One of the best ways to find fish underneath the ice is to use an ice fishing flasher. Ice fishing flashers are valuable pieces of equipment that use sonar to both find fish and see how they are moving.
Read on to discover the five best ice fishing flashers to choose from in 2023!
Our Top Picks
Humminbird ICE 35 Three-Color Flasher
Vexilar FL-18 – The Classic!
Lowrance HOOK2-5 Fishfinder Ice Machine Pack
1. Humminbird ICE 35 Three-Color Flasher
Let’s get back to the more traditional ice fishing flasher. This unit is simple and effective. It’s a black square with the focal point on the flasher dial and the readings at the center of the unit. The keypad is on the right and offers a number of different keys to tweak this unit.
This simplistic design also features a branded foam float for adjusting the depth of the transducer. All of it fits inside a simple yet durable black carrying bag. It is also important to note that this entire unit was designed to fit down into a 5-gallon bucket! So along with tackle, hats, gloves, and even lunch, you can pack the ICE 35 Flasher up, too.
Now, let’s talk about what this ice fishing flasher is capable of. You see, on the outside, it looks like a black box, but inside, the ICE 35 is packed with the latest technology to give you eyes under the water.
It all starts with the dual beam sonar that allows you to search the water columns for fish and cover. Narrow your beam when you have found fish and want to really understand the details of what you are looking at. This dual-beam solar option gives you a wide depth range.
All of that sonar power means nothing if you cannot read the screen on a sunny day. That is why Humminbird create a 3-color fiber optic display for this unit. It stands up to the midday sun but also gives you a lot of details in terms of what is going on beneath the ice.
The Ice Target Line feature gives you the ability to place that line at any depth. Doing so will allow you to keep your bait at that depth or even come back to it time and time again should you explore even deeper waters. Target the depth in the water column where you found that school of crappie.
The 9 amp hour battery with wall charger ensures you can take advantage of all the features like its dynamic zoom, adjustable gain, and adjustable and auto ranges. This is a great ice fishing flasher.
- Simple design
- Fits in a 5-gallon bucket
- Target line feature
- 3-color fiber optic display
- Most expensive
2. Vexilar FL-18
This ice fishing flasher is nearly indestructible and designed to do its job in the worst conditions. The Vexilar FL-18 was improved upon by ice fishing legend Dave Genz. Its base design is enough to help anyone better understand the body of water they are on and the fish that are just beneath them.
There are a ton of accessories that you can buy if you want to upgrade your Vexilar experience, you can add on everything from a battery status indicator to a rod holder. There are a ton of accessories designed just for this unit.
The box fits on top of a 5-gallon bucket which gives you a much better view so that you can view this ice fishing flasher to help determine things like the depth of the lake you are on, if there are fish in the area, or how deep your bait is getting.
Its standout feature is the Zoom which allows for even better clarity in water depths greater than 30 feet. This makes a huge difference when fish are interacting with your bait below that depth.
The LED readout is very bright, which makes reading even on bright days much easier. For power, the unit comes with 12V 9 AMP hour battery. The Vexilars built-in transducer holder is large enough to hold any size transducer.
You can lock on the bottom and get readings on lakes as deep as 200 feet or as shallow as 20.
- Highly durable
- Fits atop a 5-gallon bucket
- Super bright LED readout
- Low power mode
- Takes time to learn the zoom
3. MarCum M Series
The Marcum M Series claims to be the most advanced series of flashers on the market. That is an impressive claim to make. I was interested to know more about this flasher after reading that.
One of the standout features of the MarCum series is that it features the highest resolution display available on commercial ice fishing flashers. In other words, you are going to be able to see the bottom of the lake, your bait, the baitfish, and the fish below, even on the sunniest days.
The brushless design means that your MarCum M Series is going to run silently and for as long as you need it to. That is also due to the fact that the M Series is powered by lithium.
All that said, where the M Series really shines is in its patented target separation technology. This allows you to tell the difference between a large fish swimming in a larger school or the fish nearest to the particular bait that you are using.
The M5L MarCum has 3/4 of an inch target separation. This means it can recognize fish that have only 3/4 of an inch between them! Great for fishing bunched-up schools of crappie.
The M Series by MarCum is a great example of what the average ice fisherman is looking for in an ice flasher.
- The best target separation
- Highest resolution
- No Battery Level Indicator
4. Garmin STRIKER Plus Ice Fishing Bundle
What really surprised me about the Garmin Striker Plus was its level of capability. This is not a traditional ice fishing flasher, and it almost feels a little unfair to put it up against other traditional units. It truly is a bundle of technologies that work not only for the ice fisherman but for the fisherman at large.
Let’s start with the screen, which is 4″ and sunlight readable. This screen is where all of the information shows up on the body of water and what’s lurking below.
If you struggle to read these types of screens in the sun, then this unit might not work for you. However, it promises no sun glare and performs well in the midday sun.
This is not a touch screen and all of your inputs are physical keys to the right side of the display. This is great for ice fishing because you don’t have to take off your gloves to operate it.
An ice fishing transducer is built into this unit though it is not the type of transducer that goes into the water directly. This entire unit stays above water. The transducer includes a high, wide CHIRP and will provide you with excellent target separation on the screen.
The actual ice fishing flasher is a selection that is built in. You will get a digital ice fishing flasher that is overlaid on the screen.
