Updated Jun 22, 2022 4:13 PM The best ice fishing fish finder will save you time and energy by quickly an
Updated Jun 22, 2022 4:13 PM
The best ice fishing fish finder will save you time and energy by quickly and accurately identifying structure and fish below the ice. This means less time drilling holes and more time catching fish. An ice fishing fish finder allows you to target the most productive areas and even watch how fish respond to your lure.
The best ice fishing fish finders use the most advanced graphing sonar and GPS navigation available. Still, flashers are popular for their accuracy and versatility.
To make ice fishing easier and safer, the fish finder is housed in a protective case and powered by a small battery. Load your ice fishing fish finder in the back of the snow machine, carry it from hole to hole and even use it on your boat in open water.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Fish Finder for Ice Fishing
Ice fishing anglers want the most advanced sonar and navigation available. The latest fish finders for ice fishing meet that standard, and choices range from basic sounders to advanced flashers and digital graphing fish finders with GPS. To weed out the best ice fishing fish finder for you, consider how and where you will use the fish finder.
Flasher or Graphing Fish Finder
The first choice is between a flasher or graphing fish finder. A flasher uses a circular display with fish and structure appearing as colored lines. A graphing fish finder uses a square screen with fish appearing as blobs or arches and structure represented with a line at the bottom of the screen.
Many ice anglers value the real-time readout of a flasher. The flasher allows you to watch your lure and the fish as they appear below the hole. By adjusting the settings, you can determine the density of the bottom structure to identify rocks, mud or vegetation. Flashers are also reliable in cold weather and easier to power with a smaller battery.
To gain respect among serious ice anglers, digital graphing fish finders have improved real-time response and durability. The best graphing fish finders for ice fishing have a large, clear display of fish and structure below the ice. Ice anglers now have access to side view, down view, and even live view sonar to see life-like, real-time images up to 200 feet away. The best graphing fish finders will include a GPS with detailed maps and charts making it possible to find the best structure and safely navigate to the fishing grounds.
Ice fishing anglers have a wide variety of transducers to meet their needs. The best flasher fish finders use a cone-shaped transducer that provides a detailed return to mark fish and bait and determine the type of structure. Using the transducer cable, the angler drops the transducer through the hole and a float keeps the transducer puck just below the ice.
Digital graphing fish finders offer a variety of sonar options. Many fish finders for ice fishing use a special transducer with flasher, 2D and dual beam CHIRP sonar. Upgrading to forward view, live view, side view or 360 view sonar requires a more advanced transducer. The transducer is mounted on a pole to lower it below the ice.
The biggest limit to an ice fishing fish finder is battery power. A larger, brighter display and more powerful transducer require more battery power. Anglers trying to keep ice fishing simple will value a small fish finder that runs on AAA batteries. More advanced ice fishing fish finders require a small lead acid or lithium-ion battery.
Choosing a fish finder for ice fishing comes down to how many features you need, how much weight you can carry, and how much money you will spend. More features and more options add to the weight and the price. But no matter your requirements for price level and features, there is a great fish finder for ice fishing for you.
Why It Made the Cut: Garmin’s Echomap Ice Fishing Bundle combines a top-of-the-line ice fishing GPS and fish finder with live view sonar and premium preloaded charts. The package includes carry case and 12 amp-hour battery.
- Weight: 16.7 pounds
- Dimensions: 12.3 × 14.5 × 10.0 inches
- Screen Size: 7 inches
- Live view and side view sonar
- Detailed charts of 18,000 lakes
- Battery included
Garmin’s Echomap Ice Fishing Bundle takes the best ice fishing fish finder and GPS and packages them in a convenient carry case with a powerful battery. To find the fish, use the Panoptix LiveScope ForwardVu sonar to search an area up to 100 feet around the hole. Then, switch to LiveScope DownVu to watch the fish respond to your bait.
The Echomap’s GPS utilizes the most detailed Navionics charts yet to navigate on and off the ice and locate the best fishing areas. And with 18,000 included lakes, odds are pretty good that your home waters—and just about anywhere else you’d want to go—are on there. The high-resolution seven-inch screen is easy to read under any light conditions without draining the battery before the day is over.
Why It Made the Cut: Vexilar ice fishing fish finders are famous for unmatched interference rejection and signal clarity with easy-to-use settings. The FLX 30 BB adds a wide sonar frequency band and multiple power modes to produce great target separation from shallow water to the deep. The flasher-style fish finder is compact, light and easy to carry in a sturdy case.
