Best 10 Ice Fishing Fish Finders + Buying Guide [2021 Review]
Ice fishing is quite unlike any other form of angling in the world. There are many challenges and obstacles that ice fishing anglers face that are significantly different from other fishing enthusiasts across the world. The equipment used by ice fishermen and women is also vastly different and has to perform in frigid temperatures. This means durability and quality are two must-have characteristics when it comes to ice fishing fish finders.
Typical fish finders work through the use of a transducer that’s mounted on the bottom of your boat, but ice fishing fish finders must have the special ability to peer through the ice and allow you to see fish through multiple feet of frozen water surface in some cases. There are some brands that produce fish finders that are capable of working in both warm or cold weather, but others might be specially designed to handle the ice and give you crystal clear imaging when other products aren’t able to.
In this article, we will cover some of the things you should look for if you’re planning to purchase a new fish finder for winter use. We’ve also put together a list of the best 10 ice fishing fish finders that are currently on the market today to help you narrow down your search.
Table of Contents
- 1 Quick Summary – Our Pick
- 2 How Does an Ice Fishing Fish Finder Work?
- 3 Ice Fishing Fish Finders Buying Guide
- 4 Best 10 Ice Fishing Fish Finders
- 4.1 1. Humminbird ICE H5 HELIX 5
- 4.2 2. Garmin Striker 4 Ice Fishing Kit
- 4.3 3. HawkEye Fishtrax 1C Fish Finder
- 4.4 4. Venterior VT-FF001 Portable Handheld Fishfinder
- 4.5 5. Deeper CHIRP Smart Sonar
- 4.6 6. Lowrance Hook 3X Fish Finder
- 4.7 7. Marcum LX-7 Ice Fishing Sonar System
- 4.8 8. Vexilar GP1812 FL18 Genz Pack 12Deg Ice-Ducer Combo
- 4.9 9. Lowrance Hook 2 Ice Fishing and All-Season Pack
- 4.10 10. LUCKY Portable Fish Finder
Quick Summary – Our Pick
How Does an Ice Fishing Fish Finder Work?
Most ice fishing fish finders work through the use of CHIRP sonar technology. CHIRP simply stands for Compressed High Intensity Radiated-Pulse, which sends a continuous stream of signals down into the water below. These signals bounce back and let you have a real-time view of what’s below your position if you’re in a boat or on the ice.
One of the most popular types of technology used is known as DownScan or DownVu, which works very similar to CHIRP, but lets you have a clear view of anything going on below your position. This sends signals directly downward, but there are also versions known as SideScan and SideVu that are capable of showing you a much greater radius around your boat or position. The SideScan or SideVu has not been fully developed to work on the ice yet, however.
In order for the CHIRP sonar technology or DownScan to work properly, you’ll need to use one of two methods. You can purchase an ice transducer, which is designed to be placed on the ice and read through the frozen lake surface. You can also utilize either one of these forms of technology with a common transducer that will work once you’ve drilled your hole down through the ice.
It’s much more convenient to have an ice transducer as you will be able to scan areas of the lake before you ever expend the effort to drill through the ice. This lets you pinpoint the best locations and then set up your ice fishing shelter and all your other gear. We highly recommend purchasing an ice transducer if you are an avid ice fishing angler, or plan to begin doing a great deal of fishing on the ice next season.
Ice Fishing Fish Finders Buying Guide
When it comes to purchasing a good quality ice fishing fish finder, there are a few specific areas you should pay close attention to in order to make sure you’re getting the best product possible. Many of these fish finders will have different degrees of quality and certain features that might make them better suited based on your own preferences, or budget.
Frequency is one of the single biggest indicators of quality in relation to ice fishing fish finders. Many anglers don’t fully understand how frequency works or the ways that it can differ from other models. Some anglers might think that an ice fishing fish finder with a higher frequency is going to be the better overall product, but this is not always true.
Higher frequency fish finders are more well-suited for shallow waters while the lower frequency devices will generally be better for receiving signals from deeper water. There are also a few different kinds of frequencies in terms of fish finders. Higher frequency products will usually have a frequency that’s measured to be at least 200 kHz while lower frequencies are typically designed to offer anywhere from 50 to 83 kHz.
A single frequency fish finder will usually be less expensive than other models while others that come with dual frequency are better overall. Dual frequency fish finders allow you to adjust the settings and dial in just the right frequency for times when you might be fishing in shallow or deeper water. Other fish finders utilize multiple frequency technology that is basically a combination of both that allows you greater ability to adjust the settings.
As with any type of electronic device used for fishing, it’s crucial that you have a high-quality screen that will allow you to clearly see the display whether you’re fishing in the daytime, or at night. Many of the latest models of ice fishing fish finders are equipped with an LCD screen that helps to illuminate the display and make it much easier to see.
