SONAR Lessons – Fish-Finder


The VA Dept. of Health continues investigating numerous reports of gastrointestinal illnesses in people, mainly children, who swam or partook in water activities at Lake Anna over the Memorial Day weekend. Some ill have been diagnosed with E. coli infections and some were hospitalized in serious condition. Copy the following link for more info:



**Call For An Appointment**  540-947-4007

SONAR / Fish-Finder Lessons    One hour 15 minutes (Approx.)


Class Fee – $95 for 1 per person private lesson

Your Guest(s) Fee – $50 (Lower Rate!) – Per each of your guests up to 3 guests max

Your lesson is private to you and your guest(s).  This on the water class focuses on the very basic fundamentals of SONAR as it applies to common Fish-Finders used by the everyday fresh/saltwater angler.  It is presented in a laid back, easy to understand, format designed to simplify the complex and often misunderstood science of SONAR technology and its related equipment.

This lesson was developed to give you accurate knowledge so you may correctly advance your own skills as a SONAR/Fish-Finder operator and aid you more accurately understand and interpret what you see on your screen.  The science information presented in this class applies to ALL BRANDS of common Fish-Finders.


Currently, common Fish-Finders DO NOT accurately answer the following:

How deep are the fish?

How big are the fish?

What species are the fish?

What direction are the fish heading?

The answers to the above questions are guessed at by the operator based upon what he/she sees on their display.  The accuracy of the guess can vary greatly depending upon the knowledge, skill, and experience of the SONAR operator.


There are no, “One size fits all settings.”

Unit settings are probably the most frustrating and confusing idea for most Fish-Finder owners to deal with.  That is because there really are no “Best” overall settings.  In order to increase success, the operator must first have a general understanding of the science of SONAR and related equipment.  This is so he/she may apply the appropriate unit settings for the target environment and for his/her style of fishing, such as, trolling, cast retrieve, drop fish, etc. . .  Unit settings may need to be adjusted several times during the fishing day in order to maximize the accuracy of the information desired.

DATE:                **Call For An Appointment**  540-947-4007

Summer Hours:     9:00 AM – 12 Noon   Daily   One hour 15 minutes (Approx)

Spring, Fall and Winter Hours:  Available anytime during normal business hours

Instructor:             Capt. Johnny Ellis

Pick Up Point:       Anna Point Marina (at the Fish Tales Bait & Tackle Shop)

 13721 Anna Point Ln, Mineral, VA 23117


  • Brief Captain’s Introduction, Safety Orientation, and Carbon Monoxide awareness talk
  • What is SONAR? SONAR Basics (ALL BRANDS)
  • SONAR Head unit and Transducer
  • SONAR Frequencies
  • Fish DEPTH vs. RANGE – (A highly misunderstood subject)
  • What are “Echos” or “Returns?”
  • How do we get “Fish Arches?”
  • What is a “Cone Angle?”
  • Importance of correct Transducer Angle
  • 2D SONAR
  • Side Scan SONAR
  • Down Scan SONAR
  • What is CHIRP SONAR?
  • What is “Talk Back?”
  • Some important common settings and features among ALL BRANDS
    • Frequencies
    • Sensitivity (Gain)
    • A – Scope
    • Ping Rate
    • Scroll Rate
  • How to train yourself to interpret images and identify fish species
  • How to estimate fish depth

Sources of information for this lesson are from, but not limited to:

  • US Navy – Introduction to SONAR
  • NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) – SONAR
  • Australian Government – Geoscience Australia – Bathymetry
  • Airmar Technology Corp. – Theory of Operations (Transducers)
  • Institute of Education Sciences (ERIC) – SONAR
  • University of Oslo, Norway – Introduction to SONAR
  • Garmin (Garmin Ltd.) – Operators Manual
  • Humminbird (Johnson Outdoors Inc.) – Operators Manual
  • Lowrance (Brunswick Corp.)  – Operators Manual

The Things We Provide:

  • Our boats
  • Fuel
  • Electronics
  • USCG approved PFDs (life jackets)

Your Responsibility:

