How To Ice Fish Without a Flasher (Successfully!)

We are surrounded by the latest ice fishing technology to assist in everything from attracting fish to finding them. What happens if you don’t have a flasher or suddenly, your flasher stops working? How would you ice fish without a flasher with success?

Ice fishing without a flasher or Vexilar is accomplished by identifying points, slopes, lake structures, and weed beds in the lake. Drill multiple holes over these areas, searching for fish using Google maps and Navionics. When searching for fish, you should systematically rule out areas without fish.

If you live in the area where you ice fish in winter, you should have a good idea of the lake structure when frozen in winter. Fish are creatures of habit, and depending on the species you are fishing, you can quickly locate them under the ice by studying their patterns.

If you’re looking for how to find fish ice fishing without a fish finder, I’ll go over several ways below, starting with my preferred method!

Ice Fishing Without a Vexilar or Electronics – My Method

When I first arrive at the lake, I decide what structure I want to fish in. It could be points, dropoffs, weed lines, etc. Then I systematically search and fish these areas and move on to other structures if fish are not located.

Photo of Ice Fishing Without a Flasher
Ice FIshing without a Vexilar flasher or electronics

My ice fishing tips are pretty straightforward.

1. Choose the Structures You Want to Fish

Choosing to fish structures such as sloping points, drop-offs, weed lines, etc. Determine where the underwater points are by the topography of the shoreline above.

2. Drill a Line or Grid of Holes Over the Structure

I like to drill a line of holes down the point (shallow to deeper water) and then drill holes across the point, somewhere around the midway part of the point.

Drilling a pattern of holes allows us to fish at different depths along the point and on both sides.

I’ll also drill a “grid” of holes if I believe there are possibly fish holding tight to the bottom below me.

3. Jig Your Lure in Each Hole for 2–3 Minutes

Once all the holes are completely drilled, I’ll return to the first hole drilled and drop my jig or spoon to the bottom and fish through the water column for a few minutes.

Pound the lake bottom to imitate feeding baitfish by raising a sediment cloud. Then raise the lure six inches to a foot with a jigging motion.

Continue to fish the water column in this manner by raising the lure and jigging a foot at a time until your close to the top of the hole.

Drop the lure back down and jig it back up a second time. If you don’t feel a fish strike once you move through all the holes….

4. Move to the Next Similar Structure – Repeat the Process

Move to another point down the shoreline or across the lake. Drill another series of holes and repeat the process of jigging each hole.

The fish may be on a particular point holding baitfish and not another point, or the fish may not be holding on points that day.

After fishing a few points without any strikes, we determine we need to try a different structure like a drop-off or a weed line.

5. Move to a Different Type of Lake Structure – Repeat the Process

Since we have ruled out a particular structure type, we can systematically move to a different kind of structure, whether it is a drop-off, a weed line, or a submerged rockpile or hump.

By moving from structure to structure and fishing different depths, you will cross off where the fish aren’t holding or discover where the fish are on that particular day and weather pattern.

Once you have this technique down, you can quickly cover areas that may produce fish and rule out the areas that don’t have actively feeding fish.

I’d rather search for active fish than try to get a tight-lipped non-feeding fish to strike my lures!

Six Ways To Find Fish Without Using a Flasher

Flashers have not always been around, and anglers had to use their knowledge of the area to locate the usual spots where fish hang out naturally when the lake is iced over. There are several ways to do that, namely;

  • Egg Shells on the bottom
  • Geography
  • Chumming the water where it’s legal
  • Using light to attract fish
  • Using high-quality bait
  • Multiple holes that cover a larger area.

Eggshells On The Bottom

Dropping eggshells to the bottom might sound strange, but it’s proven to work by many ice anglers over decades.

Dumping crushed eggshells down the ice hole creates a white backdrop that assists with seeing the fish clearer as they pass over. It will also attract fish due to their curious nature.


If you are not familiar with the lake you plan to fish in the following season, it will not hurt to take to Google maps or even Google earth and inspect the area closely.

Take notes on what the lake bottom looks like, the depths, where the points and slopes are, and reed beds, or if you can get a physical map of the lake and ask for some local advice, even better.

Chumming The Water Where It’s Legal

Not every state or district allows anglers to chum the water. Where it is permitted and legal, this is an excellent method of attracting fish to your fishing hole and setting a few hooks while they partake in the feeding frenzy.

If chumming Is not allowed, you can scent the water, which will have a similar effect, but it’s your bait they will go for.

Using Light To Attract Fish

Using lights to attract fish at night, especially during a waning moon or crescent moon cycle, will draw fish without fail. The best lights to use would be a green or yellow light. Make sure you purchase a waterproof light that can handle sub-zero temperatures.

Using High-Quality Bait

Depending on your budget, but where possible, it is always best to use the highest quality bait or lures you can afford. Many ice anglers will scent some of their lures when there is low fish activity to see if it will increase.

Matching the hatch is also important. If you can determine what they are feeding on, matching will increase your chances of attracting fish. Neon lures increase visibility and attract fish.

