Best Ice Fishing Fish Finders: Portable, Weatherproof, and Simple
If you spend a lot of time on the ice, you might think about an ice fishing fish finder. We all spend a lot of money on gear, but how much of it actually helps us catch more fish? I’ll answer that for you, very little.
This is an investment that will pay off in one trip. Just be sure you understand what you’re looking for and you know how to choose. The best ice fishing fish finder will be:
I’ve got a few that should check all these boxes so let’s get right to it!
Our Picks For The Top 10 Ice Fishing Fish Finders
It was a simple choice finding the best fish finder for ice fishing. It doesn’t get any better than this. The Humminbird Ice model offers exceptional accuracy, a great display, cold-weather technology, built-in GPS, and mapping, and much more.
Venterior VT-FF001 Fish Finder
Since we’re not dealing with a dedicated ice fishing fish finder, you’re bound to run into some problems. This one is great for budget-conscious people and it’s highly portable as well. The big problem I see is that the receiver is not weatherproof so the cold may get to it on long trips. You’ll want to find a way to keep it warm when you’re on the ice.
Deeper PRO+ Smart Sonar GPS
Transportation is a big factor when you’re ice fishing. Sometimes you can drive your truck right onto the ice, other times it’s a mile-long walk in the cold blustery wind. Not having to lug around a big fish finder is a great advantage and this one doesn’t sacrifice anything in terms of features.
Marcum LX-7 Ice Fishing Sonar System
This fish finder really is the cream of the crop. It comes with an exceptional on-screen dashboard that gives you everything you need and more. Plus, the sonar display makes it easy to tell what’s going on under the ice and you can even optimize the display to show you more of what you want and less of what you don’t. It’s accurate and easy to use but it is a bit pricey.
Vexilar GP1812 FL18 Genz Pack
Accuracy and reliability are factors to consider with ice fish finders because the cold temperature can mess up a reading on a regular fish finder. That’s not the case here. This one is built for ice fishing, it’s durable, and it’s incredibly reliable in cold temperatures. The display is ideal for this type of fishing but it does take some getting used to if you’ve never used one like this before.
Garmin Striker Plus 5 Ice Fishing Bundle
This fish finder really does it all and it comes in an ice fishing bundle that’s designed to work best for cold weather applications. This one also has both Chirp and DownVu which is an advantage over some of their other products.
Vexilar FLX-28 Ice ProPack 2
If you’re looking for an easy to use ice fishing transducer then this might be the right choice. You can read directly through the ice up to 300 feet, it comes with a bunch of different attachments, and it’s as durable as could be. The only downside is that it’s a bit heavier than I’d like which is not ideal for ice fishing.
Lowrance Hook 3X Sonar
Here is another fish finder that we wanted to test out to see if it could work for ice fishing purposes. It does, but there are some caveats. One, you can’t run it through the ice so you’ll need to find a way to get the transducer into the water. Two, it might not always provide as much accuracy when the water temperatures are really low.
That said, if you’re looking for a fish finder that you can use all year long, this is a great choice and it’s affordable.
Lowrance Hook 2 Ice Fishing and All-Season Pack
This fish finder from Lowrance offers a five-inch color display offering great visibility of everything happening beneath you. It’s also a dedicated ice fishing device so you get the weatherproof bag with zippered pouches for your gear. Plus, it comes with a downscan and sidescan setting so you can see what’s happening all around you which is important when you can’t just slide your boat 100 feet to the left and fish there.
Garmin Striker 4 with Portable Kit
I don’t know about you but we’re not all made of money. If I’m going to spend some money on a fish finder, I want one that will work all year. I ice fish but I also fish a lot more in the spring and summer so I need a fish finder that will work for all of these occasions. This one keeps it simple. It’s reliable, durable, long-lasting, well-respected, and the regular transducer will work for ice fishing.
How to Choose the Best Ice Fishing Fish Finder
When choosing an ice fishing fishfinder, there are many factors to consider. First of all, many people don’t understand the differences between a regular fish finder and one for ice fishing.
There aren’t that many differences but if you don’t understand them, you’ll likely end up with a device that isn’t functional, breaks early, or won’t work at all. Here are the most important buying factors to consider as you shop.
Frequency (khz) is a word a lot of people see but they don’t understand. Even more, people think it doesn’t apply to them but it’s something you’ll want to think about.
Fish finders with high frequencies work best in shallow water while low frequencies are better in deeper water. This isn’t as important as knowing what kind of frequency your fish finder has.
Some have single frequencies while others have dual frequencies. Going for a dual-frequency fish finder allows you more flexibility over where you use the device because you’ll be able to adjust the settings for the situation.
For example, if you frequently fish different locations, you’ll want a fish finder that’s flexible enough so you can customize the settings based on the individual scenario. If you have a single frequency fish finder, you’re limited to fishing one particular depth.
Method of Imaging
The method of imaging depends on the type of transducer you have. Many of the fish finders for ice fishing use Chirp sonar. This means that the fish finder is sending sonar down into the water on a continuous “chirping” basis and that’s what is providing you with the images.
You’ll also hear terms like DownVu, SideVu, sidescan, downscan, and other similar phrases. These refer to sonar that goes directly down vertically or horizontally away from you in all directions. These are all important for a few reasons.
