We know you love fishing, but you probably don’t want to fish through this whole article for the answer to your question. We won’t try some hook and bait tactics - we’re going to answer your question right now. Fish finders and depth finders are not the same. Depth finders are for finding depth. Fish finders are for finding fish.
With that obvious-when-you-see-it answer out of the way, we can dive a little bit deeper - plumb the depths, you might say.
Finding the hard bottom is obviously useful - when you know how deep the water around you is, you can choose the right equipment and techniques. You can also get a better idea of what kinds of fish you might be able to catch.
Depth finders help you find fish, but not as well as fish finders do.
Now, there is a wide variety of fish finders on the market. Like depth finders, they all operate using sonar - sound bounces off of objects and back to the finder, which processes and displays the information. The precision of fish finders is their main advantage - they can detect smaller, moving objects like, well, fish.
Unsophisticated fish finders aren’t much better than depth finders, though - the readings you can get off of them are sometimes so inaccurate that all you can really do with them is find the bottom.
The ultra high-tech new fish finders on the market, on the other hand, can do truly incredible things. Take, for example, Humminbird’s Side Imaging, where fish are displayed so vividly you can practically target individual fish in a school. You can also see all kinds of structure to the side of your boat. There are other incredible visualizations available on fish finders - all of the major fish finding companies offer some kind of side or bottom visualizations.
Obviously, these things aren’t available on depth finders.
Another major difference between depth finders and fish finders? The high-tech fish finders on the market include a GPS.
The combination of GPS and fish finders is a lot more power than either device alone, because you can use the GPS to chart your way through the water. This allows you to pre-fish a lake before a competition - you can record your route with chart plotting so you’ll always end up at the best spots. Obviously, a depth finder can’t do anything like that.
We could go on and on about the differences between fish finders and depth finders, but the bottom line is this: fish finders are feature-dense and made to find fish. Depth finders are not - they’re made to tell you the water’s depth, nothing more. If you have a good fish finder, you, of course, won’t need a depth finder - the fish finder will find the depth for you.
If you want to fish competitively, or elevate your angling game, you need a fish finder. Not sure where to start? Check out our fish finder reviews.