How to Use Your Laptop as a Fish Finder

How to Use Your Laptop as a Fish Finder

Explore America's Campgrounds

Fish finders are electronic, sonar-based systems that help anglers locate fish and discern the bottom contours of lakes, rivers and oceans. Many fishermen rely on all-in-one units, which feature a transducer to produce the sound waves, and detect the returned signal; a computer of some type to analyze the data; and a computer display that presents the information in a helpful manner. By using the relatively powerful processor of a laptop, you can download software updates as they become available, which ensures your fish finder will stay up-to-date.

Items you will need

  • Laptop computer

  • Software

  • Laptop mounting bracket and hardware

  • Sonar transducer

  • Transducer mounting hardware

Step 1

Purchase a sonar transducer that is compatible with your laptop, boat and fishing style. For example, if you primarily fish for catfish in sluggish rivers and lakes, you do not need a transducer that is accurate to 2,000-foot depths. Conversely, an offshore angler who targets marlin or other open-water species may benefit from a transducer capable of resolving data from very deep water.

Step 2

Upload the transducer software to your laptop. Some manufacturers include a CD with the transducer, while others instruct customers to a website, from which you can download the software. Be sure to load any updates available to provide the smoothest operation possible.

Step 3

Mount the transducer on your boat. Some transducers are designed to be mounted inside fiberglass hulls, while others attach to the transom or protrude through the hull. All three designs have advantages and disadvantages, but those that protrude through the hull usually work the best for recreational anglers.

Step 4

Install a laptop-mounting bracket to your command console with the provided hardware. Use care to place the laptop in a place that will not get wet, as water is likely to ruin your computer if it is not waterproof.

Step 5

Attach the transducer cable to your computer as instructed by the manufacturer. Turn on your computer and open the downloaded software. Take a few moments to familiarize yourself with the controls before setting out to fish.

Step 6

Click the “scan” command once you are in the desired area, so as to begin finding the fish, which usually show up as dark arcs or cartoonish, fish-shaped icons on the screen.


  • You can use a tablet or desktop computer instead of a laptop, if you wish.
  • Build a wooden or plastic cabinet around your laptop if you have trouble seeing the display. This will also help protect the computer from water and sun damage.
  • If your laptop does not have GPS capabilities, if may be helpful to purchase and install a GPS antenna, compatible with your computer. This way, you will be able to use downloadable maps, which will help you locate the lunkers.
Gone Outdoors