This post is about the workings and what you should look for in an ice fishing fish finder. You can find reviews of some ice fishing fish finders here:
You’ll also want to pick up an ice auger. Check out our ice auger buying guide here.
There are a few important things you always want to remember when you buy a fish finder for ice fishing:
When choosing a fish finder for ice fishing(especially useful if you live up north in Canada or Northern Europe), portability is key – you don’t want to lug something inconveniently sized through snow and ice!
The next most important thing to think about is the battery. Your main unit could be moderately sized, but if you have to carry a huge battery just to power it, it destroys the point. You need a battery that is both small but powerful enough to keep your ice fish finder going for an extended time, so you only have to worry about how many fish you catch, and nothing else!
The major manufacturers all offer special ice fishing packages, so they take care of most of the worrying for you. Humminbird offers a range of special fish finders meant specifically for ice fishing and ice fishing only, with a portable battery pack, transducer, all zipped up in a neat pouch that you can carry easily.
How Ice Fish Finders Work
There are two ways an ice fish finder can find out what’s underneath you. Unfortunately, no one device does both – you will have to choose between one or the other, depending on what is most convenient for you. There are flasher units, which do not show a graph of the details below, but only show a real time look at what’s there.
Even though this is an older technology, it’s still an extremely reliable way to look at the bottom and everything in between. This is the best option if your only use for it is going to be ice fishing, but sometimes reading the display takes a little getting used to.
The other option is to go with 2D sonar. This is a great alternative to the flasher as many of these units can show a graph of what is happening below, or switch to a flasher mode with emulates the look of a flasher unit.
This is the best option as it gives you the best of both worlds, and allows you to compare what you see between both options. Additionally, it also allows you to use the unit for fish finding in the summertime. With a little planning, it’s really easy for you to switch the unit from your boat to a portable packet in the wintertime.
You should be aware though that most compact 2D units will not have a flasher option, so you are stuck with only a normal graph.
Sonar Angle or Cone Size
Since you are stationary in ice fishing, the cone size of your sonar beam will play a huge role. A wider cone can show you much more detail, since it won’t be just of what is directly beneath you, but also of what is all around you. Use it to your advantage!
Cheap ice fishing flashers
HawkEye FT1Pi FishTrax 1X IceShack Kit
While there has been an increase in cheap fish finders lately, they don’t have the quality that well known manufacturers pride themselves on delivering. Of the current offerings in ice flashers, the HawkEYe FT1Pi Ice kit is a solid choice for a very, very reasonable price.
It’s basically the FishTrax 1 bundled in a handy yet rugged carry case which makes it an excellent portable fish finder as well as ready to take out on to the ice.
This is the fish finder itself, which comes with a transducer you’ll have to lower into the hole you’ve cut into the ice. It works a little different than other proper flashers where you could just put the transducer on the ice before you cut the hole.
For the price, though, this is a steal, considering you’d have to spend 2-3 times more to get a proper ice fishing unit. If you’re held back by your budget, go for this.
Garmin Striker 4 Portable
Since we’re looking at cheap options, the Garmin Striker 4 portable is a step above the Hawkeye, but still not a dedicated Ice flasher. It’s more of a fish finder adapted to an ice fishing flasher.
Still, by itself, the Striker 4 is an awesome unit, with dual frequency CHIRP sonar which will give clear returns whether you are fishing from a boat or on the ice.
For a better idea of ice fishing, you can use the flasher mode where the screen will change from a regular fish finder SONAR returns screen to a flasher screen for a more traditional ice fishing experience.
The advantage of this fish finder is that it will double as a regular portable fish finder during the summer months and as an ice fishing finder during the winter months.
High end flashers
Humminbird ICE 55
Humminbird has gone above and beyond with their ICE series, taking the guess work out of finding the perfect spot to ice fish with their ICE 55 Ice Fishing Finder. The Humminbird ICE 55 ice fishing flasher incorporates a six-color, top of the line, flashing, fiber optic display that offers optimum performance that clearly defines the targets within the beam.