- Weight: 7 pounds, 4.5 ounces
- Dimensions: 4.4″ x 6″ x 2.5″
- Maximum Depth: 300 feet
- Power settings to match depth
- Target identification to ¼ inch
- Easy to see day or night
Vexilar has released the ultimate sonar flasher for ice fishing. Starting with a bright LED display and 525 segment resolution, the FLX 30BB is easy to read day or night. To produce a detailed reading with accuracy to ¼ inch, the broadband transducer uses frequencies from 160 kHz to 300 kHz. If you’re fishing in a crowd, Vexilar boasts 140 frequency combinations to reduce interference from nearby sonars.
The folks at Vexilar know something about the best portable ice fishing fish finder. The FLX 30BB display, battery, and transducer travel on a plastic shuttle protected from the elements by a soft case with a clear plastic window over the display. My favorite features on the Vexilar ice fishing fish finder is the zoom mode for a closeup look at the bottom and the dummy key that sets the flasher on start mode for easy operation.
Why It Made the Cut: For less than $500, the best ice fishing fish finder for the money includes both advanced sonar and detailed maps in a carry case with room for tackle and a battery.
- Weight: 11 pounds
- Dimensions: 14.5” x 10.2” x 7.5” inches
- Screen Size: 5 inches
- Combines DownScan and CHIRP sonar
- Easy to Read Display
- High resolution charts
Lowrance’s Hook 5 Reveal ice fishing fish finder houses an advanced sonar with detailed navigation capabilities in a carry case that can hold tackle and a battery. Lowrance’s ice fishing fish finder uses Reveal sonar that combines a detailed CHIRP signal to mark fish and high-resolution DownScan signal for clearer image of structure.
On the navigation side, coastal and inland charts come standard with the ability to upload more detailed charts. In the bright sun of a crisp winter day, the SolarMax display cuts the glare for a clear view of the screen. Budget minded anglers looking for the best ice fishing fish finder for the money will appreciate the Hook 5 Reveal’s advanced fish finder and GPS for under $500.
Best for Kayaks
Hawkeye Fishtrax 1c IceShack
Why It Made the Cut: Small, light and simple with a color screen and long list of accessories, the Hawkeye Fishtrax is the best fish finder for both kayak and ice fishing.
- Weight: 9.4 ounces
- Dimensions: 12 x 10 x 9 inches
- Screen Size: 3 inches
- Uses AAA batteries
The Hawkeye Fishtrax 1c is a big surprise in a small package. The three-inch color screen and palm-sized waterproof case look simple, but contained inside is quality tech that makes FishTrax 1c the best fish finder for kayak and ice fishing. The color display and dual frequency transducer produce vivid, detailed images of fish and structure. Switch to flasher mode and the Hawkeye ice fishing fish finder provides real time images of action below the ice.
For hard water fishing, carry the Fishtrax 1c in the Ice Shack case, a protective housing with a weighted base to keep the Hawkeye ice fishing fish finder planted and protected. To use the Fishtrax in a kayak, Hawkeye offers a kayak mount and a transducer arm that attach to a standard gear track. Best of all, FishTrax keeps the Hawkeye light and portable by powering the unit with 4 AAA batteries.
Why It Made the Cut: The Helix 9 is the best fish finder for boat and ice fishing, thanks to advanced live view, side view and down view sonar all displayed on a huge nine-inch screen. The ice fishing kit comes with a battery, carry shuttle, jig charger, and transducer adapter kit.
- Screen Size: 9 inches
- Screen Resolution: 1024H x 600V
- Power Draw: 2.4 Amps
- Live view, down view and side view sonar
- Premium charts and maps
- Lithium ion battery, carry shuttle and transducer kit included
Humminbird pulled out all the stops when designing the Ice Helix 9, easily making it my pick for best fish finder for boat and ice fishing. To meet the needs of the most demanding hard water anglers, the Ice Helix 9 includes a transducer with MEGA Live, MEGA Down, and MEGA Side imaging capabilities. The bundle also contains a dual spectrum CHIRP ICE transducer, so you can switch over and use the flasher mode for the most accurate real-time depiction of the action under the ice. Using the combination of sonar signals, an angler can search for structure, then home in on fish, and watch them bite. Six settings block interference from nearby fish finders, and let you fish in a crowd.
Navigation and mapping are just as important to serious ice anglers. The Helix 9’s Lake Master and Coast Master charts combine with Navionics’ navigation engine to display detailed information about structure and provide accurate navigation on and off the ice.
