Fishing - but make it extreme. Or in other words, go ice fishing. Only a handful of dedicated anglers know the feeling of sitting out in the dead of winter, dressed to the nines in thermals, sitting next to a hole in the ice trying to find the perfect catch’s hiding place.
If only fish were always so easy to find as on sunny days. Unfortunately they’re not and any gadget to make it easier is welcomed with open arms.
The aim is to catch fish, after all, and a fish finder would sure come in handy when all you can see is snow and ice around you.
On the surface, ice fishing may seem rather complicated, however it’s one that can be learned easily, especially with the best ice fishing fish finder. Whether it’s summer or winter, a portable sonar fish finder will come in handy for any fisher.
A fish finder will emit a series of sound signals until they find a fish and report the news to a receiver. This will then calculate the distance away from the object with how long the signal took to bounce back.
The most advanced fish finders will not only make you aware of what’s under the water, but also show you the best fishing spots, let you save the information, make maps, share the data, and even sometimes more.
We’ve made you really want to get on your next ice fishing adventure now, haven’t we? Before you go, make sure to read through our top five ice fishing fish finders, buyers guide and FAQs so you’re well prepared and equipped with the most valuable bit of gear to make your next ice fishing experience like none other before.
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This is our Winner!
Why it’s Our Top Pick
Our favorite ice fishing fish finder has to be the Humminbird 410970-1 Ice Helix 5.
With over 40 years of experience under its belt, Humminbird is a trusted business when it comes to ice fishing, so you know you’ll be getting a quality product that hundreds of people are already enjoying.
Here are a few more reasons why this is our best ice fishing fish finder:
Although it’s designed primarily for ice fishing, it can also be adapted to be used once the ice melts.
Great display with glare-resistant glass so you can get accurate readings even in the overpowering winter sun.
You can view flasher and 2D displays at the same time to get the most information as you can about what’s going on beneath you.
Best Ice Fishing Fish Finders - Comparison Table
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Best Ice Fishing Fish Finders - Reviews
“Where there’s ice, there’s Humminbird.” Humminbird have made a name for themselves by delivering an unbeatable range of fish finding gear over the past 40 years.
The Ice Helix 5 adopts the new ICE HELIX G2 and G2N series, giving you a clearer understanding of what’s under the ice with unique features such as Dual Spectrum CHIRP Sonar, crystal clear displays specifically built for ice fishing, built-in GPS with Humminbird Basemap, and CHIRP Interference Rejection settings.
What’s more is that you can take your Ice Helix on your boat for the summer months by adding a transducer for an additional price.
The Ice Helix 5 lets you decide how you want your sonar returns to be displayed with a number of different viewing options made perfectly for an ice fishing angler, including flasher and 2D sonar combo views on the screen at the same time. Unlike only flasher units, 2D sonar lets you view fish and lure history, helping you discover what makes the fish bite.
The Dual Spectrum CHIRP Transducer helps you easily spot fish, and your lure and activity logs along the bottom of the screen help increase your bounty. Six CHIRP Interference Rejection settings keep competing sonar signals from cluttering your screen, giving you a simple and easy view in all modes.
Humminbird have created off-the-charts mapping capabilities with incredible detail, coverage and exclusive features which allows you to mark hotspots with ease and find fish quicker.
The Helix 5 takes out the guessing work and helps you find hiding places efficiently, making this a great companion for long ice fishing excursions.
The Deeper PRO+ Smart Sonar is a tiny spherical fish finder that can give you instant readings of the depth and temperature. Once you reel the Deeper PRO+ back in, it’ll pinpoint the features fish love like ups, downs and hiding places.
This model will also show you the consistency of the bottom, whether or gravel or silt. As the Deeper PRO+ uses sonar, you can also locate the fish themselves so if you have a baited area you can see whether the fish are sticking around or moving somewhere else.
Casting the Deeper PRO+ out will cause less disturbance than a marker float and you can find out how the depth changes in different spots. All of your scans and maps can be saved to Lakebook so you can find your desired species better, discover good fishing spots easier and map it all for later.
The Deeper PRO+ can be synced to a smartphone or tablet to display the sonar images and you can use it for many different types of fishing. It sends down a dual beam sonar frequency of 260 feet and can be cast up to 330 feet.
Casting it out multiple times will enable you to make an accurate map which you can save to your phone easily. This is an excellent fish finder for ice fishing due to its small 3.5 ounce size, flasher display and zoom and 0.5 inch target separation.
There are no cables tying you up and scaring the fish off, making this a great tool to have.
The Striker 4 is an easy to use 3.5 inch color fish finder that comes with a portable carrying case which is perfect for fishing from a kayak or canoe and is especially handy for ice fishing. You can mark and return to hotspots, docks and ramps with the built-in, highly sensitive GPS.
The smooth graphics provide uninterrupted images when switching between the depth-range scales, so you’ll never have to take your eyes off your fish. Sonar history rewind allows you to scroll back through the images so you never have to miss a waypoint ever again.
You’ll be getting a carrying case, rechargeable battery, a CHIRP transducer, a tilt/swivel mount and a transom and trolling motor mounting kit.
