Side imaging sonar allows crappie anglers to search and find schools of crappie fast before dropping the trolling motor to fish. Whereas baitfish often appear as a “cloud,” crappie will also often be in tight bunches, but individual fish are still easily discerned. (Photo courtesy of Greg Robinson)
Is that a crappie?
by Brad Wiegmann
What does a crappie look like on my depth finder?
That’s a common question for anglers that have just purchased a sonar unit either with LIS or any other variety sonar whether it is traditional 2D, CHIRP, down imaging or side imaging.
The answer is, “Yes your Garmin, Lowrance or Humminbird can definitely reveal crappie on LIS. Traditional 2D sonar, CHIRP, down imaging and side imaging might be more challenging, but the locations and positioning of crappie will help identify them.
Before we dive in to crappie images with sonar keep in mind for traditional 2D, CHIRP, side and down sonar a crappie must travel completely through the beam of a cone to have a perfect image; in addition to the speed the boat is traveling. What frequency your fishfinder is set on will also dictate size of the beam.
You can identify crappie with LIS by the large, round echo it produces when it swims through the beams. Of course, the larger the echo the bigger the crappie.
Professional crappie angler Ronnie Capps, fishing with partner Steve Coleman, shares a quick demonstration on video.
Typically, crappie don’t move long distances quickly unless spooked. Most anglers using a Garmin with a LVS 34 transducer say a good size crappie have echoes shaped like footballs.
To get the maximum return and best images a crappie angler should set their unit according to the reservoir they are fishing. Beaver Lake crappie guide and Garmin pro Greg Robinson acknowledged that there is no one perfect setting for LIS when crappie fishing.
“It changes sometimes from day to day,” Robinson said. “But once you find what’s best it’s easy to see them.”
Robinson sets his Garmin with LVS 34 with range at 35 feet out and 2- to 5-feet below the bottom of the lake, when he is not looking for crappie that are in deep water and not actively biting. He also has noise rejection on high, TVG off or on low and ghost rejection on low. The only time he changes that is when he is after suspenders in deep water when the setting is on the upper 1/3 of the water column. Robinson also noted that having good voltage, meaning 12 volts or more, will make LIS imaging sharper and better.
Traditional 2D sonar and CHIRP sonar show crappie and all fish as arches. Echoes maybe stacked on top of each other depending on time of year and structure it’s around. While Traditional 2D sonar and CHIRP make seeing cover and even structure easy it’s also hard to identify and pinpoint crappie, baitfish or cover.
Side and down imaging sonar, with its high definition resolution, typically show adult crappie as large echoes. Adult crappie are easier target to see on side and down sonar with a frequency set at 800 kHz or even sharper at 1.2 megahertz sonar with its higher resolution can easily identify individual crappie even in big schools of crappie. Higher resolution of side and down sonar allows crappie anglers to see long distances away from the boat with a fan or cone shape beam.
(From Springdale, Arkansas, Brad Wiegmann is a professional photographer, videographer and outdoor writer published in dozens of print and electronic media outlets all across the nation. Every month Wiegmann will be providing CatfishNOW readers with the latest and greatest information on the ever-changing world of fishing electronics. He is also a well-known guide, podcaster and social media influencer. Learn more about Wiegmann and his lengthy experience and expertise at BradWiegmann.com.)