At first glance, flashers can seem to be a mysterious and complicated piece of technology. A display may show a myriad of colors that can be challenging to decipher unless you know what you’re looking out. Furthermore, some people seem to believe that flashers are meant to attract fish to a location. However, they don’t need to be complicated and can be easy to understand once you know a little bit about them. Within this article, we’re aiming to remove some of the mystery surrounding flashers, and we’re confident you’ll be expertly using a flasher on your next ice fishing trip.

Firstly, flashers are merely portable sonar units. Once configured, they will allow the operator to see what’s happening beneath the surface of the water, you can see the bottom of the body of water, your jig, and any fish that pass under the beam of the sonar. The denser an object is, the wider the signal it will show on the flasher display. The color will also change depending on the density of the object, changing from green to yellow to orange. For example, the soft silt-laden bottom of a lake may start as a narrow green line which changes to a ticker red line to signify the rocky, harder bottom that lies beneath the silt. Similarly, baitfish can appear as thin green lines, while larger predatory fish may show as thicker red or yellow lines.

How to Use a Flasher for Ice Fishing

Even experienced ice fishing veterans might not be using their flashers to their full potential. A few small adjustments can make a big difference to what you’re seeing beneath the waves, which in turn can mean bigger catches and more exciting fishing trips.

Step 1. Lower the Transducer

Once you have everything wired together and you’ve turned the flasher on, you need to lower the transducer into your ice hole. It’s a good idea to make sure transducer sits below the bottom of the ice edge, this is especially true of older models. Not doing this can cause the sonar to bounce off the sides of the ice hole which may create a muddled and unclear image. Newer models are less susceptible to this interference, but we still recommend it as part of best practices.

Step 2. Set the Depth

Most flashers are capable of reading anywhere from one foot all the way up to 250 feet of water. To maximize the utility of your flasher, it’s a good idea to know how deep the water your fishing is. This information can normally be found online by consulting a hydrographic map or by consulting other anglers or tools. To maximize the usefulness of the readings you’re getting, set the bottom depth of the flasher to one step above the actual depth of the water. For example, if you’re fishing in 36 feet of water, set the flasher bottom to 40 feet.

Step 3. Fine-tune the Gain

The gain is basically the power that the transducer will use to create a picture of what’s going on underneath the ice. As the sonar signal leaves the transducer, to travels downwards in a cone shape, bouncing off objects until it eventually hits the bottom and gets bounced back to the surface. If you’re fishing in deep water, the transducer will need more power to bounce the sonar off the bottom.
To start the tuning process, start by turning the gain up until you’re seeing a lot of interference, then slowly start to turn the gain down until the screen begins to clear. This method allows you to maximize the gain with the minimal interference, which in turn means you’ll have the best chance of seeing if anything enters your water column.

Step 4. Use the Zoom

Using the zoom function on your flasher is a great way of maximizing the resolution and sensitivity of what’s being displayed on the flasher. Focus on the area that you’re fishing or where you’re expecting the fish to be. For example, if you’re looking to catch some bottom dwellers such as walleye, and you’re fishing in 40 feet of water, then zoom in so that only the bottom 10 feet are displayed. Unfortunately, every flasher zoom works in a different way, so you’ll need to consult the user manual to see how to do this with your model.

Step 5. Start Fishing

Once you drop your jig or lure into the ice hold, you ought to see it clearly represented on the flashers screen as a solid bar. At this point, you may need to further tune the flashers gain to make the lure show as a very thin line. This has the benefit of making other movements of fish easily distinguishable. If your lure is flickering or doesn’t show as a solid line, turn up the gain until it does. If you see any new lines appearing, then these are either going to be baitfish or fingers crossed the catch of the day.

Why Use a Flasher

The biggest advantage of using a flasher when ice fishing as it allows you to see what’s happening beneath the ice. Once you’re experienced using a flasher, you can use it watch your jig, to see how high you are lifting it, how it’s moving and where it is relative to the fish. When a fish takes an interest in the jig, you’ll see a yellow or red solid line approach your lure, which will normally show as a green line. As the fish moves even closer, the lines may well converge, which can mean a strike is imminent. If the fish loses interest and begins to move away, you can adjust the movement of the lure to entice the fish back.
This obviously offers many benefits as you can see in real time if your jig movement is interesting, if the fish are in the area, and if a change of lure or movement has had a positive or negative effect on enticing fish. Without access to a flasher, an angler is blind to all of this information and relies solely on intuition and what may have worked on previous fishing trips.

What to Look For When Buying an Ice Flasher

There are a few things to take into consideration when you’re looking to buy an ice flasher. To make your life easier, we’ve put together what we think are the most important factors for functionality and value for money.

Transducer: This is responsible for producing and receiving the sonar signal the unit uses to build a picture of what’s going on beneath the ice. Look for a model with good build quality from a reputable manufacturer.

Portability: You’ll want to select an ice flasher that is compact and easily portable. Both the battery and unit itself should easily fit in a backpack, or even a custom carry case. Avoid anything bulky for ice fishing.

Data Representation: Most flashers are available with either graphical view or textual details, both types offer various pros and cons. If possible, look for a flasher that has both options available on a single screen.

Cone Size: Look for an ice flasher that has an adjustable cone in order to provide both wide area or more focused viewing.

Power: The more power available generally translates directly into better performance and more penetrating sonar. Look for a balance between power and battery life.

Final Thoughts

Flashers are an inexpensive way of understanding what is happening under the ice and are suitable for both experienced and beginner anglers alike.

One of the biggest selling points is the lack of maintenance required and ease of use. As long as the battery is charged and flasher is wiped dry and cleaned after use, there’s very little that can go wrong with them. You can teach yourself to use a flasher in only a few minutes, after which you’ll know exactly why they are such great tools and you’ll wonder how you ever went ice fishing without one before.