Among the nifty new electronics I got to play with at the recent Fort Lauderdale boat show was the Raymarine CP200, which proved to be a very cool fish-finding tool. It was rigged on a test boat, and as we putted through the bay I thought it gave pretty decent side-imaging (or SideVision, as Raymarine has tagged it) views. Then we went up a stretch of canal, and the unit's real stand-out value became noticeable.
I could clearly see the concrete seawall lining the far side of the canal on the screen. That wouldn't have been any big deal, except for the fact that we were about 400 feet away from it. Most side-finders claim a maximum range of 150 feet, and in my experience, their real-world utility drops off well before that depending on water quality, salt versus fresh, and other factors. And yet there we were, in relatively churned-up saltwater, looking at that seawall clear as a bell.
How did Raymarine do it? Instead of sending out a high-frequency blast, like most side-finders, the CP200 kicks out a range of frequencies in a CHIRP-esque spread. This is exactly how they boosted performance on their Dragonfly unit, and the CP200 essentially has a Dragonfly brain inside its black box. Think of it as CHIRP-light, turned sideways.
And this isn't a one-trick pony. The unit also offers compatibility with other sonar sources, networks with any Raymarine MFD running LightHouse II, also provides downward-scanning (DownVision, in Raymarine parlance), and comes with a dual-array transducer that can be adjusted (manually) to best match the depth range you commonly fish in.
The only competitor to take a similar tack is Garmin, which uses multi-frequency scanning with its SideVu system. Garmin claims a max range of 500 feet, while Raymarine says the CP200 can see up to 600 feet. Again, in practice the range of side-finders can vary quite a bit depending on environmental factors. Transducer installation also has a lot to do with just how well these electronic eyes can peer through the water. So I'm not about to tell you that any one is actually able to see farther than the other in this particular condition or that one. But I can tell you one thing, for sure: I saw that sea wall at 400 feet—and it surprised the heck out of me.
For more details on the CP200, visit Raymarine.