Not only is Humminbird’s ice fishing fish finder mounted on a convenient shuttle, but it makes a powerful navigation aid and fish finder for boating. Simply install a bracket and compatible transducer in the boat and the Helix 9 keeps finding fish after the water turns wet. At almost $3,000, the Ice Helix 9 MEGA Live is the most expensive unit in my review, but the accessories and capabilities on the ice and on the boat make it worth the investment.
To determine the best fish finder for ice fishing, I looked at quality of construction, accessories, portability, features, and user friendliness.
- Construction Quality: Will this unit stand up to hard use on the ice? Will sub-zero temperatures negatively affect the unit in any way? Can it handle bouncing around on the back of a snow machine or being dragged in a sled?
- Accessories: Fish finders need certain accessories to be effective out on the ice. Does this model have the needed hardware to work on the hardwater? These include transducer brackets or floats, but other items can prove to be beneficial.
- Portability: To be useful for ice fishing, a fish finder must be portable. The best models contain all the needed components in an easy to carry caddy. The best include space for battery chargers and tackle so all your gear is stored neatly and ready to go.
- Features: Fish finders use sonar to find fish, but some have additional features that make them more valuable. Navigation and mapping capabilities greatly add to the fish-catching potential.
- User Friendliness: Technology is great, but only if it is easy to use. Are the menus intuitive? Can a gloved finger manipulate the controls?
I started with the most popular and reputable brands. Then, I compared the latest, most advanced models looking for the best features at the lowest price. Since flashers and graphing fish finders for ice fishing usually include a special transducer, carry case, and battery, I compared complete packages for the easiest fish finder to take on the ice and use all day or night in any conditions.
Finally, I looked inside the systems for the latest technology improving the fish finder signal and display, while also providing the most accurate and up-to-date images of fish and structure. For each category, from basic to advanced, I evaluated the competition to pick the best fish finder for ice fishing.
Q: What is the best transducer for ice fishing?
The best transducer for ice fishing is just as important as the display. To accurately send and receive sonar signals, the best transducers take advantage of the latest technology. With the most advanced transducers, anglers can see video-like images of fish and structure directly below the hole, to the sides and in front. Live view sonar provides video-like imaging of the fish, structure, and the lure or bait. Or, you can use a broadband or dual-frequency transducer to capture the action on a flasher or graphic display.
Consider how the transducer will be deployed beneath the ice. A broadband or dual frequency transducer is dropped into the ice hole on the transducer cable with a float to keep the puck just below the ice. Live view or side view transducers are mounted to a pole and positioned below the ice. Then, the pole is rotated so the transducer can capture images in all directions.
Q: Why is a flasher better for ice fishing?
The first fish finders were analog flashers using a circular dial with a spinning arm and LED light to display fish and structure. While these systems were not as easy to read as a modern LCD graphing fish finder, a flasher provides the most accurate image of fish below the transducer. Today, graphing fish finders have reduced the delay between receiving the sonar signal and displaying the information on the screen, but many ice fishing anglers still prefer the reliability and versatility of a flasher.
Flashers can be adjusted to provide detailed information about the fish and type of structure below the transducer. Experienced anglers can interpret the return signal to watch their lure and see how the fish react. Flashers are usually smaller and lighter and draw less power than a large digital display, so they are easier to carry and power with a battery.
Q: Can you use a regular fish finder for ice fishing?
Any fish finder can be used for ice fishing. The display unit on an advanced digital fish finder or LED flasher is basically the same for boaters and ice anglers. The big difference is the transducer. Ice fishing transducers are easier to lower below the ice for a clear image of the bottom and fish. Boaters need a streamlined transducer that is designed to send and receive signal while on the move. To get year-round use out of your fish finder, in the winter use the carry case and ice transducer. Then, on open water, switch the display unit to a bracket and transducer mounted in your boat.
Ice anglers have a wide variety of fish finders to meet their needs. From simple, less expensive models with a few features to advanced models with all the bells and whistles, there is a high-quality, powerful, and reliable fish finder for your type of ice fishing. I found the Humminbird Ice Helix 9 to be the ultimate fish finder for ice and boat. A huge screen, advanced side view, down view, and live view imaging as well as traditional 2D and CHIRP sonar offer more opportunities to find fish and structure. The full-function GPS and detailed navigation charts identify the best fishing spots and the safest route onto the ice. In the summer, the Helix 9 is just as capable on a boat. Simply transfer the nine-inch display to a bracket and transducer installed on the boat. With the Humminbird Ice Helix 9, there is no place for fish to hide.