The History of the Fish Finder

Modern fish finders offer an amazing view of underwater fish and structure.
School of fish underwater
The latest advancements in technology can help you find fish anywhere. Courtesy artifirsov /

The concept is simple: locate objects underwater or in the dark by sending out a sound signal and listening for the echoed return. Bats, shrews and dolphins use it. Humans finally caught on about 100 years ago. From the first 2000-pound transducer to the latest forward-facing sonar, the evolution of the fish finder allows anglers a view of underwater fish and structure that would make a dolphin jealous.

45 Million Years Ago: Whales develop echolocation. By sending out clicks and receiving the echo through their jaw bone, animals can see in the dark, underwater and underground.

1490: Leonardo da Vinci invents active sonar by using a long underwater tube to listen for approaching ships.

1913: One month after the Titanic sinks, English meteorologist Lewis Fry Richardson, patents the first Sound Navigation and Ranging device. 

1959: Lowrance introduces the FISH-LO-K-TOR portable sonar, also known as the “Little Green Box.” Over the next 25 years, the analogue flasher sells more than 1 million units.

1971: Tom Mann modifies a do-it-yourself electronics kit to reduce interference and creates the first Humminbird depth sounder.

1984: The first fish finder with an LCD screen and integrated microprocessor replaces paper graphs.

1985: Scientists use a Lowrance’s X-16 paper graph to search for the Loch Ness monster. Operation Deepscan failed to produce any evidence of the monster.

2003: Humminbird’s SmartCast wireless fish finder provides bank anglers with a remote fish finder. Tie the transducer to the fishing line, cast it out and use a smartphone app to watch a live view of the fish and structure.

2009: DownScan sonar transmits multiple sonar signals to create a life-like image of fish and structure. The technology leads to 360 and forward-facing sonar.

2011: CHIRP sonar transmits a range of frequencies in one pulse to increase the power of the transducer signal and improve image detail.

2018: Garmin’s Panoptix LiveScope provides live images of fish and structure in front of the boat. The technology wins Best of Show at ICAST. 

2019: Humminbird Introduced MEGA 360 Imaging followed in 2021 with MEGA Live Imaging, providing a live view of fish and structure in every direction. The technology quickly spreads through the industry providing anglers the most powerful tool to find fish.