Does Side Imaging Work for Ice Fishing ?

You may have got a large catch while on an ice fishing trip. Or at times, you may have got next to nothing. You face this uncertainty as you don’t know the location of the fish. In other words, it is good to know where the fish is. For doing so, you can use sonar scanners available in the market. If you already have a side imaging scanner, you may wonder if you can use them for ice fishing as well.

Side imaging scanners don’t work well for ice fishing. The side imaging devices need to move for them to develop an image below the surface. Since for ice fishing, you cut a hole at one place to catch fish, side imaging will not give you any results. You can however use ice fishing scanners separately developed for this purpose. They are portable and come at a lesser price.

It is important to know about side scanners and scanners for ice fishing. If you plan to use one on your next trip, this article is for you. We bring to you all about sonar scanning for ice fishing. This article is useful for both beginners and pros.

Side imaging and fishing

Side imaging works on SONAR. Sonar stands for SOund NAvigation and Ranging. It is used to detect objects underneath the water through sound waves. It is of two types – active sonar where sound waves are emitted by the sonar device and the echo is used to detect an object. The passive sonar is used to only listen to the sound waves underneath the water and decide on an object’s location.

The fishing industry utilizes sonar to detect the fish location in lakes, rivers, and oceans. Depending on it, the fishing trawlers cast their nets to get an optimum catch. Usually, sonar for fishing is used on a commercial scale. At the same time, sonar equipment is also available for angling enthusiasts.

There are two types of sonar imaging available for fishing. They are:

  • Side imaging
  • Down imaging

In side imaging, the sonar transducer emits a fine, high-frequency beam and listens to the reflections. It is mounted on the side of a ship. Some side imaging sonar emits beams of multiple frequencies to cover every corner of the sea floor.

In down imaging, the sonar transducer is mounted on the hull of the ship. It produces very high-quality images of the region beneath it. Down imaging sonar has better throughput than its side imaging counterpart.

In both cases, the sonar unit primarily has a transducer that emits the high-frequency beam. It is wired to a display or a fish finding unit which processes the incoming signals to display the images underneath the surface. Either of the sonar is designed to work properly when in motion. These devices point you to the exact spot where the fish is available leading to an optimal catch.

Side scanning and ice fishing

Side scanners are less useful for ice fishing. Side scanners are designed to be mounted on boats and they provide images while the unit is on the move. They are useful in oceans and other water bodies where the angler is moving; not stationary. There are certain side scanners that are developed such that they work in both moving and stationary situations. You can get yourself these side scanners if you intend to use them in either situation.

Why use fish scanners for ice fishing in the first place ?

You may wonder why such a fuss about fish scanners in ice fishing? Why should you go for it in the first place? There are a few advantages of using fish scanners during ice fishing. Some of them are:

  • To have a good catch: Scanners help you to get a good catch. With them, you don’t have to rely on your luck while on an ice fishing trip. You can find where the fish is and throw in your hooks.
  • To save effort: Fish scanners tell you where the fish is. So you don’t have to try it out by drilling multiple holes. This translates to lesser effort and more enjoyment during ice fishing.
  • To save time: With ice fishing scanners, you can decide on your fishing location within minutes. You can use them from the ice surface to detect the fish’s location and cut in your ice fishing hole.

How is an ice fishing scanner different from its conventional counterpart ?


Ice fishing fish scanners use transducers that utilize a wide-angle high-frequency beam. It provides better information at the price range. Ice fishing scanners are portable and are powered by batteries. They are built to be lightweight and at times have in-built GPS systems.

Conventional fish scanners have bigger and better transducers with long-range. They are powered through the boat’s power supply and are fixed on the hull or sides of the boat.

Improvising a regular fish finder for ice fishing

If you have a regular fish scanner for side imaging, you can try using it for ice fishing. Though the scan results may not be that good, it is worth a try. To do so, you will need to improvise the device. First, you will need to take it out of your boat along with the cabling. Do so gently and carefully. Next, you will need a portable power supply to power up the entire unit. Finally, you will need to mount the transducer on an adjustable stand for it to stay at a fixed position under the water surface.

Once you are done with the changes, you are ready to try out your regular fish scanner in ice fishing conditions. Since sound waves travel well in solids, you can use the device from the ice surface. This will help you zero down the fish under ice before you start drilling holes. You need to avoid any air between the ice surface and the transducer surface. For doing so, pour some water at the place where you have kept the transducer over ice. It will eliminate any air in-between.


As you have read side imaging scanner are not effective for ice fishing and we would recommend using ice fishing scanners which will be more effective.

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