With the 6-color screen, you can adjust your color pallet so you can differentiate the depths and adjust the lighting to whichever works best for you. Taking the elements into consideration, the ICE 55 features an extreme temperature LCD with a built-in automatic depth scale that quickly identifies the bottom of the body of water, completing most of the guess work for you.
The ICE 55 features a 10-step interference rejection program so you can differentiate fish from other obstacles. The ICE 55 can isolate a particular part of a water column with precision detail with its fully adjustable zoom feature.
The ICE 55 features seven adjustable depth scales of 20′, 40′, 60′, 80′, 100′, 120′ and 200’; Dual beam transducers and two different transducer cone angles. The power source is a 9 amp hour battery and is included with the product. The ICE 55 system weighs in at 14 pounds, and a soft-sided carrying case comes included.
The FLX-28 is the perfect ice fishing flasher for the avid ice fisherman. The features of the FLX-28 seem endless, with a built-in digital depth finder, two zoom zones, and an onscreen battery meter. The FLX-23 features five color palettes to choose for the best visibility in inclement weather, and day and night time display brightness settings; all rolled into a convenient, easy to read digital display. Speaking of displays, the FLX-28 features one of the best digital displays at a huge 525 lines of resolution. The depth range adjustments are set up in five-foot increments and start at 10 feet in length and have a maximum range of 300 feet in length.
There is a low power setting for fishing in very shallow water and a specialized “Weed Mode” to increase your performance while fishing in weeded areas. The Vexilar’s source of energy is a 12 volt, 9-amp hour battery, all enclosed within the construction of the flasher. A battery charger is included with the flasher,
The FLX-28 also features Vexilar’s patented Ice Ducer system, which is a self-leveling transducer with a float incorporated to ensure the utmost accuracy every time. The Vexilar FLX-28 weighs in a staggeringly low 1.1 pounds so transporting your flasher to your ice shanty will be a breeze.
When it comes to ice fishing finders, MarCum is legendary for providing some of the best marine electronic products on the market today, the LLX-3TCI is no exception. Taking a timeless classic and adding modern features such as an updated physical design with a larger display, ergonomically increased viewing angles and contours to help reduce snow build up while being in the elements.
The MarCum LX-3TCI offers the highest output power for flashers in its class and managed to find the perfect wattage that works in with their acute, precision transducers and internal operating system to ensure flawless readings, every time. Combining all this innovation creates one top shelf grade ice flasher that utilizes real color technology to deliver crystal clear resolution and a crisp, detailed display.
The LX-3TCI offer features like fully adjustable zoom options, MarCums patented 10 level interference rejection system and boasts target separation, accurate to the inch. 2,000 watts of power are flowing through your machine, complete with a 12 Volt 9-amp battery with an automatic battery charger. The Marcum LX-3TCI weighs in at 10.1 pounds, light enough to take this piece of living history with you to catch dozens of fish each time.
Lowrance Hook 4 Ice Machine
The Lowrance Hook 4 Ice Machine is an ice fish flasher with the tech savvy ice fisherman in mind. It features a 4 inch, high-resolution color display to make sure you get a clear picture of what lies beneath the ice.
Lowrance’s patented CHIRP sonar uses a built-in GPS antenna and state of the art navigation features; all rolled into a very user-friendly graphic interface. The CHIRP sonar gives a precise and definitive picture of environment underwater. The Hook 4 also features highly enhanced sonar sensitivity to detect fish within 200 feet. The Hook 4’s target separation and superior noise rejection make it easier to see fish and game fish targets all around your hole in the ice to ensure you do not go home empty handed. Lowrance’s HDI Skimmer combined with the Hook 4 CHIRP sonar settings gives you a very clear picture of the environment under water all the way to 200 feet, so spotting fish has never been easier with superior target separation and excellent noise reduction. These features can be controlled solely with the use of your thumb.
The Hook 4 boasted a built-in GPS system, accurate within in 2 meters and proven navigation features of over 3300 lakes, rivers, and ponds. Finding the perfect fishing spot has never been easier when utilizing the Hook 4’s unique GPS technology. Lowrance also offers a variety of map kits that can be used for international fishing while abroad.
