Modern fish finders are full of incredible technology. When shopping around for a new fish finder, you might notice that a lot of them have CHIRP sonar. What does this mean? Will your fish finder suddenly start making bird sounds? Is it a dual fish/bird finder?
Nothing of the sort, but I applaud your imagination. CHIRP is actually a military technology that recently became available to consumers - much in the same way that sonar itself started as military tech.
CHIRP stands for Compressed High-Intensity Radiated Pulse - a pretty cute acronym in our opinion. To understand how CHIRP works, you first have to understand how regular sonar works.
With traditional sonar, a single pulse - or ping - is emitted. That ping will be at a particular frequency - say 200 kHz. It bounces off of objects, and your transducer listens for the ping to return - when it does, it interprets the changes in the sound wave to create an image of what’s happening underwater.
CHIRP works in a similar way, but the pulse it emits is much longer. What’s more, the pulse is also emitted at varying frequencies - the pulse might start at 130 kHz, then increase all the way up to 200 kHz before it ends.
There are some significant upsides to using CHIRP sonar. First, you’ll get better target separation because there’s more information coming back to your transducer. There’s also more diverse information returning to the transducer because it gets to compare the changes from the low-end of the pulse to the high-end of the pulse.
CHIRP also reduces noise, so you’ll be less likely to target fish that aren’t actually there.
Much like traditional sonar, the frequencies you’ll want to use with your CHIRP sonar will depend on how you’re fishing. When you’re looking for fish in the deepest depths, you’ll opt for a very low frequency in order to get as much depth penetration as possible. When you’re fishing in shallower waters, on the other hand, you’ll want a higher frequency for better targeting.
High-end fish finders will provide you with a lot of different options when it comes to CHIRP frequencies. Humminbird, for example, uses a Dual Spectrum CHIRP system that allows you to choose between narrow and wide coverage, depending on if you’re looking for a spot to fish or you’re settled in and ready to catch.
As of right now, CHIRP frequencies don’t go very high - you won’t see any transducers allowing you to use 1 mHz CHIRP, for example. That said, many CHIRP transducers will also offer traditional sonar modes with much higher frequencies enabled for things like imaging.
With so many different fish finders on the market offering CHIRP, it can be hard to decide what the best one is in your price range. Fortunately, you’re in the right place - we’ve got the best fish finder reviews you’ll find online.
Any questions? Get in touch with us - we love going over fish finder specs. Be sure to read our detailed full reviews first, though - we go deeper than an 80 kHz transducer.