Multiple Holes That Cover A Large Area

Drilling multiple holes in an area will increase your chances of attracting fish and catching several. Many species move around underwater, making it difficult to track. More lines in the water make sense, especially if you’re catching Crappie.

How Do You Attract Fish Under The Ice?

Depending on the species of fish you are after, there are several methods of attracting fish to the ice hole, and you can do that by applying the following ways;

  • Make noise just under the ice with a jig bait or spoon bait.
  • If you can reach the bottom with bait, you can churn up the silt by bouncing the lure, which creates a feeding opportunity.
  • Fish with more than one rod where the state allows increases the attraction when you suspend a lure mid-water (dead sticking).
  • Chumming the water when things are a bit slow can attract fish quickly. Make sure it’s legal to do in your state or county.
  • Illuminating the hole can be helpful as fish are attracted to light, which can help bring them closer to your bait. You can use a green or yellow light.
  • Attempt to use lures that glow in the dark or have a lot of flash tied in. This method is very successful in getting the attention of fish. Sliver, orange, yellow and green flash or neon works best.

If you can drill several holes in the area, you can try different baits and see which will produce the most fish. This way, you can change the other bait to match.

An automated hook setting machine is a helpful tool, and two examples are the automatic fisherman and the JawJacker that are found on Amazon.

Both the Automatic Fishermen above and the Jaw Jacker below are excellent dead stick bases that will set the hook when a fish strikes. I’ve caught a lot of fish with the Jaw Jacker below!

Be sure and check whether hook setting decides like these are acceptable in your fishing areas!

An automated hook setter can be placed on one or more holes while attending to another rod. As soon as the bait is taken, the mechanism releases, and the rod tip whips upward, setting the hook in the fish.

What Depth Is Best To Ice Fish?

Sometimes successful fishing can be the difference between a few feet of water.

Not every fish species will act the same and have different depths where they feed. It’s critical to get to know the habits of the fish you’re trying to catch to ensure you get a bite or ten.

Here are a few ice fishing favorites and where you are likely to find them;

  • Crappie – As a sure panfish favorite, you can expect to find them at depths between 8ft to 12ft deep. They move around, so drilling several holes is an advantage.
  • Walleye – A difficult fish to catch but no less popular. You can expect to find them between 18ft and 25ft deep and shallower. They love to hang out around reeds, drop-offs, and reefs.
  • Yellow Perch – A popular, easy-to-catch fish. You can expect to find them anywhere between 12ft and 35ft of water. They like to hang out in shallow or deep flats but prefer to hang out on the bottom.
  • Trout – As one of the most popular lake fish, trout love to go deep. You can expect to find them at depths between 20ft to 60ft and close to the ice at times! The bigger the fish, the deeper they like to stay.
  • Northern Pike – Large trophy predators such as Pike are highly prized. You can expect to find them between 10ft to 15ft deep. They love to hang out close to reeds.
  • Land Locked Salmon or Kokanee – These magnificent salmon are well worth the work and are the kings of the deep. You can expect to find them at depths of between 20 and a whopping 80ft. For the Kokanee, you’ll have to bring you’re A-game and, more importantly, learn how to handle this extremely sensitive fish.
  • Large and Smallmouth Bass – Notorious for being voracious feeders, bass are easy to catch if you know the lake’s layout. You can expect to find them in depths between 15 and 30ft. Bass will practically eat anything you present it, and they are known to hit the same lure more than once.

A great way to determine the depth is to use a multicolored line that changes every 10ft. When using this type of line, you can accurately lower the lure or bait to the correct depth.

How Does A Flasher Work?

An ice fishing flasher is a sonar device that picks up the movement of fish beneath the water, making it easier to drop bait at the opportune time.

A transducer is dropped down the ice hole, and an LED screen above has green, yellow, and red lights that flash, indicating direction and proximity.

The red light indicates a hard signal, meaning the fish are present; yellow/orange is weaker, and green is the weakest.

There are depth indicators measured in feet along the face of the dial, and where the lights and the depth meet, that’s an indication of how far down you should be fishing.

A flasher greatly increases your chances of success when ice fishing and has become an integral tool for many anglers. It is easy to operate and low cost to run.

Most flashers have an LED designed to withstand severe temperatures and ice making the device reliable and consistent.

Step By Step Guide To Ice Fishing Without A Flasher

The secret to successful ice fishing without a flasher starts with being prepared and ensuring you have all the gear you need.

  1. Decide on the fishing spot and work out the route.
  2. Check any weather notifications for the area.
  3. Make sure the ice is not new and exceeds the 2 to 3 inches required to be safe. You can inquire about the ice thickness at any local bait shop.
  4. To accurately measure the ice thickness, you should drill holes every 15 feet and measure the ice with a pre-measured scoop.
  5. Using an ice auger, drill several holes in the area you intend to fish. Scoop out the slush and get your gear ready.
  6. Bait your hooks and drop the bait down the ice hole. Unless it’s live bait, you will need to use jigging to add movement and life to the lure to attract fish.


To successfully ice fish without using a flasher has been done for centuries through thorough research of the lake’s geography, using the correct bait, and applying some patience.

Have fun and stay 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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