Fishing can be difficult at the best of times, but when there’s upward of 2 inches of solid ice covering the water, it can feel like an impossibility.
Granted, even free-flowing river water can be obscured by particulate sediment, but no style of angling requires more guesswork than ice fishing.
It’s not unheard of for experienced fisherfolk to come back from an ice fishing trip they’ve been looking forward to all year, empty-handed.
Of course, a fishing trip isn’t all about the catch, but it can feel incredibly deflating having put in all that patience and effort. Not to worry, though; we have the answer!
After significant research and testing, we’ve compiled a list of five of the very best ice fishing flashers. An ice fishing flasher is a handheld sonar device that tracks movement vertically from your fishing hole.
With one of these in your pack, you’ll never go hungry after an ice fishing trip again.
OUR TOP PICK
The MarCum LX7 is undoubtedly the best way to ensure that a trip to the frigid ice shanty wasn’t a waste of your weekend. What strikes you instantly about the LX-7 is the customizability of the display and the type of visuals it can deliver.
The user-defined dashboard on the 8” LCD color screen gives you full control over the presentation of digital depth, battery voltage, range, gain, interference rejection, and target adjustment.
Fine-tuning the read to suit your preferences ensures clarity and eliminates missed opportunities due to confusion.
You can also choose between a vertical 1D read of the ice column or a traditional 2D horizontal read, whichever you think offers more spatial acuity.
Speaking of space, the LX-7 features accurate object separation over distances as small as 0.5”, removing as much guesswork as possible. Moreover, it collates recent histories of movement in your water column so that you can check it out at a later date.
Marcum’s proprietary 12-step interference rejection technology almost completely blocks the signals of other ice flashers, so there’s no need to be a lone wolf on the ice. With the LX-7, you can fish with friends stationed at different columns in close proximity.
One last thing we’d like to mention is the fantastic sonar footprint technology.
Compatible with an 8-degree transducer that excels in deep waters and a 20-degree transducer with an extra-wide sonar cone for scanning large areas in shallow water, the LX-7 should be your go-to flasher regardless of depth.
- Customizable 8” Color LCD Display - You can switch up the display layout and read to keep a close eye on submerged goings-on.
- Spatial Clarity - Tracks objects separated by as little as ½ an inch.
- Depth Versatility - Dual 8/20 transducer is all you need for a wide and clear picture of any depth.
- 12-Step IR - Awesome interference rejection allows you to fish around other fisherpeople without picking up their flasher signals.
- Battery Included - The LX-7 comes ready to fish right out the box, so have your bags packed.
- Price - This kind of tech is going to cost you.
You may have already heard talk of the Ice Helix 5 as it’s one of the most popular flashers on the market. It’s garnered this notoriety for several reasons, but a particularly special feature is the CHIRP sonar.
It allows the IH 5 to differentiate between objects as little as 0.75 inches apart, giving you clear visuals on fish no matter the depth or how close they come to your lure.
The IH 5 also brings some fantastic zoom technology to the equation. With a 2X zoom on the display and an extra 8X zoom on a 2D sonar view, you can hone in on targets hugging the bed or nearing the rim of the column.
These advanced optics combined with the intricate target separation mean nothing escapes your sights.
Another thing we love about the IH 5 is the integrated GPS and Humminbird base map.
This map provides precise charting details of the US coast in its entirety, and it draws its data from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), the most reliable source in saltwater navigation.
The GPS function allows you to set waymarkers to all your favorite locations, aiding you in planning your future fishing adventures.
You can also use the IH 5 as a charging station for glow jigs and spoons, increasing the chance of a bite and a better haul overall.
- Dual Spectrum CHIRP Sonar - This sonar shows separate objects that are as close as ¾” apart. It can be paired with any CHIRP transducer, making this a useful tool in the summer months too.
- NOAA Basemap and GPS - This feature brings the coast of the nation to your fingertips. Use it to plan trips, check locational dangers, and mark out favorite spots.
- Charge Mode - Use the IH 5 to charge electric jigs and spoons to help you make the catch of the season.
- Adjustable Zoom - 2X flasher and 8X sonar zoom allow you to observe targets in great detail.
- 400 ft Max Depth - Best depth capacity on our list.
- Battery Included - Comes with 9AH battery and charger.
