The Electronic Angler/ part five "Installing a fish finder on your kayak"

Part Five "Installing a Fish Finder on your kayak"

Installing electronics on your kayak can be intimidating for the first timer. In the fifth installment of this series I want to discuss some of the ins and outs of performing  this task yourself and some of the considerations to keep in mind when doing this install.

Does size or cost really matter:
This will be debated till the end of time, Here I will just give you my opinion. For most kayaks and Anglers it is not nearly as much about the size of the screen as it is about having a useful, accurate tool that you can depend on to give you information to catch more fish. Lets face it, technology has come light years in just a couple of years. You can now get a color, high resolution screen, broadband sonar with GPS/Chart plotter for the same amount of money that a sorry grey scale unit with poor resolution with no other features would have cost you five years ago. People were using those inferior units and successfully catching fish back then. Do I need to be able to see if a fish has an "I love mom" tattoo above his right fin to catch him? It really is about learning to interpret what you are seeing. One thing I will submit here is if you are regularly fishing unfamiliar waters or fish big water a unit with GPS is an incredible tool. Other than that you really do not need an electronics array like a modern battleship, we're hunting fish not enemy submarines.

When installing a fish finder or combo unit on your yak you need to be sure of the location. What I mean by this is when sitting in your seat; can you reach, see and adjust comfortably? Some kayaks are limited in locations that a unit may be mounted and if you have to lean too much to adjust, you may find yourself upside down one day. Also if you have a combo unit with GPS/ Chart Plotter You will be switching screens more and playing with the many more features that your unit can do. At the same time you want to make sure that the placement of your unit will not interfere with a full paddle stroke.

On pedal driven kayaks I prefer to install on the Gunnel within easy reach. This is accomplished by using factory installed rails or aftermarket rails on the gunnel. The Lowrance Elite series are awesome in this aspect as you are able to replace the factory mount completely with a Ram replacement the attaches directly to your track. Others may be mounted on a board that attaches to the track with track hardware.

On paddle kayaks you can use the dash board method (personally I don't like this one because it clutters my cockpit and creates more snag issues), or you can mount on center hatch for those kayaks with Pod type access to your hull between your legs, however once again you have a cluttered cockpit again, making it hard for you to get in and out of your yak because you have to swing your leg over your unit not to mention hard to re enter your yak in deep water self rescue.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea, make sure that the location and method that you chose to use allows easy access, doesn't clutter your cockpit and cause difficulty when fishing.

Transducer deployment:
This is another area where there is some differing opinions as to the best place and method to mount your transducer.
Scupper hole mount: Personally I do not like the scupper hole mount, with the exception of the Lowrance/ Hobie system; The transducer is covered and above the line of the hull. Some kayaks are molded with a scupper hole that is designed to hold a certain Manufacturers unit. Whether that be Lowrance, Hummingbird or Raymarine, the size and method of securing my transducer to the scupper hole may be limited if I wanted to use a unit other than the kayak was designed to take.
Shoot through hull mounting: This method is best if you are just using a traditional sonar. This method requires that you glue your transducer on the inside of your hull and the signal is transmitted through your hull. I prefer this method as it allows me to have a nice clean install with minimal wire and clutter in my cockpit. Where this becomes a problem is when you use a Down scan or image unit as the signal is degraded in these type of units when shooting through the hull and will work better with the transducer in the water. Side scan also needs to be in the water.
Transducer deployment arm: This method uses a mechanical arm to hang your transducer over the side of your kayak into the water. A ram ball and clamp arm can also be fashioned to hang your transducer off the gunnel or stern of your kayak. However always be sure that you are not drilling holes below the water line.

Passing wires through hull:
To install your transducer in the hull and or place your battery inside your hull you will need to pass your wires from the outside into the inside of your kayak. No reasonable kayaker would want an open hole in their kayak that will allow water to enter the kayaks hull. So any pass through of wires must be sealed. There are plenty of decent wire seals on the market that will allow you to pass your wires through your hull and seal them up. You will just have to get over your fear of drilling 1 inch holes in your kayak. The alternative is having about six feet of transducer cable and a battery in your cockpit.

Most people have been using a 12 volt Sealed Lead Acid battery that is commonly used as an alarm system battery back up. Today They have AGM batteries which cost a little more and don't really have any more life or do not save on weight either. I get asked all the time about what size battery to use and this is just a general guide line. For the regular color four inch screen I always recommend a 8 to 10 amp hour battery. If you step up to a 5" or 7" screen it will draw more power. I would opt for the 10 to 12 amp hour battery. If you are also running lights or other accessories then I would opt for a 12 to 14 amp hour battery. You can pick up these at any batteries plus bulbs store.