It’s important that you check to see what the screen’s resolution rate is as well. Screens with higher resolutions usually mean that you can count on them to have a much clearer picture when you’re scanning over the surface of the ice and working to determine whether you’re looking at underwater structure or a school of fish.
Some screens will have a greater color range than others, which helps you differentiate between fish and other underwater objects that might be of interest to you. If you purchase a premium-quality ice fishing fish finder, you can usually bet that it will allow you to adjust these color levels to help you see certain types of objects with more clarity.
One of the main concerns that ice anglers have with any piece of equipment is whether or not it’s durable enough to withstand the freezing-cold temperatures, wind, and other elements that often cause your equipment to break or malfunction. This is especially true when it comes to fish finders that you’ll be using on top of the ice, or down in the frigid waters after you’ve drilled a hole through the ice.
Some devices are capable of being used in warm weather, as well as cold and can mount to just about any kind of watercraft. Others might have some durability concerns and may be more susceptible to being broken. This goes for both your transducer and the actual fish finder’s display.
As we’ve already noted, having the right kind of transducer can greatly increase the overall clarity and quality of your fish finder and give it greater ability to provide accurate readings of what’s below your position. Some anglers prefer to use the same transducer for ice fishing that they would use during the spring and summer when the water isn’t frozen. This may work, but you will get better readings and clarity by utilizing a transducer that’s specially designed for using on the ice instead.
The transducer is going to be one of the most important parts of your fish finder’s equipment and you should look to purchase one that’s compatible with ice fishing and made to function and provide readings through a few feet of ice. This will keep you from having to drill holes before being able to employ the use of your fish finder.
If you’re on a budget, however, it is acceptable to use a more affordable transducer that’s mainly designed to be installed on boats. It’s very important that you also pay close attention to the specific type of material that your transducer is made of. Most transducers that are made of plastic actually perform better when it comes to ice fishing since the plastic is capable of withstanding extremely cold temperatures without expanding or contracting.
Plastic transducers are also more capable of being waterproof, which means you won’t have to worry about snow, rain, or water splashing on the device causing much damage.
Ice fishing can be a very physically demanding venture if you don’t have access to a snowmobile or ATV and sled that will make hauling all your gear much easier. Some anglers will have to pull their own sled across the ice and it can be tough to lug a fish finder, cables, transducer and battery along with all your other gear and tackle. Having an ice fishing fish finder that’s able to neatly fit inside a case makes a big difference in the ease with which you can transport it to and from your fishing spot.
Some of the more expensive and better quality ice fishing fish finders will come with a carrying case that allows you to pack all your components into the case and keep them from getting tangled with your other equipment.
It’s also a good idea to pay attention to how much the fish finder actually weighs as well. The devices that offer larger screens might be easier to read, but they’re usually a bit heavier as well. If you’re having to carry your equipment across the ice or pull it on a sled behind you, it’s good to select a fish finder that’s lightweight and won’t be excessively heavy.
One of the other main areas you should focus on when shopping for the best ice fishing fish finders is just how easy the device is to use. Some can be more complicated than others and it’s important to get a product that’s straightforward and easy to use, especially if you are a beginner or novice when it comes to ice fishing or using fish finders in general.
It might take a few minutes or some studying over the product’s instruction booklet, website, or online videos before you’ll be able to properly dial in your fish finder and use it on the ice. Pay close attention to some of the reviews on the specific product you’re considering and you can get more of a feel for whether it will be easy or difficult to operate and set up.
Best 10 Ice Fishing Fish Finders
1. Humminbird ICE H5 HELIX 5
It’s hard to argue that Humminbird is one of the premier brands in the fishing industry when it comes to making fish finders that are a cut above the competition. The company has been in business for many decades and they have a large inventory of products that are tailored to meet the specific needs of anglers. The Humminbird ICE H5 HELIX 5 is a product that’s specially designed to function on the ice and provide crystal clear readings to enhance your ice fishing ability.
The device comes with a compact, lightweight design that includes a 5-inch screen and is also fitted with a specialized cover that helps protect it from the wind, snow, rain, and just about anything else you might encounter on the ice. One of the most impressive features that this fish finder offers is the Dual Spectrum CHIRP Sonar which allows you to have a wide range of viewing options when you’re using the product. This Dual Spectrum CHIRP allows you to see objects and details underwater that other fish finders simply can’t pick up.
You also have the ability to use the Adjustable Sonar Zoom feature that lets you focus in on fish that might be holding very tight to the surface, or down deeper in the water column near the bottom. The high-resolution screen offers a 1024-segment flasher which allows you to use 2x zoom, or you can adjust the device to up to 8x zoom on a 2D sonar view.
