Ice Fishing Fish Finder vs Flasher: Which is Better Sonar Device?

Thomas Krik

Written by

Thomas Krik

Marc Lowe


Marc Lowe

ice fishing fish finder vs flasher

A fish finder and a flasher can help you increase your likelihood of an abundant catch and take your ice fishing experience to the next level. While they do the same thing, these two fishing electronics are completely different in function and look.

To help you pick the best performer, we’ll do a full comparison between ice fishing fish finder vs flasher. Understanding the differences and similarities will help you to make informed decisions.

A quick comparison between fish finders and flashers:

Fish Finder Flasher
Screen LCD LED
Battery life 4 -12 hours Beyond 18 hours
Signal transmission  A bit delayed Real-time
Use of GPS and map Yes No
Ease of operation Quite complex Easier
Flexibility Can use in any season For icy conditions only
Disconnection target Normal to good Outstanding
Portability Need to carry with an extra case Flexible portability
Depth potential Up to 200ft for some models Up to 200ft for most models
Cost Can be very expensive depending on the features Average to expensive depending on the features

Overview of Fish Finders


A fish finder is helpful if you want to locate schools of fish or know about their historical data in a specific fishing area.

It’s a transducer that you can put into your fishing hole to identify fish beneath the surface of a frozen body of water. However, you can also use it while fishing on a kayak or boat in open waters.

Fish finders utilize sonar technology to send sound waves into the water, which bounce off objects (including fish) and return to the device. It displays information called an ice fishing graph, which can help you determine the depth, location, or even the size of the fish.

The data is displayed on an LCD screen, allowing anglers to target precise areas and depths where fish are present. As a result, the device increases your chances of success during fishing in icy conditions.

Pros & cons of fish finders

  • Data and history help anglers locate fish precisely
  • Suitable for all weather conditions
  • Ability to use GPS and mapping
  • Can cover wider fishing areas
  • Delivers a clear view of fish habitats below the water surface
  • May take some time and effort to learn how to use it
  • Shorter battery life
  • Hard to read the screen in bright conditions
  • Deeper depths may have blurry images
  • Can be costly

Common types of fish finders

There are several types of fish finders for anglers to choose from. These include:


  1. Live sonar: A modern sonar that delivers real-time information about fish location and their interaction with your bait.
  2. 2D sonar: Also called traditional sonar, this model is beneficial for deep-water fishing.
  3. 3D sonar: Utilizing 3D images, this device makes it easy to get information underneath the water and how fish act on structures.
  4. 360 imaging: It’s pretty expensive, but it delivers high-resolution and detailed images from any direction.
  5. Side imaging: Excellent for scanning wider areas of water, it uses two sonar cones that shoot from each side of the boat.
  6. Down imaging: Its smaller sonar beam creates a higher resolution and target separation.
  7. CHIRP sonar: An updated version, this system uses multiple wavelengths to remove inaccuracies from single wavelengths.

Overview of Flashers

Excellent for targeted fishing, a flasher is a specialized ice-fishing fish locator. Like a fish finder, it also uses sonar technology to send sound waves into the water and return valuable data to its LED screen.


The flasher displays this information on a circular, dial-like screen with colored lights, which helps anglers to interpret the underwater environment and target fish more effectively.

Unlike a fish finder that works while you’re on the go, using a flasher requires you to stay in a fixed place. This ice-fishing sonar operates in real-time, allowing you to see what lies beneath the surface. It helps you find perfect fishing frontiers and increases your chance of catching more fish.

Pros & cons of flashers

  • Delivers real-time information.
  • Helps you understand the bottom of the water.
  • Longer battery life than fish finders.
  • Easy to use and carry.
  • Can differentiate objects beneath the water.
  • More affordable.
  • Not suitable for open waters.
  • Lack of GPS and mapping abilities.
  • Some models are not as sensitive to small jigs.

Common types of flashers

If you’ve been window shopping for a flasher for ice fishing, you may have noticed that this device comes in several models. The most common ones are:


  1. Vexilar GP1812 FL-18 Genz Pack: It comes with a 3-color display making it easy to read a vexilar flasher accurately in real-time.
  2. Garmin striker 4: It’s a cheaper, simpler device that can help you detect fish and gather information at a deeper level.
  3. Marcum LX-7 Ice Fishing Sonar System: It has various color displays and a larger screen that shows a clear visual of the underwater landscape.
  4. Humminbird Ice 55: A relatively cheap ice fishing flasher, this tool is dependable in delivering the crucial functions of an excellent fish finder. With a 6-color display, you can see where your lure is moving and follow it in real-time.
  5. Marcum M1: This flasher model has an extra feature that helps you choose several depths. Also, it has a zoom feature, which enhances every detail.

Ice Fishing Fish Finder & Flasher: Their Similarities

While completely different in several ways, fish finders and flashers do similar purposes and share some standard features. Here are some similarities between a flasher vs fish finder:


  • Application

The primary purpose of a fish finder or flasher for ice fishing is to locate fish and understand the foliage or situation beneath frozen bodies of water. When fishing in icy waters, you don’t know exactly where to drop your lure. However, these fish locators allow you to target specific areas and depths.

  • Sonar technology

Both devices use sonar technology to emit sound waves into the water and return signals to the screen. The time it takes for the sound waves to get back to the device calculates the depth and location of the fish, providing valuable insights to anglers.

  • Reliance on Transducer

A flasher or a fish finder for ice fishing relies on a transducer to send and receive sonar signals. Typically, anglers submerge a transducer through a fishing hole, a significant component for both devices to function correctly.