- Price - Not as pricey as the MarCum flasher, but still costs a pretty penny.
While the Striker 4 isn’t necessarily a specialist ice fishing device, the integrated flasher technology in the display enables you to hook up an ice transducer and use it as an effective ice fishing tool nonetheless.
Coming in at roughly half the price of our top MarCum pick, this is a brilliant option for anglers on a budget, and the best part is, it has most of the same features.
It comes with a high-sensitivity GPS for marking out all your favorite hotspots for return visits, and it records sonar history, so you can go over your findings with a fine-toothed comb and check for missed opportunities.
The Striker 4 also comes with integrated dual-beam CHIRP sonar and pristinely scaling graphics for constant and accurate readings at all times, even as you switch between depth ranges.
Arriving with a quality bag that accommodates the Striker and all the accessories included with the purchase, such as a battery, charger, and three different transducer mounts, this thing is ready for the road and the river on arrival.
You’ll notice the screen is a much more compact 3.5 inches as opposed to 8 or 5”, and it only comes with a 480 x 320 resolution, but for the functionality of the Striker 4, anything more would be overkill.
This is an awesome device to help increase your ice fishing yield, ensuring those frozen fingers and red nose are all worth it. What’s more, as it’s primarily designed as a general fish finder, you can hook it up to a Garmin Clearvu sonar for scoping fish year-round.
- Price Tag - The Striker 4 is some awesome fishing tech for the price.
- Detailed GPS - 1 ft. contour line topography allows you to set highly accurate waypoints and track your relative distance from hotspots.
- Accurate Readings - The Garmin CHIRP ice fishing transducer provides incredibly accurate and consistent data, so you never miss even minute movement.
- Bag and Accessories - This thing comes loaded with goodies, and everything fits perfectly into the included carry case.
- Battery Power - The battery should last around two full days on a single charge.
- Transducer Power - The included transducer has trouble recording the bed structure.
- Minimal Display - The display isn’t as advanced as some of our other picks, but it's almost all most will need.
The Humminbird Ice-35 is a no-nonsense flasher designed for use in frigid temperatures as low as -20°. The fiber optic display with a color LCD central dial gives you exquisite readings of bed structure, fish, and your lure, ensuring you’re primed and ready for a bite.
The LCD dial provides depth display and automatic depth scaling, enabling you to focus on what counts, increasing your catch rate.
Loaded with dual-spectrum CHIRP sonar, you’re able to select whichever transducer suits the waters, giving you a holistic view of life beneath the ice.
The depth and bottom readings are so accurate; you can drop or reel your lure precisely at the level of incoming fish. This thing works so well; some purists may consider it cheating.
It’s not the most sensitive flasher on the market. Our MarCum option is more capable in that area, but it still offers fantastic detention, enough so that you’ll know if you’ve hit a dead zone within a minute or two.
Then you can simply move on to another column and try again. Even if you don’t wish to use this for catching the fish, its ability to locate promising areas and reduce time spent hole-hopping is worth the price alone.
- Large Display - The 3-color fiberoptic and LCD display is sizable and clear, so you’re never out of the loop, and color-coded sizing lets you know the caliber of fish lurking beneath the ice.
- Dual-Spectrum CHIRP - Dual-beam sonar allows you to fine-tune for different depths.
- Accurate Readings - The Ice-35 offers intensely fast detection and accurate depth readings.
- Price - This is one of the best value-for-money flashers you can buy.
- On-Screen Zoom - Get a closer look at your prospects using the zoom function.
- No GPS - You won’t be able to mark out your favorite spots or plot trips with this flasher.
- Medium Sensitivity - 2.5-inch target separation will be fine for most, but it’s not the most sensitive flasher around.
Here we have another fish finder that lends itself incredibly well to those wintry trips to the lake, and you can pick one up for a fraction of the cost of our other picks. It’s not a complex device, but in our opinion, that’s one of the biggest selling points.
The 2” anti-UV LCD display delivers a vague idea of bottom contour and fish proximity. It also has an impressive 328-foot depth capacity, so you can take this little thing with you to your favorite deep columns and return with a full icebox.
As it’s not a dedicated ice flasher, there is a protocol to follow to get accurate reads. Before drilling a hole, you have to place it flat on smooth ice to establish fish distribution. If there is frost or snow in between them, it can disrupt the sensor.
