Are Ice Fishing Flashers Worth It? (Yes! 3 Reasons!)

Would you like to increase your catch rate while on the ice? Flashers will give you a definite fishing advantage over others who don’t use them. Once you have used an electronic ice fishing flasher, you’ll never want to go ice fishing without one again. And here’s why!

Ice fishing flashers are worth having when fishing. With their advanced sonar technology, you can detect fish at different depths you would not discern otherwise. You can watch the fish reacting to your lure or bait in realtime and make presentation adjustments to catch more fish and have more fun.

For myself, this is how important an ice flasher is to me!

One day I was 45 minutes into my drive and halfway to the lake to fish for the day when I realized I had forgotten to load my flasher into the truck! Immediately I turned around to drive back and get it!

For me and many others, ice fishing flashers are that worth it!

If you’re not familiar with or have never used a flasher before, let’s take a quick look at what they are and why you really should have one!

What Does an Ice Fishing Flasher Do

A flasher looks like a basic box with several buttons and dials for most people, but it’s a simple technology!

An ice fishing flasher uses SONAR technology to emit a signal chirp downward. When the signal hits the lake’s bottom or a fish swimming by, the signal is returned to the flasher.

You’ll know the depth of water you’re fishing in and where the fish is in the water column by reading the display.

Ice Fishing in the Wyoming Mountains
Ice fishing the Wyoming mountains with a Vexilar FL-20

The whole flasher system works like this. After you have drilled your hole in the ice, lower the transducer down the hole to just below the ice’s bottom. The transducer will send a signal down the water column, and when reflected, will read how fast the signal is returned.

Once the flasher reads the returned sonar signal, it will give you a visual display on the flasher’s face. By reading the round flasher dial, you will know exactly how deep you are fishing.

And if any fish swims through below you, the flasher will instantly let you know right where it is, five feet or twenty-five feet down so that you can raise or lower your lure to the fish!

Do You Need a Flasher for Ice Fishing

There was a time when we walked about without having a phone in our hands! But anymore, most of us cannot live without technology and have our cell phones with us 24/7! A flasher isn’t any different!

An ice fishing flasher is one of the more important tools you’ll have when venturing onto the ice! Many years ago, people used a lead weight and a string to determine how deep the water was. With today’s technology, an ice fishing flasher will give you depth and tell you if any fish are present.

Our grandfathers used to sit on a five-gallon bucket and stare down a hole for hours waiting on a fish to come by! And you’ll still fish that way if you aren’t carrying a fish finder with you!

What Does a Flasher Do on a Fish Finder

A flasher will give you an instant reading on how deep the water is and it will also give you the exact depth of any fish that swims through below your hole.

Flasher Readout

In the above image, the bottom reading is around 48′ deep. And it is showing a school of suspended crappies between the 20′ and 30′ marks. This is how a flasher works on a fish finder!

An ice fishing flasher allows you to “see” what’s beneath you!

Had I not had my Vexilar FL-20 with me that day, I would never have known where the crappie were holding at! And we would have had hot dogs for supper that night!

Three Advantages of Using an Ice Fishing Flasher

As I said earlier, I’d drive all the way back home to retrieve my flasher if I forgot to load it up! They are a serious part of my ice fishing arsenal!

Know for Sure if Fish Are Below You

If you were jigging your lure near the bottom and not using a flasher, you would never know there was a huge school of fish below you! You would sit on your five-gallon bucket for hours, over the same hole, and never catch a fish!

With a properly working flasher, you can tell instantly if you are on top of fish! You can also tell when a school of fish comes through above or below your bait and have the advantage of moving your bait to them!

This is the main reason we use flashers while ice fishing! Locating fish!

See Fish React to Your Lures in Realtime

The second advantage of using a sonar ice fishing flasher is gauging the fish’s mood.

When you see a “mark” slowly rise to your jig and spook away, you now know to slow down your presentation possibly. Without the flasher, you would have never even known a fish was that close to your jig!