Remarkable Differences

Now, let’s do a detailed flasher and fish finder comparison. Knowing their notable differences will guide you in picking the best sonar for your applications. Take a look below:

1. Display


Fish finders typically feature an LCD screen that presents graphical or numerical representations of the underwater environment. It shows fish icons, depth readings, and structures.

Flashers have a circular dial with colored LED lights that focuses on your lure and fish present under your fishing hole. The crisp display shows underwater situations in clear, vivid detail, helping you locate and salinate targets quickly and easily.

2. Battery life

Since flashers utilize LED displays that consume less power, they generally have longer battery life compared to fish finders. Once fully charged, you can use a flasher for more than 18 hours.


Most fish finder models have high-resolution screens and extra features (like GPS and mapping) that may drain the battery faster. Hence, they require more frequent charging or battery replacement.

3. GPS & mapping


GPS and mapping capabilities are significant plus points to fish finders. These features allow anglers to mark waypoints, track their location, and determine accurate areas with high volumes of fish.

Meanwhile, flashers lack GPS or mapping abilities. They focus primarily on real-time fish location and depth information. However, you can use handy GPS to scout a perfect location under the ice.

4. Portability


Flashers often include a portable bag that contains all its essential components, such as a battery and transducer. Whereas anglers need to buy or customize a dedicated case for a fish finder.

5. Ease of use

Another difference between fish finders and flashers is the ease of use. Generally, flashers are straightforward and easier to operate than fish finders due to fewer settings and adjustment features.


Meanwhile, fish finders may require more time to learn and configure to get the desired level of detail and information. If you have sufficient experience using some fish finder models, this can be a winner and easier to manipulate.

6. All-year-round use

When it comes to all-year-round use, fish finders are more versatile. Many of its models have mounts and transducer options for both ice and open-water fishing, making them a more flexible investment for anglers who fish in multiple seasons.


On the other hand, flashers are primarily designed for ice fishing.

Cost: Which Device is Budget-friendly?


Typically, more advanced and quality fish finders can cost between $300 and $1000.

Meanwhile, average models can cost around $300 to $500. Moreover, top-shelf models may cost you around $2,000 and maybe more.

Which is Better?

It’s not about ice fishing flasher vs sonar, as both devices utilize sonar technologies. As such, the question is about ice fishing fish finder vs flasher. So, which of these sonar devices is best for your fishing needs and styles?


To be honest, both provide great value for your money. However, your choice depends on your preferred fishing style. If you like to fish in different seasons throughout the year, it may be best to choose the versatile fish finders.

If you’re keen on fishing only on ice waters, the flashers are a good option. These models are specially designed for ice fishing, with easy-to-use features.

Overall, it’s always best to consider your preferences and fishing style shopping for a sonar device.

Recommended Brands and Models

Today, many brands and models of fishing electronics are available on the market. Some of the best names we can recommend in the sonar device industry include:

  • Garmin — Striker 4, Striker Plus 4, Striker 5, Striker Plus 5
  • Humminbird — Helix 5, Ice 55, Ice 45, Mega Live
  • Vexilar — GP 1812, fl-18 Pro Pack, fl-18 Genz Pack
  • Marcum — LX 7, M1, M3, M5
  • Lowrance — HDS 12, Elite 9 HFS, Hook2 4x

Frequently Asked Questions


Do you need a fish finder for ice fishing?

While it isn’t necessary to have a fish finder for ice fishing, using one can enhance your chances of success by helping you locate and catch more fish in icy waters. However, for some people, this is like cheating which removes the thrill of the activity and makes it less enjoyable.

That said, it’s totally up to you whether or not to use a fish finder. The choice to use a fish finder is dependent on you. If you want excitement, you can go fishing without it.

How do I interpret the readings on a fish finder or flasher?

Reading a fish finder can vary between models. However, they generally send signals about the location of a fish. For example, on a 2D sonar, you’ll know there is fish when arches show up. On a side imaging screen, dots will pop up if it detects fish.

For flashers, it’s all about learning the meanings of the colors. The red color reflects the presence of a fish near your lure. As the color darkens and thickens, the fish gets closer to your bait. Other colors, like light red or yellow, may indicate the presence of weeds or structures, which reflects a nesting area for fish.

Are ice-fishing fish finders and flashers waterproof?

Since fish finders are designed to be submerged in water, they’re waterproof to some degree. Depending on the model, a fish finder may have IPX7 or IPX8 waterproof rating.

A fish finder rated IPX7 is submersible up to one meter deep in 30 minutes. Meanwhile, an IPX8 fish finder is submersible in water to a depth of one meter or more.

Do ice-fishing fish finders differ from regular ones?

Yes. Ice-fishing fish finders are specifically designed to operate in extremely cold weather. They’re made of durable materials and have extra protection and insulation against freezing.

What is a fish finder flasher mode?

This built-in flasher mode in some types of fish finders allows you to toggle between getting detailed information on the screen or switching to a circular radar display. Some Garmin and Humminbird models have this additional feature.

Final Thoughts

Finally, you already have all the relevant information about an ice fishing flasher vs a flasher. We already informed you about their remarkable differences and features, including helpful tips when buying a sonar device.

Depending on your fishing style, one device might be better than the other for ice fishing. Whether you pick a flasher or a fish finder, if it helps you fish more efficiently under the ice, it’s the best. Happy ice fishing!

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