Portable fishfinders made by the likes of Humminbird and Eagle may seem like a good idea for folks who regularly rent or use multiple small boats, canoes, or kayaks, but are they really worth the cash? After all, just how well can these things really work? In most cases the screens are small and have low resolution, their transducers stick to the boat with a suction cup, and the power capabilities are puny. But…

For years I’ve used a hummingbird portable fishfinder, and frankly, I love the thing. It costs a mere hundred bucks, and takes all of 10 seconds to set up on my car-topper, canoe, or jon boat. One caveat – don’t plan on using the suction-cup transducer on a polyethylene boat (that’s what my car-topper is made of) because it won’t stick on the textured surface. The solution? Use an iron to melt a small, smooth, flat spot onto the transom. 

I’ve tested portable units from all of the above-mentioned companies, as well as the ”Fishin’ Buddy” type (these used to be made by Bottom Line, but they were bought out by Humminbird)  that clamps to the side of your boat. (The clamp-ons work fine but in my experience, may not fit well on boats with rolled edges, rubrails, or protruding hull-to-deck joints). And I think I’ve liked just about all of them. No, you can’t expect to differentiate between structure and the fish hanging around it. No, you won’t hit bottom in 200′ of water with one of these little guys. And no, the transducer won’t stay put at anything faster then a crawl. But to be able to find submerged trees, weedbeds, stream beds, and underwater points makes them extremely valuable. And yes, that value is most certainly worth the cost. You’re heading for a lake or river on a small boat sometime soon? Don’t hesitate to pick up one of these portables – it’s money well spent.

Humminbird hummingbird portable fishfinder

This Humminbird portable fishfinder comes in a carrying case, along with a suction cup transducer mount.