The behavior of wild, pelagic fish in response to sound playback was observed with a sonar/echo sounder. Schools of sprat Sprattus sprattus and mackerel Scomber scombrus were examined at a quiet coastal location. The fish were exposed to a short sequence of repeated impulsive sounds, simulating the strikes from a pile driver, at different sound pressure levels. The incidence of behavioral responses increased with increasing sound level. Sprat schools were more likely to disperse and mackerel schools more likely to change depth. The sound pressure levels to which the fish schools responded on 50% of presentations were 163.2 and 163.3 dB re 1 μPa peak-to-peak, and the single strike sound exposure levels were 135.0 and 142.0 dB re 1 μPa(2) s, for sprat and mackerel, respectively, estimated from dose response curves. For sounds leading to mackerel responses, particle velocity levels were also estimated. The method of observation by means of a sonar/echo sounder proved successful in examining the behavior of unrestrained fish exposed to different sound levels. The technique may allow further testing of the relationship between responsiveness, sound level, and sound characteristics for different types of man-made sound, for a variety of fish species under varied conditions.