Garmin also offer a transducer specifically designed for ice fishing, but reviewers have said the included one works well enough that they don’t feel the need to buy it. You can choose to buy it with either 3.5, 5 or 7 inch display, so you can tailor your fish finder to your preference.
You can also set a waypoint map to conveniently view and navigate to needed locations and the nearest spots where the most fish are located.
The map also shows useful locations such as piers, docks and reefs. If this wasn’t enough, there’s a built in flasher that you can use whenever you may need some extra lighting, especially during night or ice fishing.
If you’re looking for a more budget option but don’t want to compromise the quality, the Venterior Portable Fish Finder is an excellent choice. It’ll show you the water depth either in feet or meters, backlight mode allows you to use it at night or in poor light conditions, and the optional audible alarm gives you alerts when it detects fish passing by.
The 25 foot cord with a round sonar transducer and removable transducer float gives you the option to fish anywhere from the shore to a bridge. The Venterior Portable Fish Finder is perfect for all types of fishing, including ice, boat, shore/pier and night fishing.
If you’re on the ice and want to check the depth or amount of fish before cutting a hole, you can use this fish finder to do so. Simply clear away the snow to expose the ice surface, place a small amount of water on the ice and set the transducer in the puddle, allowing it to freeze to the ice.
Once you can see some fish, cut a hole through the ice and place the transducer directly in the water to make sure. It can operate in temperatures ranging from -20 to 70 degrees celsius. The affordable price makes this a great ice fishing fish finder for beginners who are wanting to see if ice fishing is for them.
If not, the adaptability means you can use this model for other types of fishing so you don’t waste your money.
HawkEye offers four different displays, the most enjoyable being the full-color HD display. This model delivers signals in real-time so you won’t be waiting around to see what’s under the ice.
This’ll give you data quickly and accurately so you can quickly get in position to catch that fish before it swims past you. The FishTrax has a lot of accessories and add-ons, making this unit versatile and useful for you even when the ice melts and it’s time to get the boat back out.
The fish finder mode shows the angler the presence of not only fish, but the bottom contour, composition and the depth of the body of water. The data mode will emphasize the depth and temperature readings. The ice-mode digital flasher gives you real-time sonar echoes, perfect for finding fish while ice fishing.
The HawkEye FishTrax also incorporates dual beam Intelligent Sonar which enables the fish finder to adapt to any fishing style. It has auto-zoom bottom tracking, multi-level depth ranges and a 100 level sensitivity adjustment to get the most out of your fishing trip.
Best Ice Fishing Fish Finders - Buyers Guide
Power and Frequency
Wattage is crucial when it comes to buying the best fish finder as readings are affected by the wattage. More watts will trigger faster readings whereas fewer watts will inevitably lead to slower readings. For more real-time viewings, choose a fish finder with a higher wattage.
Fish finders will have a frequency of either single, dual or multiple - higher frequencies work best in shallow water and give you the most detail because the sonar waves sent are higher and vice versa for lower frequencies. Most models come with the option to customize this between 83 kHz and 200 kHz, but bear in mind the kind of waters you’ll be fishing in.
Material of Transducer
Transducers can come in a variety of materials. The most common is plastic as it can’t retain water and is weatherproof, making them perfect for casual fishing trips. However, if you’re more into intense fishing trips, you may need to consider choosing a transducer made of stainless steel, bronze, wood or fiberglass. These will likely increase the cost so decide what kind of fishing you’re into. Plastic transducers will work fine for ice fishing as plastic is durable enough and resistant to freezing temperatures.
Colored screens will make it easier to read solar translations compared to black and white versions. A colored screen will also allow for the fish to stand out from the debris and stones - no one wants a fish finder which makes you stand for hours trying to get a rock to bite. Colored screens are also easier to read in the dark or poorly lit conditions.
Backlit LED lights also make it easier to distinguish differences between the objects underwater.
Another thing to consider is glare resistant screens, as the winter sun can be relentless when ice fishing and while you’re trying to cover the screen enough to comprehend it, a whole school of ultra rare fish just swam past the hole. Depending on your budget, a colored and glare resistant screen are very beneficial features for ice fishing fish finders.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is ice fishing?
Ice fishing is a long haul sport that involves cutting a hole in the ice of a body of water, setting up a line and sitting on a stool waiting for the fish to bite. Ice fishing takes more preparation and equipment than regular fishing and you’ll need to bring a shelter, stool, sled, propane heater, flashlight and compass as well as your usual fishing equipment.
Ice fishers will need to wear thermals to combat the freezing temperatures. Ice fishing involves trying to find popular hiding spots fish like to reside in during the freezing temperatures. Common catches include panfish like bluegill, crappie, yellow perch and sunfish, northern pike, walleye and lake trout.
What’s the difference between a regular fish finder and an ice fish finder?
Regular fish finders serve best in the warm, non extreme temperatures, opposed to ice fish finders perform best in low temperatures and freezing conditions. The latter is usually made from durable and weather resistant and corrosion free materials to cater to anglers who enjoy fishing in the most extreme weather conditions.
Ice fishing fish finders can often be used in the warmer months as well, however regular fish finders may have a hard time acting as an ice fish finder, so an ice fish finder will be more adaptable and be likely to suit you best if you’re thinking about going ice fishing.