First, with ice fishing, you can’t adjust your location by simply moving your boat a few hundred feet in another direction. So, having a side-scanning fish finder is nice but these are harder to come by and they’re not as popular with ice fishing because the technology hasn’t been developed yet.
Down scanning is much more popular and it gives you a picture of everything that is happening beneath you at a certain radius. For most ice anglers, this will do the trick. Most Chirp sonar functions like this as well.
Beyond the transducer, you have the way the fish finder interprets the sonar into the image on the screen. Some fish finders use fishID technology which is the easiest to read. It’ll show you arcs of variable sizes on the screen and that will tell you where the fish are located and where you might run into some structure.
Other ice fish finders use a color-based technology that will simply offer a red, yellow, or green color telling you whether or not you should fish here. This is useful prior to drilling because you’ll be able to identify ideal locations before drilling the hole.
If you don’t have an ice transducer you’ll have to wait until after the hole is drilled so you can get the transducer into the water.
Power translates into speed with fish finders. If you have a high powered fish finder, you’ll get a faster image so you won’t have to wait around as long.
These fish finders will also use more power which can drain batteries faster and require more charges. When you’re out on the ice, I doubt you have a ton of readily available power sources so you’ll want to make sure you understand how long the fish finder will operate, how many uses you get, what drains it, what sustains it, and so on.
You need a high-resolution screen for a few reasons. First, you need to be able to read it to tell what’s going on under the ice. If your screen is hard to read, has a heavy glare, or is challenging to operate, it won’t help you that much.
Keep the type of display in mind as well. You’ll notice that some of the ice fishing fish finders have unique displays that are different from many fish finders you’ll see on boats. That’s because they read the water through the ice so they don’t provide an elaborate picture of everything going on but they provide you with a simple yes (fish here) or not (don’t fish here).
These fish finders are much better for use as ice fishing locators but they can take some getting used to if you’ve never used one before.
Lastly, what does the screen tell you? Some fish finders have built-in depth finders that provide information such as total water depth, temperature, and more. These are all valuable pieces of information and you should factor in how much you get for your money before pulling out your wallet. Most decent fish finders will offer a lot of on-screen information.
Portability is a huge factor in ice fishing and I’ll tell you why. You never know how far you’ll be from the spot. It could be a few feet or as long as a mile or two. When you have to walk that long on a nice summer morning, no big deal. When you have to walk that long in the middle of January with the wind blowing around you, big deal.
You don’t need any more ice fishing gear to carry and having a portable fish finder for ice fishing is always the way to go. Most of the options recommended above are portable and if they’re not, they come with carrying cases. Just make sure that the carrying case is waterproof.
Ideally, you want to get a fish finder that you can use all year. Many of the options available on Amazon work for both cold and warm water except the ones with the dedicated ice fishing transducer. Those are for hardcore ice anglers who go out multiple times per week for ice jigging. If that sounds like you, go for it, get yourself the best ice fishing fish finder money can buy.
If you’re someone more like myself who likes ice fishing and goes a few times a year but still would rather a fish finder that he can use in the summer, then you’ll want to deploy a different attitude.
Keep in mind that you can buy an ice fishing transducer for almost any fish finder. So, it might be beneficial to get a standard fish finder and try to fit it for ice fishing. Just keep in mind how that may impact the accuracy of the device.
Ease of Use
Ease of use is always a factor because I realize that everyone isn’t up to date on the latest technology and they continue to make things more complicated. Using a fish finder shouldn’t be difficult and it’s not but that’s why I prefer to shop from major brands.
By shopping Garmin, Humminbird, Lowrance, and some of the other major companies you know you’re getting a product that is clearly instructed and likely backed up by decent customer service and a warranty.
Setting up your fish finder shouldn’t take longer than a few minutes and learning how to operate it should happen as you go. We’ve also written articles that can help you learn how to read a fish finder if that’s where you get tripped up.
There are two main factors to consider. First, the device itself, and second, the transducer. The main difference between the two devices is the fact that the receiver isn’t built to withstand cold temperatures. So, many times you’ll see regular fish finders with containment sleeves and things like that to help with the temperature.
The transducers are much different because ice fishing transducers can actually provide readings right through the ice. Now, you don’t necessarily need one that can do that but they’re convenient.
The device does not need to be waterproof because you’ll have to protect it anyway. Many ice fishing receivers come with containments made of waterproof plastic or some type of material. So, the unit itself is not waterproof but it’s inside something that is. As long as you have that, you have nothing to worry about.
This answer is a bit more complicated. Yes, you can use any fish finder for ice fishing but only the high-quality ones will actually work. The cold temperature ruins the transducer on a lot of cheap fish finders. As a result, they’re not designed for the cold weather. But, some of the options recommended above are rated for temperatures as low as -10 and you can also use them in warm water.
It all depends on the individual situation and that’s another reason I recommend staying with brands you trust.
I hope that by reading this article that you’re able to make a choice on the best ice fishing fish finder. These are a solid investment so make sure you choose wisely. As I’ve said, I recommend going with something versatile if you’re not a hardcore ice angler. Go for something that you can use all year long like some of the Garmin and Humminbird models.
Whatever choice you make should help improve your fishing game and make finding fish under the ice that much easier. Good luck and be safe out there!