This is obviously a model that most anglers might not be able to afford, but for those who are capable or willing to invest more money in getting a solid product, the Humminbird ICE H5 Helix 5 is easily one of the best ice fishing fish finders on the market today.
2. Garmin Striker 4 Ice Fishing Kit
Garmin is another one of the more well-known brands when it comes to producing the best overall fish finders in the industry. Their products are mostly designed for anglers who want a lightweight and compact fish finder that’s still capable of delivering clear and detailed readings of the bottom. The Garmin Striker 4 with Ice Fishing Kit is another well-made product that’s ideal for using on the ice.
This fish finder offers much of the same features and quality that the Humminbird ICE H5 Helix 5 does, but with a much more affordable price point. The unit is a bit smaller than most other fish finders with a 3.5-inch screen, but it offers plenty of different modes and capabilities that are useful to ice anglers in a variety of different scenarios.
The Garmin Striker 4 is designed to function at a high frequency, but it is able to provide accurate and detailed readings at incredible depths of 1,600 feet in freshwater and up to 750 feet in saltwater. This model is equipped with Garmin’s ClearVu technology, which is specially designed to give you a much more comprehensive view of your surroundings than other devices are capable of.
One of the biggest advantages this fish finder has is that it can easily be used when you’re ice fishing, or out on normal water during warmer weather. It also boasts a waterproof rating of IPX7, which means the Garmin Striker 4 is capable of working even after being fully submerged for a short period of time. The device features a built-in GPS that is very accurate and allows you to save data on certain locations that you might want to revisit later.
3. HawkEye Fishtrax 1C Fish Finder
Ice fishing requires the use of lots of different equipment that can often be heavy and cumbersome for anglers who fish by themselves. It’s crucial for many ice anglers that they have a fish finder that’s very lightweight and compact so that they aren’t overloaded with gear when they venture out on the ice. The HawkEye Fishtrax 1C Fish Finder is easily one of the best ice fishing fish finders for those who are mostly concerned with having a device that is small and light.
You can virtually operate this device in the palm of your hand and it’s incredibly straightforward and easy to use for beginners and novice anglers. Despite its simple appearance, the HawkEye Fishtrax 1C Fish Finder provides a surprising amount of features that any ice angler will find useful. This unit is mostly designed with higher frequency, which means you won’t be able to read down past a depth of about 240 feet.
The screen is exceptionally clear and is made with VirtuVu display that offers a range of different colors. The device comes with a small sonar sensor that can function by floating in the water, or being placed on top of the ice. It can also be mounted to a boat, which means the Fishtrax 1C is capable of working throughout the warm-weather months as well as through the winter season.
This model is offered at a much more affordable price than our top two options and is a great starter device that is ideal for beginners or novice anglers who might not be ready to invest a great amount into a fish finder yet.
4. Venterior VT-FF001 Portable Handheld Fishfinder
If you’re just getting started in ice fishing and you’re looking for an affordable, easy-to-use fishfinder that isn’t overly complicated, there are a certain number of options that are going to be more ideal than others. The Venterior VT-FF001 Portable Handheld Fishfinder is easily one of the most budget-friendly fish finders you’ll see on the market today.
This particular model might not offer as much of the fancy features that some of our top listings do, but it does provide you with decent ability to detect fish that are either suspended somewhere in the water column, or near the bottom of the body of water you’re fishing in. This fish finder is incredibly easy to use and has the ability to provide readings down to roughly 350 feet in freshwater environments.
You won’t be able to detect fish until you’ve drilled through the ice, but considering the rate at which the Venterior VT-FF001 Portable Handheld Fishfinder is priced, you truly can’t beat it’s ability. This model is also capable of working in warm weather as well as cold. One of the only concerns that users have with this particular model is that the receiver is not waterproof, which means you can easily damage it by getting it wet or dropping it in the water.
5. Deeper CHIRP Smart Sonar
It’s becoming increasingly popular for anglers to use devices and equipment that offer Bluetooth capability and are able to be paired with most phones, tablets and other devices. The Deeper CHIRP Smart Sonar is arguably the best wireless fish finder that can be used in ice fishing or any other time of the year. This product is a bit more expensive than most others we will mention among the best ice fishing fish finders on the market, but it is packed with impressive features and performance.
This device utilizes CHIRP sonar to detect anything from small structure and other objects to bait fish and large predatory species below your position. It offers three different scan modes that provide exceptional detail. These include frequencies of Wide scan that uses 100kHz, Medium scan mode that operates 240 kHz, Narrow mode that operates at 675kHz.
This is easily one of the best portable fish finders you’ll see on the market today that can be used for ice fishing. It can provide readings down to a depth of 330 feet in freshwater and has decent battery life that lasts for several hours at a time and can be quickly and easily recharged. This fish finder connects to a specialized app that’s capable of pairing with any iOS or Android devices and tablets, which will serve as your display while you’re on the water or the ice.
