Home Fishing Tips & Advice Ice Fishing: How to Read an Ice Flasher

Ice Fishing: How to Read an Ice Flasher

Ice flashers have several standard specifications and a few varying features. Most ice flashers, or flasher fish finders, have a display panel with a certain number of knobs or buttons around, each of which has a specific function. How to read an ice flasher is simply about knowing what the different functions are and then observing the display to read the signs. The whole exercise boils down to reading the depth of the transducer, observing the bottom of the water column, the difference between fish and other objects under the ice, and the indication that you have a potential catch nearing or around the lure. 

What is an Ice Flasher?

An ice flasher, also known as a flasher fish finder, is a sonar device. There is a transducer, which is basically the sonar signal emitter and receptor. This transducer is dropper down a water column to detect the bottom and the underwater objects, including weeds and vegetation other than fish. As you may be aware, sonar can detect underwater objects and the time a signal takes to be emitted, reflected or bounced off, and then received determines the distance, or depth.

The purpose of an ice flasher is to give you an idea of the depth of a water column, so you can prepare your lure accordingly, and more importantly know precisely how deep you must go to catch a fish. The ice flasher also detects fish movement, and signals you where one or an entire school of a certain species is nearing the lure.

How Does an Ice Flasher Work?

There are two major components in an ice flasher. One is the transducer, which is lowered into the water column. The other is the monitoring equipment with its display panel that remains with you above ground, or atop the ice. The transducer emits sonar and the signal getting emitted, reverted, and received is used to detect the bottom. Thus, you will get to know how deep a water column is. It could be six feet or as deep as forty feet. The transducer would have a range, depending on how strong the sonar signal is, which shall be determined by the specifications and hence model of ice flasher you own.

The second function of an ice flasher, after detecting the bottom, is to identify objects underwater and movements of fish. Now, the bottom can be displayed as red if it is hard. It would be greenish if there is vegetation. It would be yellowish if the ground is soft, usually mud. Rocks and other hard materials at the bottom are indicated in red or dark orange in the display panel on most ice flashers. The specific colors depend on the model you own.

Fish is usually detected and indicated as a combination of colors, mostly because of the size of the school and how they move. If there is a densely packed school moving around, then you are likely to get a darker yellowish, orange or outright red color. If there is only one small fish, then the color may be light yellow. It is also possible for the color markers to be yellow and green, if there is vegetation around, or depending on the type of fish.

In addition to the basic features of measuring the depth, detecting fish and tracking the lure, a contemporary ice flasher would have indicators notifying you of a potential catch nearing your bait. You may be prompted to adjust the lure. You may also be prompted to extract the fish if it has been caught. There are many kinds of ice flashers available these days. Most come with a zoom feature, there is interference rejection, settings to vary the sensitivity or strength of the sonar signal, and other adjustments.

How to Read an Ice Flasher?

The first step is to set up your device next to a water column, or ice fishing spot. Set the aboveground device close to the edge of the water column, but safely nestled so it does not fall in. Take the transducer and lower it into the water. If it is too high up and close to the ground, then you will notice scattered indicators on the display panel. This is because the sonar has not been able to be narrowed down into the water. Instead, it is bouncing off the ice around the water column. Lower the transducer enough to measure the depth. Usually, lowering the transducer a few feet into the water should give you an accurate assessment of the depth of the water column.

The depth could be a few feet to several, depending on how shallow or otherwise the column is. The bottom is usually marked in red on the display screen. The entire space if you move clockwise from the top of your display screen, which is usually a dial-shaped panel, until the red-marked bottom of the column is your fishing zone. You would observe yellow and green bars, which would indicate fish and vegetation, or weed. When you lower a lure or the bait, it would appear as green, because it is a soft material.

Position the lure. Observe as it go down as indicated in your display panel, and wait for some fish to get to it. You must be aware of the target separation of the ice flasher. This is the distance between two objects your transducer is detecting and reporting in real time. For instance, if you have an ice flasher set with a target separation of half an inch, this means the lure and the fish are within half an inch when the colored indicators for both merge on your display panel. This is a handy feature that can make your ice fishing experience much more convenient and satisfying.  

Reading an ice flasher is easy. What’s hard is assessing behavior of fish, to know the exact time when it is better for you to lower the bait, so there is a greater chance for you to catch a prize. Otherwise, the fish may simply veer away as you work on the lure.

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Growing up on the south shore of Long Island, Chum Charlie has always had a passion for fishing. His favorite fish to catch is a striped bass and his favorite bait to use is bunker. Off the water, he enjoys blogging and sharing his favorite fishing tips & tricks that he has learned over the years.