The flasher still performs in the way that you would expect it to, but for the traditionalist, you will be left looking at a flat 4″ screen rather than the lights of the ice fishing flasher. That could be a deal breaker for you.
While many of the drawbacks come from this LCD screen, it does give you the ability to create a completely customized display that can overlay your ice fishing flasher with any of the other screens. There is a lot to explore with the Garmin ECHOMAP.
- Multiple technologies and displays
- Non-traditional flasher face
5. Lowrance HOOK2-5 Fishfinder Ice Machine Pack
This is a 2-in-1 sonar model, which makes it ideal for both ice fishing and other types of fishing. This is a great model for the kind of fisherman that wants to stay on the water all year but also likes to do some quality ice fishing.
The Hook2 5 Ice Machine really starts with its autotune sonar that adapts to water conditions. You cannot control what is going on under the ice but you are still gonna want to see it all. This unit takes care of that for you.
This model offers three different types of included transducers, but the split shot transducer is going to be the best option for the ice fisherman. With the split transducer, you are going to get high CHIRP sonar plus DownScan imaging. This will give you a complete view of what is under the ice.
This Lowrance model has some amazing options with its easy-to-read, top-quality solar max screen. The simple keypad makes it one of the easiest ice fishing fish finders to use on the market. The keypad is essential for cold water performance.
Being a Lowrance product, you are also treated to some high-level navigation features, too. The upgrades are numerous, but the base model gives you some real freedom to explore.
The GPS plotter is going to allow you to set waypoints as you travel, follow trails, monitor the water levels, and get your right to your favorite fishing spots time and time again. While the average ice fishing flasher does not come with this kind of capability, the Hook2 uses both sonar and GPS to deliver a standout product.
- Wide chirp sonar for more coverage
- GPS navigation built-in
- Mutliple transducers to meet your needs
- The screen freezes and depth disappears after
What Is an Ice Fishing Flasher?
The ice fishing flasher is very similar to a fish finder that you would use on a boat. The ice fishing flasher uses sonar to find important things like the bottom of the lake, the fish, the baitfish, and even your bait.
This can go a very long way when fishing below the ice because it gives you eyes on what is below you. Rather than just fishing blindly, the ice fishing flasher gives you a much better sense of what is going on under the water.
You will have a screen that will give you all kinds of information about the depth and what the sonar is encountering down there in the water. All of this data will help you decide if you are fishing in a good spot and what kind of bait to use.
Why Use an Ice Fishing Flasher?
The ice fishing flasher gives you a distinct advantage because you are not merely returning to a spot you were at last year where the fish were. Instead, you are going to be looking underneath the ice to see exactly what is going on down there.
The ice fishing flasher also gives you an advantage against the lake. The larger the lake the better it will be to use an ice fishing flasher. There is just so much water to cover and it is easier to cut a hole and float your transducer for a minute or so than to cut a hole and invest a few hours just to come up empty-handed.
If you can afford the technology to look under the water to find fish, baitfish, and cover, then it is well worth it, and it will save you serious time.
How to Read an Ice Fishing Flasher
An ice fishing flasher gives you the ability to see more than just where the fish are and what cover is beneath you. In fact, once you get the flasher dialed in, you will be able to see what the fish are doing down there and how they are reacting to your bait.
The big number in the center is going to give you the depth of the lake you are fishing. This will show you where the bottom is and how deep the water is. This is the largest numerical reading on your display.
Hard Red (Bottom)
The hard red line that appears at and below the depth of the lake is the bottom. As the sonar dies off, it will dissolve into more of a mixture of red and yellows. However, at the depth of the lake, you will see an unmoving red line, and that is the lake floor.
Red and Yellow Off the Bottom (Fish)
Just above the solid red of the lake floor, you will see a red-yellow segment if there are fish there. This segment will move from time to time, and when they move up toward your jig, you will actually see the yellow separate from the bottom and move up toward your fishing lure.
Yellow/Green (Fishing Lure)
When you drop your fishing lure down into the water, it will show up on your flasher as a yellow/greenish/blue line. Jig your line a couple of times to see if this is your jig for sure. That blue line should move each time you lift your rod tip.
Set your jig about 1 foot above the reading of the fish. This is the best way to use the ice fishing flasher with your bait.
When you see fish movement near your lure, remember that your sonar reading is a cone, so it doesn’t mean that your bait is directly underneath the lure. It could be off to the side. Keep working your lure to see what kind of presentation they are after.
Can You Use a Regular Fish Finder for Ice Fishing?
Some of the ice fishing flashers that we reviewed in this article were fish finders and combination fish finders and fish flashers. If you have a unit that comes with a transducer that can be dropped into an ice fishing hole, then you can use a fish finder to look deep into the water and under the ice.
Wrapping up the Best Ice Fishing Flashers for This Year
The more you use an ice fishing flasher, the better you will become at reading it and using it to better your chances. Once you use one and you realize how effective it can be for ice fishing, it is hard to head out to the water without one.
To be honest, it feels like shooting at targets in the dark when you are cutting a hole in the ice, dropping a lure, and just hopping for results. Instead, use the tech we have available to us and create a whole new fishing experience.
I find the ice flasher is a great way to engage kids in ice fishing, too. They can see the fish move down there and really understand how their actions are affecting the fish and getting them to bite.
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