of fishing. In addition to this, there is a fish alarm that will help notify you when fish swim under the sonar sensor. The floatable sonar sensor is attached to 35 feet of cable, which is perfect for on shore fisherman that want readings from a good deal of distance away from shore while getting the information they need to know where to cast and how to give themselves the best chance at that exceptional catch.

The key to using this fish finder is adjusting the sensitivity settings correctly. While this can be a touch frustrating the first couple times you try it, this is a great product and it’s definitely worth taking the time to learn the right adjustments. This particular portable fish finding unit has four different sensitivity settings.

Sensitivity settings:

  • Clear water
  • Dirty water
  • Deep water
  • Salt water

While clear water is pretty self explanatory, it makes sense that dirty, deep, and saltwater settings will require a higher sensitivity in order to get accurate details. Higher sensitivity settings does mean you will get false readings from time to time, but the benefit you get from more accurate readings more than makes up for the occasional false flag. Obviously the cleaner the water, the lower the sensitivity level can be set to get accurate readings.

HawkEye FT1PX FishTrax Portable Dot Matrix Fish FinderThe downside to this option is the screen doesn’t read as well as some of the other options and it does not read water temperatures (which is really valuable information for fisherman and recreational kayakers).

The price is really hard to beat, so we would recommend this fish finder canoers or kayakers that are interested in water depth and for fisherman who take a few trips a year, but don’t want to spend a lot on a fish finder. It comes with a two year warranty, and customer service reviews have been very positive. The company backs up its product and you should have no trouble getting warranty coverage in the unfortunate event that you will actually need it.

Hawkeye also released a new model that gets rid of some of the flaws associated with the NorCross HawkEye F33P Fish Finder. This newer model is called the HawkEye FT1PX FishTrax Portable Dot Matrix Fish Finder. Right off the bat it’s worth noting that this upgraded model is more expensive, but the dot matrix screen makes it very easy to read, and it has the ability to read water temperature. That’s more data and it’s frankly really nice to see a company producing outdoor gear that has obviously taken the feedback from their customers into account in order to tackle the issues they had and try to improve upon their products.

This particular top rated fish finder is a great unit for fisherman because the unit will display fish as icons with a depth reading beside it. Basically, for the more serious fisherman or outdoorsman, this is a better option than the older NorCross Hawkeye F33P.

There are other portable hand held fish finders that are wireless or make this list but right now if you’re looking for some of the most reliable and high quality options these really are the best ones we know of (as of this writing). That being said, always check back for more options!

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Venterior Portable Fish Finder Review

yellow and black fish finder

Exceptional hand held fish finder – click on picture for Amazon pricing.

UPDATE 2017: NEW LIST ADDITION!

We always promise that we do our best to update our lists and reviews when we find products worth mentioning and without a doubt the current Venterior portable hand held fish finder is one of those products we’ve just become aware of that definitely should be on this list.

There’s a lot of neat ways this one can be used. It can be attached to a boat, but it can also be floated out, attached to a pole and get readings in the water around it, or even used for accurate ice fishing numbers to help you know what’s really down there and looking at your bait.

Measured from the accurate and effective sonar sensor, this can measure water that is as shallow as 3 feet in depth, and claims to be able to hit up to 300 feet. This is quite a range, and the fish finder itself comes with a transducer float as well as a 25 foot cable, giving you the ability right off the bat to use its unique features to really test the waters around your fishing area no matter what the situation and figure out how to tackle your next angling challenge.

The Venterior fish finder is designed with a popular TN/Anti-UV LCD display that is illuminated via green LED lighting. The temperature range is also very impressive as the company says this can work from temperatures as cold as -4 degrees Fahrenheit all the way up to a beyond sweltering 158 degrees Fahrenheit, giving it one of the largest temperature operating ranges you’re going to find for any type of fish finder. That being said the company does state that at the extreme end of those ranges things can get buggy if kept at those temperatures for long periods of time.

While it might not overthrow our top picks on this list, this is another great option worth looking at when you’re considering getting one of the best hand held fish finders around.

Handheld Fish Finder Tips

Here are just some basic tips and important information to know when you are purchasing a Portable Handheld Fish Finder. If you are looking for a Bluetooth Portable Fish Finder, check out this list.

  • When using these products for ice fishing, we do recommended using lithium batteries because they work much better in cold weather.
  • You cannot test these depth finders in bathtubs, buckets, or anything like that. Unless they are in an open body of water they do not read depths accurately. You will get an error message or no reading when trying to test it outside of open water.
  • These fish finders do not get accurate readings through wood, plastic, or composite materials.
  • Thick ice can also cause issues.Temperatures below 0 degrees are extremely harsh to the electrical components.

Final thoughts

There are so many great usages for these fish finders. Recreational canoers and kayakers can use these tools to find out water depth and temperature, while fisherman have opportunities to get fishing data from places that weren’t available in the past. I do wish I had these fish finders when I was younger, but it is better late than never! If you are looking for some fun places to take your portable fish finder too, check out these awesome kayak trip ideas from the National Forest Foundation!

Also feel free to watch this great video from HawkEye about their protable fish finders!

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