6. Lowrance Hook 3X Fish Finder
Our list of the best ice fishing fish finders wouldn’t be complete without mentioning at least one model from Lowrance. This brand has been around as long as any other in the fishing industry and is well-known for making some of the best products when it comes to depth finders and other electronic equipment. The Lowrance Hook 3X Fish Finder is a very high-quality product that is loaded with all the right features you need to see clearly down into the water.
At first glance, you’ll notice that this model comes in a convenient carrying case, which helps you keep all the cables, transducer, and other components in one easy-to-carry package. It is fairly compact and lightweight with a 3-inch display screen and offers adjustable dual frequency that ranges from 83 to 200 kHz. You’ll be able to track a wide range of data and waypoints, as well as the water temperature, which can be a crucial point for ice anglers.
You can pair this device with an ice transducer for easier detection through the thick ice, or use it after you’ve already drilled your hole to get a crystal clear picture that shows everything underneath you up to several hundred feet in freshwater. The Lowrance Hook 3X also features an alert system if a fish swims into the detection range of this device, which is highly useful for ice anglers who are sitting in one specific location for hours at a time.
This model is a bit more expensive than most others we have on our list, but it is well worth the investment for anglers who want to have a highly-capable product that offers some premium features. It functions on lithium ion batteries that can be recharged and offer plenty of battery life as well.
7. Marcum LX-7 Ice Fishing Sonar System
The next option on our list of the best ice fishing fish finders could easily be placed at the top spot, but the higher price tag might cause some anglers to look elsewhere. The Marcum LX-7 Ice Fishing Sonar System is an exceptionally well-made product that is specially designed for ice fishing.
This device has a very large 8-inch screen that’s very well-lit and features a range of different colors and viewing modes that make it easy to operate the LX-7 compared to many other brands. One of the first things that stands out about this particular model is the 800 x 600 pixel LCD screen that offers a range of color palettes to help differentiate between various structures and fish underwater.
This fish finder is one of the most customizable and allows you to set your own modes and other settings to get the right kind of imaging for the specific type of fishing you plan to do. One of the more impressive characteristics of the Marcum LX-7 Ice Fishing Sonar System is that you can program in the specific type of lure you’re using and the device will optimize the settings automatically based on the lure choice.
8. Vexilar GP1812 FL18 Genz Pack 12Deg Ice-Ducer Combo
Some of the more advanced fish finders on the market don’t necessarily feature a detailed screen that is a mirror image of what’s beneath your position. The Vexilar GP1812 FL18 Genz Pack 12Deg Ice-Ducer Combo works as a fish alert system that sounds off when you’ve located an area with fish. The device might appear to be elementary at first glance, but it actually utilizes some of the most advanced sonar detection systems on the market today.
You can set this fish finder to one of six different depths to pinpoint just where fish are based on the known depth of a location. It’s known as a flashing ice ducer, which is significantly different from most of the fish finders you’ll find on our list. You will be able to tell where the fish are based on the color and display on the main screen panel.
This type of fish finder is without a doubt the most accurate of any model on the market today, but it does require a fairly steep learning curve for anyone who might not be familiar with how an ice fishing ducer works.
9. Lowrance Hook 2 Ice Fishing and All-Season Pack
Another highly popular option from Lowrance is the brand’s Hook 2 Ice Fishing and All-Season Pack. This is an excellent choice for anglers who are looking for a relatively affordable fish finder that is well-equipped for the ice and will also serve them throughout the rest of the year as well.
It has a 5-inch screen with plenty of backlighting for you to see it day or night. The fish finder operates based on a 2-in-1 CHIRP sonar technology and allows you to store up to 3,000 different waypoints in the device for later use. You can use the split screen mode to enhance your fishing, but the only main drawback to this particular model is that it’s a bit heavier than most other models that are ideal for ice fishing.
10. LUCKY Portable Fish Finder
If you’re looking for an outstanding starter model that even a kid can use, then look no further than the LUCKY Portable Fish Finder. This handheld model is specialized for ice fishing and is extremely lightweight and compact, making it one of the most portable ones on our list.
It only has a 2.4-inch screen, but you’ll have no problem distinguishing fish from the bottom or other types of structure along the lake bottom since fish are very clearly marked on the screen. It works based on a rechargeable battery and transducer that operates totally wireless, making it incredibly easy to pack and use on the ice.
You can adjust the sensitivity of this fish finder and it’s the perfect model for young anglers or beginners who are looking to get started in ice fishing. It’s made with a waterproof design and can detect fish up to a depth of about 150 feet.
Last update on 2021-07-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API