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How to Measure Water Depth When Fishing

How to Measure Water Depth When Fishing

11 September 2019

Knowing how deep the water is can be essential to fishing. This can inform the equipment and techniques you need to use, as well as what kind of fish you can expect to catch. There are a number of ways to plumb the depths, each with its own pros and cons. These are the most common methods for gauging depth.

Method 1: Use a Depth Finders or Fish Finder

Pros:

  • The easiest way
  • Accurate

Cons:

  • Usually the most expensive method
  • These devices can be delicate

Depth finders use sonar to find the bottom. Being small and easy to carry, these devices can become an important part of any fishing kit. Some of them attach to the back of boats, while others let you simply point the device at the water from the shore. Fish finders are portable devices used to locate fish, but they often come with a built-in depth gauge too.

Fish finders also come with an ability to locate fish, give you a GPS reading and even map the local area. These can be expensive, although there are some cheaper, simpler depth finding devices available. Also be aware that they can be delicate, so be careful with how you pack them.

Method 2: Mark a Rope

Pros:

  • The cheapest method
  • Easy to learn

Cons:

  • Cumbersome to carry
  • Requires effort to mark up

Of course, there are more old-fashioned ways of getting a reading. Measure and mark the rope at regular intervals with knots, a marker pen or electrical tape. Then tie the rope to a weight, or even just a rock and drop it in.

This is a cheap way of getting a reading. However, it does mean you have to carry a length of rope everywhere, which is especially cumbersome if you need a lot of it for deep waters. It also only measures the depth at exactly the point you drop it. Also, unless you pre-mark it with measurements, you have to manually measure the wet rope after retrieving it.

Method 3: Use a Fishing Line

Pros:

  • One of the cheapest methods
  • Less cumbersome than rope

Cons:

  • Requires extra set up
  • Can be hard to see markings, especially at night

If you don’t fancy carrying over 100 feet of rope around when you fish, then you can also use the same tactic with a fishing line. This is much easier to carry. You can mark it up at regular intervals with a marker pen, electrical tape or marker gum.

The drawback is that if you’re using it on a rod, you might have to change out your line before you start fishing. It can also be a little hard to see the marking, especially in poor light. This is especially true if you mark up with a pen instead of tape or marker gum.

Method 4: Use a Weight and Float

Pros:

  • Uses equipment you may already have
  • Shows the distance between the hook and the float

Cons:

  • Requires a float rig, which you might not otherwise use
  • May require trial-and-error

Attach a float to your line and a weight where you would normally put the hook. Let it sink and the bobber will give you an idea of how deep the water is. If it’s too deep, it will pull the bobber under and you will need to put more line between the float and the weight.

This is an easy method using kit you might already have in your bag, although it does require a float rig, which doesn’t suit all techniques. Also, the trial-and-error required to get a good reading can be time consuming.