Do Fish Finders Work For Ice Fishing?

Everyone who has to bank or ice fish is jealous of people with a boat because of one thing, Fish Finders. These awesome little tools tell us so much more about what is going on under the water, and really give us a leg up when fishing. They can tell us the water depth, water temperature, and also if there is any fish and at what depth they are at.

This is a HUGE advantage because we take a lot of the guesswork out of trying to figure out where the fish are actually at. On top of that, they also tell us what the bottom looks like, and what type of terrain there is under the water which is extremely helpful. If there is a steep bank or a gradual drop in-depth, or if there are nice little flat spots in between drop off’s. I know everyone has thought about it, and since the advancement of portable sonar and fish finders, every ice fisher out there really wants to know if they can use their boat or portable fish finder for ice fishing purposes. It seems like the logic is there to work, but since the lake is covered with ice, and in freezing temperatures, will it work?

Can Fish Finders Work For Ice Fishing?

Yes, fish finders can be used when ice fishing, but there is some setup and possible DIY involved in getting it to work. There are three different types of fish finders that will work with ice fishing, these are explained below:

  • Flashers: A flasher is a very basic portable sonar device, and gives you a more primitive readout of the depth and bottom. It can have an LCD screen, but normally has dials that will turn green and red and will show you the depth, and even your bait if you read it correctly. This is NOT like normal fish finders that will show you a nice LCD picture of fish or the bottom.
  • Boat Fish Finders: Fishfinders that are attached to boats have a transducer and an LCD screen that will display the sonar. You can unhook the transducer, and use it in a fishing hole as long as it is level and steady. This will give you the same read-out as you would see in the boat.
  • Portable Fish Finders: Castable fish finders are making a huge impact on shore anglers. These can be attached to a fishing line and cast out to the water and they will send signals back to your phone or tablet based on wifi and Bluetooth. Portable fish finders are extremely popular right now.

Using A Boat Fish Finders

If you want to use a boat fish finder, you will need to unhook your transducer cable and the fish finder unit and take it to your ice hole. You can then find something to keep the transducer level and hook up the finder LCD screen to see the bottom. You will have to drill a second hole just for the boat fish finder because you want it to be as level and still as possible in order to get a good reading.

A lot of people like to use wood to mount the transducer to which will allow you to lay it across your extra hole and will be kept stable while you use it. This is a very popular way of getting a fish finder out to the ice but can be quite a project. If your boat is wired for a fish finder, and the wiring is all tucked up and away, it could be a nightmare trying to run the wiring back on your boat when you are done.

ice fishing hole

It is a much better option to look for a used fish finder and transducer and use that instead of messing with your boat. You will also have to find a batter or power source depending on the model of fish finder you have.

Using A Portable Fish Finders

If you want to use a portable fish finder, you will also have to drill a second hole in the ice to place your finder. Once you do that, all you have to do is attach your portable fish finder to a spare rod and connect it to your phone or tablet. It should start sending you a reading of the bottom and any fish depending on the model you are using, but you need to be careful.

Always make sure that you attach your portable finder to the fishing line so it does not get swept under the ice, and even if you think that it’s just floating in the ice hole, it could somehow get moved to under the ice and you will be cutting holes to retrieve it. Make sure that you drill a second hole big enough for the portable device to get enough of an angle for good viewing, or you might not see anything.

Will It Freeze

Typically a fish finder is coated in plastic and will not freeze the transducer in water, but if you are in a part of the world where you get subfreezing temps up to -40 degrees, there could be ice that forms on the transducer that you will have to break off. The LCD screen, on the other hand, can freeze if it wet and there are freezing temperatures outside. It is a good idea to wrap your LCD screen in a towel or something protective so that no moisture can get into it.

Even though these products are made for boats that get wet, sub-freezing temps mixed with water can do some damage. If your fish finder suddenly turns off, I would wipe it down and get it back into your car or somewhere warm and dry and see if you can get it to turn back on.

The only time to be overly concerned with anything freezing is when you are not in a well-insulated ice shack, and are out on the lake with no cover or are just in a tent or something that has zero insulation on it. It really does come down to how cold it is when you are fishing, and if ice starts to form on the hole or not. Keep in mind that these products are electronic devices with circuit boards, so any moisture that can get in, will do damage to the unit, and you may have to replace it.

Removing The Fish Finder From Your Boat

If you are dead set on using the fish finder from your boat, it is extremely important to think about the wiring and what is involved in taking the fish finder off and putting it back on. Things tend to come apart much easier than they go back on, so that is the most important thing to keep in mind.

The first thing you will need to do is remove the LCD screen from the brackets it is attached to on the boat, but if you plan on attaching the brackets to a fixed spot, like a piece of wood or metal, you may have to remove the mounting brackets or I suggest you buy a new set of brackets for the LCD panel. The second part is much more tricky, and that is the transducer wiring on the boat, which is usually run under the inside of the boat and all the way to the back where near the motor.

The transducer is usually attached to the boat with a bracket or screwed on, so if you take this off, you may have exposed holes and putting it back on after the winter could cause the screws to strip and your transducer will have to be moved and holes will have to be filled. If you bought a boat from a dealer and had a fish finder installed, I would highly suggest spending the extra money and buying a transducer that you can use just for ice fishing. Here is a great transducer that will fit quite a few models and has some great reviews.

Do You Have To Drill Multiple Holes

Yes, multiple holes will have to be drilled in the ice so that nothing can interrupt the sonar from reading. The more you move the transducer around, the less likely it will be that you get a read on the bottom. First, drill your fishing hole or holes in the ice that you want to fish out of. After that drill a third hole next to the fishing location where you can drop down the transducer where it will not be touched or hit by you or anyone you are fishing with.

two men ice fishing

Once you have the hole drilled, lay your mount across the hole, and drop the transducer into the water. Finally, after you know that you have a good read on the LCD screen, mount the transducer to the stable mount, and you should be okay to go fishing with.

If you are not getting a good read, you may have to mess with the transducer until you finally get a good picture, or possibly drill a new hole. Even if you use the portable fish finder, you want to drill the hole big enough for your floating fish finder to get a picture of the bottom. A hole that is the same size as your fishing hole should be just fine and does not need to be much bigger than that.

What is an Ice Fishing Transducer

An ice fishing transducer is a device that is attached to a fish finder and is designed specifically for ice fishing purposes. It is designed to be dropped straight down and has a wider beam than most portable and boat fish finders. These transducers are designed to hold up under the more extreme cold weather than your typical fish finder, and are normally coated with silicon and insulated, but are still flexible enough to move around.

Transducers are devices that hook to a fish finder display unit and send a sound signal to the bottom of the water. Once the sound hits something and bounces back to the transducer, it is sent to the LCD display to form a picture of what the bottom might look like, even with fish and your bait (depending on the model).

These CHIRP transducers are extremely accurate now and are making even more technological breakthroughs to even be able to give us a 3d plot of the bottom and also rocks or obstacles that might be down under the surface.

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