My Dad always said to "measure ten times and cut once, No matter how many times you cut that board it will still be too short" That's  kind of the idea here, to be darn sure where and how you want to attach and deploy your electronics to your kayak before you actually do it. Sit in it, paddle it and simulate all conditions before actually drilling your first hole.

DIY quick release Kayak anchor system

For some time now I have been in deep thought on just how to set up a quick release anchor on my Native Watercraft Slayer 13 Propel. The problem was that with a traditional anchor trolley I had control of kayak positioning, but was not able to cut away from the anchor as soon as I hooked up with a very large fish. The ties I wanted this feature anchoring off of the bow would put me into the position I wanted. One of the times I needed this feature was a certain time of year when Striped Bass would roll on thread fin shad down a bank all day. I wanted to be able to anchor 30 yards from the action and use my fly rod to catch these feeding fish. The other time was when I go to the east coast in the fall and go BTB to anchor off of sandbars and throw out cut bait for Bull Red Drum. Both of these situations will dictate the need to be able to cast off my anchor to fight the fish, then return to my anchor to do it all over again.

Today I have come up with a simple solution that I believe will accomplish all the criteria that I need. First I attached a plastic ring to my forward carry handle for the forward rode guide.

Then using Wilderness system track hardware, because of the large diameter hole in one side I put one on the forward and aft end of my forward track as line guides.

This system terminates at the side carry handle where I will tie a slip knot, so all I have to do is pull the tag end and away my anchor rope speeds out and away from my kayak.

I attacked a float to my anchor line so after landing my fish I can easily spot and retrieve my anchor. The Slayer Propel is actually stable enough to stand in and re insert the line to set up again.

The biggest problem I have had with the common anchors that are used by kayak Anglers, is they are too light to hold a kayak in place in any kind of current or wind. If I got a heavier anchor then the size would not be practical. The claw anchors do a terrible job also in soft sand and hard bottoms also. So I made my own anchor that is small, compact and heavy.

You can easily make this anchor yourself. First find a garage that has used tire weights and is willing to give you about six to seven pounds of them. Take the weights and using a pair of side cutters cut the steel bracket out of them. Then take a aluminum coke can and cut the top off of it. Note. Make sure that it is clean and dry inside! find a heavy gauge coat hanger and cut a piece of the wire about four inches long and bend it into an omega symbol. This will be your tie off point on the anchor.

Now get an old cast iron pan and place the lead into it and place over a gas burner (must be done outside as lead gives off a gas that is not good for you) When lead has completely melted, using leather gloves take the pot and pour molten lead into the coke can. once this is done take a pair of pliers and insert the omega symbol into the lead. You will have to hold it in place until the lead solidifies enough to hold the ring in place.

Once the lead has completely cooled to the touch you can take a pair of pliers and peel away the coke can.

Note: you will never want to use this pan to cook food in again as the lead will be in the pores of the cast iron and will poison your food if you do.
I hope this helps someone with a solution to their own anchoring blues.

The Electronic Angler/ Part four "Interpreting What you see on your fish finder"

Part four "Interpreting What you see on your fish finder"

You have your unit installed now and are ready to start watching "Fish TV". The only problem is you do not understand what you are seeing. This is a common problem for everybody who started using a fish finder for the first time. In this segment I am going to show you some screen shots to help you better understand what different things look like on your screen.

You will notice on this screen shot, there is an irregular bottom with several trees or brush piles sticking up there is most certainly bait fish hanging around the two features. You will also notice from 0 to 10 feet deep there is noise, if you were to decrease your sensitivity some this noise would disappear but you would not see a lot of the fish returns that you see right now. Notice that the fish returns are fairly tight arches, that means that these fish entered into the signal area then passed through and out of the beam fairly quickly. This is because this screen shot was taken while craft was in motion and passed over the area fairly quickly.

Here is a shot of a "Bait Cloud" just off the bottom. I have seen these so thick that they fooled the sonar into thinking that they were the bottom.

Another shot of a brush pile, with a couple of weaker fish returns.

Now this shot has a lot of information on it. First you will notice the bait school from 0 to 20 feet deep, they are running from the fish actively eating them from 20 to 55 feet deep. You will notice that there no arches... This is because these fish are remaining in the beam area and are going up and down chasing the bait. Fish remaining in the beam area will leave a horizontal line across the screen when suspended then that line moves up and down as the fish do. You will also notice that from 40 to 55 feet deep there is trees with a few fish suspended at 46 to 53 feet deep and a couple diving into and out of this cover. Chances are that the reason these fish stopped at 20 feet deep is that is the thermocline and the water above that line is low in Oxygen.