You can adjust your presentation accordingly. Some days the fish want an aggressive approach, and other days they don’t.

If changing your presentation isn’t working, you can change lure colors or switch to a different lure type.

By seeing how fish react to your lures in realtime, you have the ability to make changes and catch those fish. People without a flasher will never know how close they came to catching fish!

The Ability To Move and Follow the Fish

When you’re on top of fish and catching them everyone has a great time! But when the school of fish moves off, what do you do?

With a flasher, it’s an easy move to find the fish again! Simply drill a few holes around the areas and “look” down and see if the fish are there!

Very often, you will find fish on submerged points. Once you exhaust the area, or the fish have moved off of that particular pint, it’s a simple process to hit other submerged points on the lake!

Not every fish in the lake will be on that point, and other fish will be on other points in the lake! Go find them!

I start fishing a point and drill a pattern of eight to ten holes over the area I want to fish. By dropping the flasher into the hole, I can see if any fish are present or not.

Continue to go through the holes until I see a fish mark, and then I’ll fish that hole. If I Don’t see any fish, I’ll use an attractor lure like a large spoon to attract any fish in the area.

If I don’t see fish within ten to fifteen minutes, I’ll move on to another point. If points aren’t working out, I’ll search for submerged humps or rockpiles.

So you can continue to move to find fish, or follow the schools you have found. Either way, an ice fishing flasher is an integral part of your equipment!

What’s Better for Ice Fishing Flasher or Camera

There’s something to be said for both the ice fishing flasher and the camera! Both have their places but I would opt for the flasher to start with, especially if this will be your first piece of electronics!

Ice Fishing Flasher

The flasher will allow you to see well over a hundred feet deep if need be to find lake trout! They are very portable, and unless there are unusual circumstances, you place the transducer into the same hole you’re fishing.

Flashers work well in dark or murky waters, and you can easily use them at night. High-quality flashers have a ‘Night Mode’, which reduces the light glare making them easier for you to use!

Ice fishing Underwater Camera

Now I’m going to have to admit I do carry a small underwater camera with me! I have a small Aqua Vu Micro camera (check it out on Amazon), and it easily fits in my coat pocket and is about the size of a smartphone.

Typically I use it when looking for transitions in the weed lines or mudflat bottoms. These areas of transitional edges can be fish highways!

The other reason I bring it along is when I take kids fishing, and they absolutely love watching schools of yellow perch swimming around!

Besides my Micro Vu, carrying around bulky camera equipment takes up a bunch of room, and I find the flasher to be the better overall piece of equipment. And a camera doesn’t have the ability to see deep down and watch the water column above you like a flasher!

If the water is murky, your visibility is decreased exponentially and can be zero at times too.

Plus you most likely need to drill two or more holes to use the camera. One for the camera equipment, and one next to it to fish.

You Might Need Two Flashers!

Overall, I personally find the flasher to be a better value and workhorse of my ice fishing trips! Are ice fishing flashers worth it? You bet they are! I have owned several flashers at any given time.

Here’s what seems to happen almost every time I take a new person ice fishing! I want them to catch fish and have a good time, so I let them use my flasher.

Once they start using one, they never want to give it back to you! And then you’re stuck fishing blind while they catch the fish!

So I generally always have at least two flashers with me when I take someone fishing or if I’m traveling a long distance to fish. No one ever wants to drive twenty hours to a destination lake and then have the flasher go on the fritz!

Having a back up is peace of mind, and yes flashers are that worth it!

Have fun and be safe out there!

Mike Rodman

Mike is an avid ice fisherman and fishes the Rocky Mountain Region and across the US Ice Belt and Canada. During the off-winter months, he enjoys fly fishing the Wyoming mountains and fishing from his kayak for pike and smallmouth bass. When Mike can find a little spare time, he'll be at his rod bench building custom fishing rods.

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