The Hook 4 uses advanced signal processing technology that automatically adjusts your settings to match the current conditions to increase visibility and spot fish much easier under the ice. The overall weight of the Hook 4 is a very manageable three pounds. The Hook 4 comes with a battery, a carrying case, and an ice transducer.
MarCum is back again with their incredible LX-6S Digital sonar system. The LX-6S features a 6 inch, full color, high-resolution LCD display so you can get a clear picture of what is going on underneath the ice. If you like the ability to change the colors of the screen, the LX-6S includes for customizable color palettes so you can choose which display colors work best for you.
The user-friendly, intuitive dashboard menu shows all relevant data needed to ensure you never leave the ice empty handed. Some of the information displayed on the dashboard is your current digital depth, how much voltage your battery is using, your range, interference reduction, desired target adjusts and so much more. You can choose to utilize MarCums multifaceted sonar display, which shows the water column vertical zoom, flasher-dial and full-screen graph displays.
The LX-6S uses MarCum’s patented, state of the art sonar footprint technology that shows areas of bottom coverage at any depth with either an eight degree or a twenty-degree transducer cone angle and 3/4 Target Separation. It’s awesome that this flasher features two sonar units in one. If that’s not enough to make your head spin, the LX-6S also features a target adjust image magnifier and bottom locking zoom feature, patented twelve level interference rejection, adjustable sonar scroll and ping rate and adjustable night vision backlighting display features.
The sonar engine is run by an internal 4800-watt engine with a rechargeable 12 volt, 9 amp hour battery. The MarCum Lx-6S features an 8-foot transducer cable and a USB port for software and technology updates.
The MarCum LX-6S weighs in at 12 pounds, light considering how advanced this ice fishing finder is.
Vexilar GP1812 FL-18
Vexilar had durable in mind when developing their FL-18 Ice fishing finder. This beast is indestructible, so it will last for years battling the harshest elements you can throw at it. The FL-18 boasts features that weren’t available on previous Vexilar ice fishing finders. The FL-18 has a split screen flasher display which gives you the ability to zoom in on the bottom of the lake while you can simultaneously view the entire water column. The three color LED readout provides you with all the accurate target information you need for all sizes and shapes of fish with an easy to read color scale that explains how big the targeted fish are. This three-color lighting technology has proven time and time again to be the most accurate and precise way of figuring out where fish are. You will be astounded at how incredible the FL-18 is for both open water and ice fishing. The Bottom Lock software will keep you fixed on the bottom, no matter what kind of interference is thrown at it. The auto-zoom mode is perfect for watching any fish while ice fishing your favorite spot, especially the kind of fish that hang out at the bottom.
The Fl-18 can pinpoint a target with ID less than half of an inch. The FL-18 makes any fish easy to spot and lock on it. That’s not all, though, The FL-18 depth and fish finder is equipped with features like a built-in shallow water mode, perfect for very shallow bodies of water. The featured Five depth scales can reach depths of 200 feet for the stock model, and 300 feet for the model. The built-in interference rejection system will block out any other sonar devices within 1000 feet.
Vexilar has redesigned the battery compartment and incorporated a universal transducer holder system for any sensor you’d want to take on the lake. The FL-18 can also accept Vexilar accessories like a Battery indicator, Vexilar flexible flashlight or Vexilar’s dual beam iceducer transducer. The FL-18 can fit almost anywhere in your fishing shanty for easy access and handling while fishing. The Vexilar FL-18 comes with a 12 volt, seven amp-hour battery with charger and an iceducer transducer. The entire package weighs in at about 11 pounds. Not too bad at all.
As you can see, there is no shortage of ice fishing finders you can utilize and create successful fishing adventures on the lakes. Do yourself a favor and invest in a high quality, weather resistant ice fishing flagger and see what’s underneath the ice for you to bring to the surface. Don’t just bring home frostbite and an empty bucket!