What is an Ice Fishing Flasher ?

Ice fishing is a pretty common pastime throughout the northern hemisphere, and there is a variety of gear needed to be successful. One piece of equipment that can help you fill up that stringer or ice chest is an ice fishing flasher. In this article, we cover what an ice fishing flasher is, how it works, and when to use it.

An ice fishing flasher is a one-dimensional real-time sonar device that obtains data directly underneath the ice fishing hole where it’s employed. Developed to display the comings and going’s beneath the ice hole in real-time, an ice fishing flasher doesn’t record historical data like other fish finders.

Using a fiber-optic display far less sophisticated than a conventional fishfinder’s LCD, a flasher displays only the necessary components to any anglers equation (Lure, Bottom, and fish in the area). This minimalist setup allows anglers to determine whether their current spot is a fish-rich environment or a dry hole.

With all that said, an ice fishing flasher seems like an excellent purchase for any anglers looking to drop a line over a frozen lake. However, there’s much more to an ice fishing flasher that should be discussed. How does it work, when should it be used, what separates it from a conventional fishfinder, and what ice fishing flasher should I buy ?

For the answers to all this and more, read on.

What is a Flasher ?

The simple explanation of an ice fishing flasher is that it is a sonar device that relays data in real-time regarding what’s directly beneath the fishing hole. Utilizing a fiber-optic display, a dial similar to a clock face (depth capacity may vary depending on the model) will show colors at various points on the circular dial to demonstrate what the submerged transducer is picking up.

The whole system consists of the display dial, the transducer, a battery pack, and the connection cord between the transducer and display. Utilizing sonar, this device picks up the lure, submerged vegetation, the bottom, and most importantly, fish. Because if it’s real-time feedback or an idea, a flasher can pinpoint where the lure is in the water column in comparison to the fish, allowing anglers to make real-time adjustments to enhance their fishing capability.

How does an ice fishing flasher work ?

An ice fishing flasher works by submerging a transducer just inside or beneath the ice’s edge into the water below. This transducer works by admitting a sound wave that reflects and returns to the transducer once it has made contact with an object. Depending on the depth and type of thing, different results will register on the flasher’s interface or screen.

This battery-powered, highly transportable version of a fishfinder requires a little input from the angler to maximize its potential. Once the transducer is in the water, and the flasher has been turned on, anglers must set the range. This means entering at what depth you think the bottom of the body of water is.

Note: it’s always safe to give yourself an extra couple of feet from the start.

Anglers must then adjust the sensitivity or gain, which is the amount of power sent off by the transducer. Controlling the sonar signal, this travels from the transducer, strikes objects between it and the bottom of the body of water, and then returns. The deeper the water, the more gain you will need, which can be adjusted by the knob usually found at the flasher’s front.

Once a consistent, large band is found somewhere on the flasher, this means you have located the bottom, and the gain is at the correct level. Depending on what the bottom of the lake or pond looks like, different displays may be shown. Thick red bands are indicative of gravel or rock bottoms, while mud or salt bottoms usually look like a yellow, thin band.

Zooming is the final piece of the flasher before anglers can drop a line. This feature allows anglers to lock in on a certain depth and search for fish. Different species favor different depths, so depending on what you are angling for dictates where you will zoom.

Zooming is relatively self-explanatory. There’s often a button on the display that says zoom, which can then be manipulated via dials that say up or down to lock in on an exact depth.

Reading a flasher can be difficult for any first-time users. Here are a few facts to make sense of all the data you’re seeing.

The colors from big to small are Red (largest), yellow (middle), and green (smallest).

Most of the time, green on the screen indicates vegetation of some sort. A mixture of green and yellow could indicate small fish, but it’s still probably vegetation. Red lines are a definitive indicator of fish or structure.

When should you use a flasher ?

A flasher is quite possibly one of the handiest tools that have available when ice fishing. Not only does it allow you to pinpoint the depth of fish, but it also determines the topography beneath the water, which enhances your fishing capability.

Anytime you are ice fishing is an excellent time to use a flasher. However, there are two factors to take into consideration when using it.

  • Is the water deep enough to warrant using a flasher ?
  • Do you want to carry the flasher around with you all day ?

In some situations, the water is not deep enough to warrant the use of a flasher. In these cases, a flasher can be helpful but isn’t necessary to locate the fish or the bottom. A flasher works best at medium to deep water, where it can be used to range both fish, vegetation, and bottom.

Though a flasher is easily transportable, it must be carried, set up, and broken down at each new location. It is not an incredibly difficult task, but it can become arduous if done repeatedly throughout the day while being lugged across frozen bodies of water.

If anglers are OK with carrying around the flasher all day and the water depth is such that it wants its use, then the ice fishing flasher is an excellent tool to have on hand.

What separates an ice fishing flasher from a fishfinder?

There are a few main differences between an ice fishing flasher and a fishfinder.

Sonar Data

Flashers provide a real-time feed of what’s happening directly beneath the transducer.

Fishfinders use a sonar con that could determine where structure and fish were previously as well as maintain GPS locations.


Fishfinders utilize an LCD screen which is far more sophisticated than the flasher. This display shows where you have been, what was behind your sonar con a few minutes ago, and yes, there was a multitude of fish.

Flashers utilize a fiber-optic display which takes into account fish, the bottom, and your lure. The one-dimensional display capitalizes on the crispness of the brightly colored lines to show the locations of the fish. It lures down to the second while utilizing less power than the LCD screen.


Most fish finders are affixed to a boat or water vehicle and require a multitude of other equipment.

Flashers were designed to be portable, capable of being transported in packs that contain all the necessary components, including the transducer and battery.

Battery Life

Fishfinders tend to exhaust your battery life far faster than flashers. This is primarily due to the energy required to power up and maintain the LCD display.

Flashers, utilizing the one-dimensional fiber-optic display exhaust far less power and can last up to four times longer when powered on than fishfinders.


Fish-finders can be used all year round, regardless of temperature or environment.

Flashers are designed strictly to be using ice fishing, limiting them to the months when the surface of the water is frozen.

In conclusion

Ice fishing flashers are an incredible asset to any angler during the colder months. Its ability to locate fish, vegetation, lures and the bottom at a fixed depth in real-time is a feature that will benefit anglers of all skill levels.

The ability of these sonar platforms to find and fix locations on fish beneath the ice on a color-coded fiber-optic display is second to none, and their portability means that anglers aren’t locked into one location fishing. If the water is deep enough, the seasons right, and you don’t mind carrying around this ice fishing flasher, go pick one up today and see what it’s all about.

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