Here is another shot of feeding fish rising out of the cover of the tree tops to feed. One thing in particular that I would like you to observe here is all the lighter broken black returns around the heavier returns. There is actually a lot of feeding fish here, the thin broken returns are just fish in the weaker outside edge of my signal. 

I'm just showing off here, but this is the largest school of Striped Bass I have ever seen on Lake Lanier in one spot. There may be hundreds here the bad news is they weren't interested in eating, threw the proverbial kitchen sink at them and they wanted no part of it. I think that's the worst part about using electronics is knowing they are there then not being able to catch any. lol.

More feeding fish

In this screen shot You are actually able to see the thermocline around 30 feet, the reason this is important is that in most cases the fish will be caught below this depth. Some more feeding fish, a tree line and fish in the trees.

And Last but not least you see longer stretched out arches here, This is because the fish passed in and back out of the signal beam but slower than the other arches on previous screen shots.

I hope this gives you a rudimentary idea of what to expect on your screen. A lot of people will swear that their electronics is not working right and I will say that "its not the electronics it is the location." Don't expect to start seeing fish if you are looking for the 95% of the fish that will only be in 10% of the water in the wrong places. Keep looking and fishing. Good luck!

If this helped you any at all please leave feed back in the comments area.

The Electronic Angler/ Part Three "Setting up your fish finder"

Part Three "Setting up your fish finder"

When you take your new unit out of the box, install it then power it up for the first time it can become very clear that with all the menu options and choices that you start second guess buying that high end unit. But don't get too upset as help is here.

First things first, Your unit probably has steps in the setup (when you first power it up) to make everything automated by just answering a few questions. By using these settings you will get decent results and can learn to adjust it as you use it. Some of these settings you will want to keep and others you will learn to fine tune as you try different things to get a better representation of what is actually under you. I want to discuss some of these settings to help you understand better what they are and how tweaking them will help you tremendously.

Depth stetting- Leave in auto, this will allow your screen to be automatically adjusted so that no matter how the depth changes you screen will always show from the surface to the bottom.

Sensitivity or Power- Depending on which type of unit you have the base line setting should be somewhere around 75%. On the Lowrance units you can adjust in a percentage of -/+. If your screen has too much noise on it then decrease this setting. Be careful to not to entirely clear your screen of noise because it will decrease the sensitivity of the unit and you will not see all fish returns. Note: you may have to adjust this setting every time you visit different waters as the conditions of the water will react differently with your unit.

Frequency- If you are using a traditional sonar and fishing fresh water and your max depth is less than 300 feet you will want to use the 200 htz setting. If fishing water deeper than 300 feet then 83 or 50 htz will be used. If you have one of the new CHIRP units then refer to this Link for these settings. Note: If fishing with a buddy and both of you are using a fish finder, you may want to switch frequencies so that you are not cross talking on the two units. This will cause a bunch of vertical lines on your unit. This will be minimal if you are on different frequencies.

Screen/ ping rate or speed- Use this setting to adjust your ping or screen speed. This will affect what you see in different situations. The most common setting is max or fastest. This will show fish movement in the water column well and works well if moving fast. If you want to see more detail of bottom structure you may want to slow this setting down some. This is especially true when using a combo unit with down scan and moving very little, the slower the speed of refresh rate the less there will be blurring of the same return under you, ie trees and such. When your kayak is stationary, the arched returns you get are fish that have moved into and back out of you beam. The fish that remain under you beam will show up as a horizontal line, If the fish remains under your yak and is changing depth you will see this line begin to rise and fall. The easiest way to understand this and how you will be seeing it, is take a rod and drop a heavy jig over the side and lower it until you see it on your fish finder screen. Then raise and lower the jig in the water column, see how it moves on your screen. This will help you tremendously in understanding what you are seeing on your screen and if that target is still under you or gone.

Fish Symbols-  Do yourself a favor and leave this feature off. It is very limited in the info it gives and you will never learn to read a fish finder as long as this feature is turned on. I am convinced that most of the returns that show up on your screen using this feature are false returns, and will drive you nuts trying to catch fish that are not really there.

These are the only settings I recommend using at first. As you tinker with your unit (usually when the fish are not being too cooperative) You will begin to understand your unit more and what you are seeing on the screen.