There also has to be water directly touching the underside of the ice. Any air gaps will reduce accuracy.
We’d describe this finder as low sensitivity. It will often mistake large jigs for fish, but for the price, it just can’t be beaten. With this flasher by your side, you’ll lament all summer long, waiting for your chance to hit the ice again.
- Price - You won’t find a cheaper finder for ice fishing.
- Depth Capacity - For a decidedly entry-level product, the 328 ft. depth range is very impressive.
- Depth Readings - One thing the Lucky Fish Finder does exceptionally well provides accurate depth readings, letting you know what equipment you should use.
- Fiddly - It’s a little fiddly to use for ice fishing and isn’t quite as capable of handling low temperatures.
- No Specifics - It doesn’t give you specific locations other than when a fish is directly under the sensor.
How to Choose the Best Ice Fishing Flasher - Buyer’s Guide
We know you want to get out on the ice, but before you settle on any old flasher and step out into the wintry wild, let’s run over a few key considerations.
One of the key tenets of fishing, on ice or otherwise, is patience, but unfortunately, batteries don’t understand these human concepts.
As a fulfilling and fruitful fishing trip is barely ever a short affair, and cold weather drains batteries faster than warm, your flasher needs to have a top-quality power supply.
Long charge life is an absolute must, and if possible, shoot for a lithium design instead of the typical SLA battery, as they almost always power on more than twice as long as their sealed lead counterparts.
More expensive flashers tend to be quite large to give you the luxury of an expansive display and access to swanky extras like GPS positioning, but as ice fishing involves frequent relocations, a compact design is imperative. It needs to be easy to pack and lightweight.
Most companies include custom carry cases with their flashers, which is ideal. They tend to have room for several accessories while fitting nicely into a small pack.
Durability - Built to Handle the Chill
Just as technology can overheat in high temperatures, so can it be brought to a grinding halt in sub-zero environments.
A good flasher needs to survive exposure to the elements to maintain performance and be of any real use to you. This means it needs to be resistant to water damage, contact with ice and snow, and withstand wintry climates for days on end.
You’ll also need to ensure the flasher has an ice transducer rather than a normal one.
This is why we’d always recommend kitting yourself out with a dedicated ice fishing flasher rather than a typical fish finder.
Flashers exist to make things easier, which is why a simple and intuitive interface is essential. An overcomplicated design with a hefty learning curve will only cause confusion in a time-sensitive situation.
That’s not to say that detail in a flasher isn’t great; it is...in fact, the more information it can relay, the better, but only if it can be displayed with acuity.
You’ll inevitably need to do some fine-tuning on location, so it’s not just clear readings a flasher must provide, but intuitive and ergonomic controls too. You need to be able to tweak settings with gloves on and possibly in reduced visibility.
Display and Screen Resolution
Ice fishing tends to take place in bleak and gloomy lighting, so to be truly fit for purpose, a flasher needs to have some sort of illuminative display. The transducer’s findings should be visible at all times.
To avoid a lot of squinting and eye strain, you’ll also need a flasher with a decent resolution. Larger screens with dense pixels offer the most clarity. With an 800 x 600 resolution, the MarCum flasher offers the best display on our list.
Crisp and vivid at all times, it never leaves you in the lurch, guessing at readings.
Transducers are the components of a flasher responsible for emitting the sonar signals and retrieving information from the depths.
Cold Weather Design
As mentioned in the FAQ, for ice fishing, you’ll need an ice transducer. These devices are specially honed to survive extreme sub-zero conditions. They also come equipped with a float that holds them in position, peering straight down into your column.
This means you’ll always have visuals on essential activities.
The power of a transducer is measured in watts, and generally speaking, the more, the merrier. A more powerful transducer will emit a stronger signal, enabling it to locate more targets and in greater detail.
Transducer Cone Angle
The cone angle or beam type of your transducer defines how deep the sonar will penetrate and how wide its field of vision will be. Small degree cones are perfect for ice fishing in deep water as they pierce the adamantine depths, becoming wider in densely populated areas near the bed.
Larger wide-angle cones are best suited to ice fishing in shallow waters, as their field of vision opens up dramatically over a short distance, ensuring you get a detailed picture across the entire diameter of your column.
