Fish finders are the latest technology available that ensures you always find fish. In this review, we will talk about our five favorite fish finders including the best portable fishfinder for ice fishing. Before that, however, let’s first understand why you would want to use a fish finder and how it can help you no matter what kind of fishing you do.
What is a fish finder?
Simply put, a fish finder is a device that is used to locate fish in the water. SONAR ( Sound Navigation and Ranging) is used to do this. Whenever anything makes a noise or moves (including fish) it sends a wave around it which bounces off objects and return back to the object that released the echo. This is how whales are able to locate fish up to 50 feet (15 meters) away.
On a fish finder, the location of the fish is displayed on a digital screen usually using a ‘fish’ symbol. As the boat approaches the fish, the screen will display arches on the screen to indicate that you are nearing the location of the fish. The best ice fishing fish finder will allow you to adjust the sensitivity which is called peaking the transducer.
In order to function, a transmitter is placed on the boat which is responsible for sending signals through the water. This transmitter sends echoes which reflect back and give you an idea of what is under the boat. The screen displays different colors and symbols for different things-for fish, corals, stones, and others. This way, you won’t’ get confused whether what you are seeing is a school of fish or not.
Is it the same as a flasher?
One thing that both a fish finder and a flasher have in common is that they both use SONAR technology to locate fish. Since flashers are very portable, they are a favorite tool for ice fishing. You can think of it as an ice fishing GPS. There are three main differences between a fish finder and a flasher:
1. The way images are displayed
One thing that differentiates a fish finder and a flasher is the way images are displayed on the screen. A flasher makes use of colors that change from green to yellow to red. The sediment may appear as green then turn to a thick red line while a bait fish would appear as a thin green line.
2. The way they are used
While you will need to attach a transmitter to your boat if you are using a fish finder, you will need to drop the transducer down your ice hole for ice fishing. Then, you set the range according to the deepest range setting to the actual depth.
After this, adjust the gain or the amount of power the transducer emits. Once the screen is clear, zoom into the section of water that has high chances of having fish. Finally, you will be able to drop your lure which you will see as a bar on your screen.
Tips for choosing ice sonar fish finder
Whether to purchase a fish-finder or a flasher is a matter of perspective. Here are some tips to help you make the right choice:
- The type of fish finder you want. Do you want a device specifically for ice fishing or an all-season package? Ice fishing flashers are not designed to be used in the summer so remember this when you make your decision.
- The depth of your fishing. Fishfinders often come in three frequencies namely 50 kHz, 83 kHz and 200 kHz which are designed for different water depths. Fishfinders that only function for a specific depth is cheaper than those who can work on different frequencies.
- How portable do you need it to be? You will need a 12 V marine battery on your boat if you are to work so if you don’t already have that, you will need to make additional purchases.
- Understand the different features and select which fits your needs. Some of the most common features include: (5)
- CHIRP- Compressed High-Intensity Radar Pulse which uses a spectrum of frequencies instead of just one. This covers a larger area.
- Broadband Sounder-uses a single frequency. It can either be 200kHz (for shallow depths), 83 kHz ( mid-range depths) and 50kHz (for very deep water).
- StructureScan HD-these finders emit a high frequency which translates into charts or pictures.
- SpotlightScan- enables horizontal scanning of the surrounding area which boosts fish-location capabilities.
Once you fully understand the different types of fish finders brand, you can compare this to what you are looking for. For example, if you are targeting fish in deep water, you would need either a 50 kHz finder or one that has CHIRP capacity. However, if you want to be more versatile, always make sure that your fish finder uses CHIRP technology.
Best ice fishing sonar to choose from
1. Humminbird 410430-1 ICE Helix 5 Chirp Sonar GPS G2 Fishfinder, 5″
This sonar device is ideal if you are engaging in ice fishing and has been made specifically for the ice angler. You also have the option to choose whether data appears in flasher or combo views on the same screen. For those who value the GPS function, this is a good option.
- Includes an ice fishing transducer
- Has two display modes that can add or remove data such as water depth and temperature
- Comes with a chart of more than 10,000 lakes
- Comes with coastal coverage for the US
- Uses auto chart live with 8 hours of recording time
- Uses CHIRP technology
- Can scan up to 1500 feet
- Upgradable sonar software
- Low battery life
2. Garmin 010-01552-10 Striker 5 Ice Fishing Bundle, 5 inches
If you are looking for the best ice fishing flasher under 400, the Garmin Ice Fishing bundle may be the answer. You will also be able to mark your favorite fishing spots and return the next time with this device. If you are after something that is affordable and functional, the Garmin Ice fishing bundle may be what you are looking for.
- Displays clear detail with zoom function
- Affordable compared to other units
- Displays in fast, real-time with little lag
- Uses a big 5-inch screen for display
- Uses CHIRP technology
- User-friendly and easy setup
- Uses three types of sonars
- Includes a swivel pole mount for the transducer
- Limited to use for ice fishing
3. Vexilar Genz pack
The Vexilar Genz pack is ideal for those who want something to use for both ice fishing and out of a boat. For a sonar device with dual function, it is also an affordable choice. If you usually target fish at the bottom, you will appreciate the “lock” feature.
- Has 30 feet depth finding capacity
- Has an easy to read display
- Has a “lock” feature
- Has a built-in transducer holder that fits all ice transducer sizes
- Uses a base that fits on top of a five-gallon bucket
- Can be used for both ice fishing and out of a boat
- May require a lens cover for bad weather
4. Lowrance 000-11146-001 Elite-5 HDI Combo with Basemap and 50/200-455/800KHz Transducer (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
If versatility is something that you value, the Lowrance Elite 5 combo is a good option to consider. The fish finder is easy to mount and dismount making it ideal if you transfer vessels frequently. In addition to versatility, it has multiple functions making it a good deal if the functionality is a big deal for you.
- Advanced signal processing with limited adjustment
- Features a GPS system with 3000 maps of US lakes
- Can be operated with one finger
- Resistant in 1-meter water for up to 30 minutes
- Easy to mount and dismount
- Has a dim LCD light not ideal for sunny days
5. Marcum LX-7 Ice Fishing Sonar System/Fishfinder – LX-7
The Marcum LX-7 is one of the sonar systems that offers an interactive experience. For those who are looking for something that can be adjusted to fit your needs, this is a good option. The system also offers both 8 degree and 20-degree cone angles which is useful if you are ice fishing.
- Software is upgradable
- Offers clear and vibrant images
- Offers both 8 and 20-degree cone angle
- Real-time display
- User-friendly display with multiple customization options
- Has four color pallets that can be adjusted
- Offers backlight adjusting for longer battery life
- Battery connectors seem to be too loose
Clearly, Lawrence Elite 5 combo is the best fishing finder because it can be used both in summer on the boat and in winter on the ice. The device is very portable and durable making it ideal all year round which is something the other systems lack. It also has a GPS function which allows you to mark your favorite fishing spots and has software and maps that can be upgraded. Unlike the Vexilar Gens pack which is also designed for all-year fishing, the Lawrence works great in bad weather.