Yes, a regular fish finder can work through ice. And while it’s useful to have an arsenal of application-specific fish-finding tools, they aren’t essential.
Even though fish finders aren’t always optimal, it’s extremely rare to find yourself in a situation where they’re useless..
Bottom line is that a fish finder can be a god-send when ice fishing, particularly when time is limited and the body of water is massive.
Punching useless ice holes all day to fish a baron stretch of water is no joy at all.
A standard fish finder will display valuable information about depth, structure, and of course, fish activity.
The ability to find fish with technology over luck (cheating as it may be) tends to result in a far more successful day on the ice when time is of the essence,
There are a few things you need to know to ensure you get the best from a standard fish finder on the ice – let’s check them out now.
Can You Use a Regular Fish Finder for Ice Fishing?
Yes, you can use a regular fish finder for ice fishing. Not all transducers are ideal for shooting magic sonar waves through the ice, but most will deliver a good seal on the ice, which is the key to good operation.
Sonar waves travel through water and ice but won’t travel through the air. This means you have to have a good seal between the transducer and the ice.
Check the business end of your transducer, it will be obvious as to what sort of ice connection you’re likely to get – some shapes will be better than others.
By and large, this is the most important aspect of your sounder for ice fishing. The second, at least in my opinion, is that the unit should be pretty robust.
If you’re using the fish finder from your boat, and it has a substantial battery, perhaps a lighter more portable battery will be a worthy investment, depending on how you’re traveling across the ice.
Loaded up on a sled, a larger battery is less of an issue.
I like a long set of cables for connecting the battery, as I can leave my battery in the backpack or on the sled – just a convenience thing.
Using a standard fish finder on the ice isn’t particularly difficult, but there are a few processes and tips to get it all working sweetly.
How do you use a Regular Fish Finder for Ice Fishing?
The best thing to do is select a spot and do a scan before you drill holes. Clear a spot of snow and check the ice.
The clearer the ice the better. Air bubbles, cracks, or debris in the ice will negatively impact the scan.
If the ice is old and opaque, it can help to scrape off the top layer. Having said that, it’s best to avoid making too much noise as it can spook the fish.
Noises, such as the auger are unavoidable, sure. But a good rule of thumb is to keep noise to a minimum.
Clear ice has its advantages, so it’s worth scouting a little for good sonar-ready ice, as opposed to trying to fashion the perfect transducer spot.
A good tip is to find an old fishing hole that has since frozen over.
Ensure the chosen piece of ice is flat. If it’s not flat, you can fatten it by adding water and shaping it. Warm water can be handy for this.
Add a little more water then place the transducer on the ice. It’s critical that you get a good seal around the rim of the transducer so that sonar waves are passing only through water or ice.
Once you think you’ve nailed the connection, turn on the fish finder a check the read. If your display is normal, then you have achieved a good connection to the ice.
If it’s not working, you may have to adjust it. Just remember, the goal is to have no air between the transducer and the ice.
The wetter the top of the ice, the better.
It may sound a bit of a hassle, but it’s not really. If you’re organized, you can scan a pretty broad area quickly, and make an assessment as to where you’re going to drop your holes.
You should make a point of moving pretty quickly, as it is possible to freeze your transducer to the ice.
Can Ice Fishing Damage my Fish Finder?
Generally speaking, the ice is a tough place for angler and fishing gear alike. Ice is pretty unforgiving so caution is required to ensure valuable kit remains intact.
Many fish finders are water-resistant, so will cope pretty well in wet icy conditions, however, your transducer can and will stick to the ice if you leave it in position too long.
When you wet the surface to create a good connection this can result in a perfect point to freeze your transducer solidly to the ice.
See Also: Top Ice Fishing Cameras
The colder the day, the faster this is likely to occur, so keep your eye on it. Should it freeze, avoid ripping it from the ice, as this is likely to cause damage.
Instead, just chip away the ice, or better still use a little warm water to melt the ice around the transducer.
This is possibly the biggest drawback to using a standard sounder on the ice – often you can’t leave it in place for any length of time, else it becomes a part of the ice – not good!
However, once you’ve established a rhythm and repeatable methodology, you can scan selected target zones pretty efficiently.
Many ice anglers will use the fish finder and their ice flasher in tandem. This is a very good system and covers all bases.
Firstly, use your fish finder to scan for subsurface features and fish. Once a likely location is determined, put the fish finder away, drill your holes and use your flasher as you would normally.
Also Read: The Best Ice Fishing Flashers
If I had a choice and could only use either a flasher or a standard fish finder, I’d find it a hard choice.
A good flasher is worth its weight in gold; however, I love the display of a good fish finder, plus all of the other data collection functions in a fish finder.
I tend to look at it this way. Your fish finder will identify fish-holding structures (and fish) brilliantly before you drill.
Once drilled and set to fish, your flasher takes over and pinpoints exactly where the fish are when, and you can leave it there. It’s a very useful pairing of devices.
Further Thoughts on Fish Finders on Ice
Yes, standard fish finders work well on the ice and can be invaluable for locating fish and fish-holding structures before you drill. This can save a heap of time.
The most important tip is this, however; that which you learn about fish behavior and habitat by using a sounder should be retained in your head.
A good angler can locate fish extremely well through experience, without the need for devices.
Let your fishfinder be a guide and a teacher, and you’ll become a more successful angler wherever you fish.