The frequency of a transducer measures how many sonar pulses it emits a second. High-frequency designs are best as they give you a constant, real-time account of goings-on under the surface. Lower frequencies will exhibit fractional amounts of lag.
Target separation refers to how close two or more objects can be and still be differentiated by the transducer.
The smaller the target separation, the more articulate the readings will be, meaning you’ll always have eyes on small objects such as your jig and approaching fish independently.
When more than one transducer is working nearby, the signals can become entangled, resulting in poor and inaccurate readings. As you probably go ice fishing with a buddy with whom you can share a few extra cold ones, it’s more than likely that you’ll experience some sort of interference.
Don’t worry, though. You don’t have to uninvite your friends and disappear into the wilderness alone. You just have to search for a flasher that features strong interference rejection.
IR protocols block any risky signals that could potentially hamper performance, ensuring you have clear readings at all times.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Does a Flasher Work for Ice Fishing?
In its essence, a flasher is still a fish finder. It just has special features that make it great for ice fishing in particular.
Its purpose is to relay information about life and terrain below the ice. Unlike traditional fish finders, flashers are designed to assess vertical areas of water, by which we mean they only report information about your column, the water directly below your fishing hole.
Movement outside this vertical zone is ignored as it’s unimportant to you.
Flashers use ice transducers, little devices designed to withstand extremely low temperatures that emit a wide sonar beam through the water that rebounds off objects to find out this information.
The transducer receives the rebounded signal and translates its findings of object size and location, water depth, and bed contour into visual instructions.
As they’re only used for stationery and vertical fishing, results are incredibly easy to display and often given only a single line or circular display.
How to Read an Ice Fishing Flasher?
As flasher displays differ slightly from model to model, there’ll be a different method for reading results with each one, but most feature a circular display. It can look quite intimidating at first, but they’re incredibly easy to read.
The circular design is made up of a central display and a ring that runs around it. The central display tells you depth either digitally or with static measurements in ft. running around the rim like the numbers on a clock. You can think of the ring around the inner display as your column.
The bottom structure of your column will be displayed on the ring by color-coded blocks with red meaning hard surfaces, yellow meaning moderately solid surfaces, and green meaning soft surfaces.
You can watch your lure traveling down clockwise from 12 around the ring, and now you know where the water bed is, you can avoid going too low and getting it caught in the substrate or keeping it too high and away from fish activity.
If fish close to the bed are attracted by your bait, you’ll see yellow and green blocks break off from the blocks that depict the bottom and travel anti-clockwise along the ring towards your lure. When the blocks align, you can set your hook and real them in. It’s as simple as that.
Can You Use a Regular Fish Finder for Ice Fishing?
We’re happy to say that, yes, you can. If you can get the transducer to stay vertically focused, a normal fish finder will be a great help on the ice.
As is the case with our final pick, you can even use them to scout the situation down below before you even open up your fishing hole. That said, ice fishing flashes exist for a reason.
Ice transducers can handle sub-zero temperatures for days on end, while the transducers included with most traditional fish finders aren’t so keen on the cold, so if you’ve got fairly frequent ice fishing plans, the chances are you’ll break your fishfinder.
Another reason a normal fish finder isn’t such a great idea is because their transducers don’t have the specialist sliding float that keeps ice transducers securely facing straight down.
They tend to rock and lean, giving you visuals of water content beside your column rather than down it. Trying to position them correctly can be an irritating and time-consuming task.
Do You Need a Flasher for Ice Fishing?
Ice flashers are considered pretty vital bits of gear, but they’re not essential. Food, appropriate warm clothing, water, fishing equipment, a good pack, and shelter are indispensable. As long as you have these rudiments, you can get by on the ice.
You’ll have to be patient as without a flasher; you’ll have no idea where the fish are located. This means long stints at each column before hole-hopping and trying again.
Ultimately, a flasher will increase your catch rate, but it doesn’t define it completely. If you know what you’re doing, and you know the spot, you’ll still snag plenty of fish.
Hit the Ice
There you have it, folks, five of the best ice fishing flashers on the market for boosting your catch rates and having a hell of a time while doing so.
Now that you know how they work and what makes a good flasher, you’re ready to take the next step and commit to a purchase. Spend a couple of hours learning the ins and outs, and you can be on the ice pulling in a record haul in no time.