Electronics for Inshore Anglers

Tailored to fishermen who fish in shallow water.

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Views in the Night: Pocket-size night-vision cameras from FLIR allow precise, safe navigation in total darkness.

[Click through the images in the gallery above.]

Inshore is a fungible term. The mangrove shorelines of South Florida qualify; so do the rocky coasts of Maine and California. In the Northeast, inshore might be three miles off the coast, where it's legal to chase ­stripers, or out to the edge of the shelf if you're chasing bluefins.

Inshore fishing varies from inches of water to a dozen fathoms. Suffice it to say, anything not offshore is inshore. Hunting the shallows with paddle or pole, or fishing shallow reefs and wrecks, here’s a selection of tools to make your inshore pursuit more productive.

Getting Around

Flir’s thermal night-vision cameras have carved out a place on a growing number of fishing boats, and the First Mate II series brings portability to the power to see in the dark. Dressed in a rugged marinized suit, these units slip into a slicker pocket or a boat bag. Getting into position along a productive shoreline before sunup becomes a more efficient strategy — as does returning to the dock after the light has faded.

The handhelds are built on the same infrared-sensing cores as the bigger boat-mounted FLIR units, and there are four models available with varying levels of features. Especially notable on the latest version is InstAlert — image processing that highlights the strongest heat signatures, highlighting hazards or people in the water. Users also report success spotting bait schools on the surface in low-light situations. ­Starting at $1,999; flir.com

Sonar to Go

The echo 150 Portable Bundle guarantees you’ll never be without a fish finder. If you lack the space for a permanent installation, store your boat where you’re better off without tempting electronics aboard, or spend a lot of time on other people’s (marginally equipped) boats, this package lets you carry a complete fish-finder setup with you when you step aboard.

The package includes a Garmin echo 150 with dual beam (200/77 kHz) transducer in a protective ­carrying case with a rugged support arm and base. The case stows all the necessary components: a sealed AGM rechargeable battery with its own charger, transducer cable, suction-cup transducer mount and float.

If you already own a compatible 4- or 5-inch Garmin echo, echomap or GPSMAP, you can get the portability of it, sans sounder, for about a hundred bucks. $169.99; garmin.com

High-Value/ ­High-Tech

Raymarine’s new ­Dragonfly Sonar/GPS brings the power of CHIRP sonar within reach of every ­angler. It’s a­ppealing to smaller-boat, inshore and nearshore fishermen. ClearPulse DownVision sonar uses CHIRP technology to transmit a wide-spectrum sonar signal providing ­near-photographic sonar images. Two CHIRP channels allow simultaneous views of fish-finding sonar and ­high-res DownVision imagery.

A built-in 50-channel GPS simplifies installation, and it comes loaded with your choice of Navionics chart bundles. The ultrabright, sunlight-viewable 5.7-inch display makes it a natural for open-boat installation.

“Because it’s CHIRP sonar, it produces a super photolike image of the ­bottom, and of fish,” says Raymarine’s Jim McGowan. “It’s ideal for the shallow-reef and wreck fisherman.” $649.99 (with transducer); raymarine.com

Custom Charts

The Elite-7 Hybrid Dual Imaging series from Lowrance combines two technologies — the Broadband Sounder and Downscan Imaging — to create a ­photolike view of ­structure and bottom detail on a 7-inch display. With the Lowrance Downscan overlay feature, anglers can overlay Downscan Imaging over the Broadband Sounder view for a more detailed image of the ­bottom.

Recording and saving bottom data is a particular strength of the Elite-7. TrackBack features allow you to revisit water already covered and pinpoint locations with a waypoint, eliminating the need to circle back for a second look. The Elite-7 is available as a plotter, fish finder or combo model.

The combo unit, in conjunction with Lowrance’s Insight Genesis mapping, lets you create custom charts of favorite spots based on sonar logs. All Airmar transducers used with Lowrance HDS models are also compatible with the Elite-7 Series. $499 to $869; lowrance.com

Dial In Detail

Two new sounders from Furuno — the 8.4-inch FCV 587 and 5.7-inch FCV 627 — ­feature advanced signal-processing technology, Accu-Fish and Bottom Discrimination, which interpret the ­information on a sonar picture. Accu-Fish is a fish-size-assessment function providing the ­approximate size of fish from four inches up to six feet. It determines fish size in depths from seven feet to more than 300 feet. Fish symbols appear on the screen, along with the size of the fish and their depth.

The Bottom Discrimination Mode provides detailed graphic ­information about the composition of the ­bottom, differentiating and identifying rock, gravel, sand or mud. The details are displayed graphically or as a probability graph. The two signal-processing systems work hand in hand to simplify the hunt, says Furuno’s Jeff Kauzlaric. “First you find the right bottom and then see the fish,” he says. $995 (FCV 627) to $1,695 (FCV 587); furunousa.com

Look Around

Each sweep of Humminbird’s 360 imaging creates a high-res picture around your boat — 70,685 square feet, front, back and sides.

The applications are many: from locating fish before you get to them — whether they’re holed up in structure along the bank, or lying on the edge of the flats alongside a channel — to locating schools of bait just under the surface.

“It’s just like radar: You know what’s around you at all times,” says Humminbird pro Sam Heaton. “You don’t even have to be a live-bait fisherman, but you have to know where the bait is.” Find the bait and you find the predators. Angler-configurable-view options let you select particular segments to display, which can be viewed split screen with down-looking sonar. It’s functional at up to 7 mph, and is compatible with existing ­Ethernet-equipped Humminbird Side Imaging. $1,999; humminbird.com

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Views in the Night: Pocket-size night-vision cameras from FLIR allow precise, safe navigation in total darkness.
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Sonar to go: The Echo Portable from Garmin stows an entire battery-powered fish-finder kit.
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Sized conservatively: Raymarine’s new award-winning 5-inch Dragonfly, left, and Lowrance’s proven Elite-7 provide big-boat data in diminutive packages for inshore anglers.
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Size them up: Furuno’s innovative signal processing provides size of fish on the display and bottom composition.
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Look ahead: Humminbird 360 Imaging locates bait and predators around the boat before they know you’re there.