Using Side Imaging on a Kayak

Side Imaging does work on a Kayak! Only after using side imaging on a boat did I realize what I was doing wrong on my kayak. I’ve had my Humminbird Helix SI on the Pescador Pilot for the last two seasons but found the side/down images so grainy and noisy they were basically useless. On my first kayak I used a basic Lowrance sonar unit without any bells and whistles. It was easy to use and even easier to understand but it left me wanting more features – specifically the ability to mark way-points and side imaging. After reading all the reviews and watching countless videos I was so excited to get into Side Imaging. 

I installed the transducer on my Pescador Pilot using a 1/2” thick piece of HDPE plastic so that the transducer sits lower in the water in order for the Side Imaging to have a clear, unobstructed view. 

HB Side Imaging Transducer mounted on Pescador Pilot 12.0
HB Side Imaging Transducer mounted on Pescador Pilot 12.0

When I installed my new Helix and took the kayak out I was really disappointed with the results – the images I was getting back were near incomprehensible. I tried adjusting numerous settings but the one thing I didn’t think to adjust was the chart speed.

Recently, I borrowed my Dad’s boat for a couple of weeks and mounted my Humminbird Helix to it. Before ice fishing season I wanted to finish mapping out different areas of Pigeon Lake using Autochart Live. Although I usually do this from my kayak, using a boat is way faster and Pigeon Lake can get windy in a hurry. As I was trolling around mapping at about 10km/h, I flipped the screen to side imaging and discovered crisp and clean images that looked like photographs of the bottom – what a revelation! Turns out I was using my Humminbird all wrong. When I am in sonar mode, I usually use it for jigging, and I have my chart speed cranked way up to Ultra. I discovered in the boat that sonar chart speed and side/down imaging chart speed are controlled by the same overall chart speed selection. The blurry images I was seeing in my kayak were a result of the crazy chart speed I had the sonar screen set to. I’ve read the manual time and again and thought I was familiar with the unit, after another look I did manage to find one section about chart speed for side imaging but it wasn’t clear to me how it worked.

Helix Manual Screenshot
Page 103 of the Humminbird Helix Manual (2019 Edition)

Now that I know I’ve since made it a habit to set my chart speed to around 3, matching the typical cruising speed of my kayak of 3 kph (2 mph) and the results are way clearer. 

Chart Speed set to 10
Chart Speed set to 3

I have been missing out on Side Imaging for so long due to human error, but now that it’s working for me I am really excited to see what I can find underwater. Anyone know where I can find a sunken boat?


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