  • We recommend you frequently check and follow the National Weather Service (NWS – NOAA) Lake Anna area weather forecasts at least 3 days before your scheduled class or service
  • Classes and services may be cancelled at any time due to weather and/or forecast of severe weather, or other unforeseen circumstances.  Please call us when in doubt
  • Bring identification
  • Wear appropriate clothing for the prevailing weather.  It can be surprisingly chilly on the water relative to land
  • Wear comfortable boating shoes/sneakers/boots having good traction soles
  • Wear comfortable clothing and bring a cap
  • For safety reasons, please wear hair up and secured for those with long hair
  • Apply sun block.  Yes, even in winter
  • Bring pen, paper, tablet, or smart phone for taking notes
  • Bring your own PFD (life jacket) if you prefer not using ours
  • Bring sunglasses (with straps)
  • Bring a windbreaker for your outermost layer of clothing
  • Bring foul weather gear.  Classes are held rain or shine
  • We highly recommend you NOT wear jewelry (medical alert exempted – Advise Captain).  This includes rings, watches, earrings, bracelets, necklaces, etc…  This will greatly reduce the potential of you snagging upon equipment
  • Cold weather – LAYER UP!  Wind and cold are surprisingly highly magnified on the water
  • Cold weather – (A suggestion) Hand warmers/toe warmers (“Hot Hands,” Zippo hand warmers, etc…)
  • Cold weather – (A suggestion) Nitrile (or similar) disposable rubber gloves provides a water barrier reducing wind-chill to hands


  • Arrive early for your class.  The Captain’s Introduction and Safety Orientation are very important.  They begin promptly at your scheduled class time.  The Captain will cast off shortly thereafter.
  • Classes will be held rain or shine.  However, the Captain may cancel classes before or during, for any reason he may deem contrary to the safety and well-being of the clients, others, the Captain, or the boat. Some reasons for cancellation might include, but are not limited to: Hazardous weather, such as; lightning, high winds, high waves, excessive boat traffic, excessive cold or hot temperatures, illness, injury, or what the Captain deems necessary.  The Captain will cancel all services when NOAA’s, National Weather Service (NWS) predictions reach or exceed 50% chance of thunderstorms occurring during our class time.  Please see our Cancellations & Refund Policy for details.
  • Please, no alcohol, no smoking, no vaping, no illegal drugs and no pets.
  • Feel free to bring a camera, cell phone, or other device to take notes, pictures or videos of you, scenic views, etc…  Please, no recordings of the actual class instructions.

*NOTICE*  Boating and fishing may require modest to strenuous physical exertion, dexterity, and endurance.  Maintaining one’s balance, hanging onto railings during moderate to heavy seas, or just hauling in large fish can be tiring.  It is your responsibility to ensure you possess suitable physical fitness to comfortably manage the aforementioned.  If in doubt, please seek the appropriate medical advice of a qualified physician before purchasing our services or boarding our boats.

We have aboard our vessels (boats) a large variety of fishing gear and tackle, such as, hooks, rod holders, rod racks, sharp implements, sharp knives, braided fishing line, and the like.  Also, some of our fishing tackle, such as jig heads, sinkers, divers, and the like may contain lead.  When employing common sense and sound safety habits, these items are very safe.  However, when improperly handled or used, these items may cause serious bodily injury and/or death.  Following your Captain’s instructions will greatly minimize risks and allow for a fun filled experience.

Persons failing to wear a US Coast Guard (USCG) approved Personal Flotation Device (PFD aka “life jacket”), while aboard any boat, have a greater risk of drowning than those who wear PFD’s, especially persons with little or no swimming abilities.  Although the US Coast Guard only requires approved PFD’s be worn aboard boats by persons under the age of 13, we highly encourage all of our clients wear a PFD while aboard any vessel.  We will provide our clients with USCG approved PFD’s to wear on our boats if they desire.  If preferred, clients may bring their own USCG approved PFD.  It will be the client’s responsibility to inspect their own PFD to ensure it is USCG approved and is safe to wear.  The Captain however, will inspect ALL PFD’s to be worn by persons under the age of 18 to ensure they are safe and USCG compliant.  If they are deemed unsafe or not compliant by the Captain, the child will be required to use our PFDs.  Adult clients electing not to wear a PFD will do so at their own risk.  A situation may arise where the Captain may require everyone aboard to wear a PFD.

Please read our DISCLAIMER.

Thank you,

Capt. Johnny Ellis, Orange Troller LLCOT Logo No white