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Ice Fishing Fish Finder vs. Flasher. What’s the Best Option?

Last Updated: 12.07.24


Both gadgets work using the same principle, but there are many differences between the two, and anglers will need to take the time to consider them carefully if they want to make a good purchasing decision. You can find more info here about how both gadgets work, the main differences between the two, and how they can help you catch more fish.


What’s a fish finder?

A fish finder is a device that is used by anglers to locate fish in the water. It works by using a SONAR (Sound Navigation and Ranging) system. It is an indispensable device in today’s fishing process, especially when fishing on the ice, where it’s not always easy to find the perfect fishing spot.

The information that the fish finder gathers from under the water is displayed on a digital screen that can be either CRT or LCD. Today’s models are packed with extra features, such as GPS, radar, electronic compasses, and more to make the device more useful and reliable.

There are also some advanced models on the market that use an upgraded SONAR system called CHIRP (Compressed High-Intensity Radiated Pulse) that works even better at identifying fish in the water column.

A fish finder is an ideal gadget for anyone looking to find fish fast in deep water. However, for ice fishing, a fish finder may provide more power than it is actually needed. That’s because the features of this product cater more to the open water.

However, if you get a model that comes with GPS, you’ll be able to use it to locate and mark structures or snow-covered holes, and this can prove to be very useful for ice fishing.


What’s a fish flasher?

Fish flashers look similar to a fish finder, but they have a round, mechanical LED display with moving multicolored lights. These lights are used to indicate the spot where a jig occurred, the presence of fish, and the water depth below the transducer.

The gadget achieves this with the use of SONAR technology, as the transducer sends short pulses that are reflected from the bottom of the lake bed and other objects. The signals that return are then translated into visual cues on the display. The process is the same as that one used by fish finders, but the interface is different.

It can take a while for someone who’s used with a fish finder to understand the display of the average fish flasher, but once the angler gets familiar with the interface, the device becomes very effective at spotting fish.

Fish flashers are the preferred accessory for ice fishers since they are purposefully built to handle harsh winter conditions. The battery in a fish flasher is built from the ground up to work well in freezing temperatures, and this allows it to keep its charge for a longer period.


Fish finders vs. flashers

At first glance, the two devices are very similar, and that’s not a wrong conclusion to make since they do function almost the same and have the same goal, to make it easier for the angler to spot fish. They both offer real-time SONAR to know immediately what’s happening under the ice. You can see the depth and how the fish responds to your lure.

However, once you take a closer look, you’ll notice that there are small details that make it easier to spot the differences between these two devices. Understanding these differences and knowing how important they are for you can help you decide between the two. Without further ado, below, we will explore the main differences between these two gadgets.



The display is the main difference between the two products. Flashers have a basic interface with multicolored lights that are used to represent all the objects that the sonar detects, including the bottom, the movement of the lure, and the presence of fish in the water.

The display of a fish flasher can be fine-tuned to show every detail. However, interpreting a flasher dial takes a lot of practice, and it is not as easy as looking at a fish finder graph. With that said, once you do get used to it, you’ll be able to read details that are simply not possible with a finder, such as the size of the fish or how it looks at the lure.

Fish flashers also have a zoom feature that allows the display to show everything that’s happening in the water even within a few inches radius of the bottom. This makes the flasher the ideal device for experienced anglers.

For the average angler, reading a fish finder graph is much easier. More recent models also come with an RTS window that lets you see a history of what the device has scanned previously. This is a useful feature since even if you take your eyes off the display and you happen to miss a fish, you’ll still be able to scroll through the history.

However, for models that don’t have an RTS window, tracking and detecting fish movement can prove a bit tricky since there’s quite a substantial delay from the time that something happens under the water to when it gets recorded on the sonar graph.

The information on the LCD screen of a fish finder may be easier to understand, but it is also difficult to see in bright light compared to the multicolored LED screen of a flasher.

Thus, as far as the display is concerned, the fish flasher has a clear advantage since it delivers real-time information, and it shows much more information. However, it does require more practice.

Even so, fish finders are getting better with each generation, and high-end models can compete with the incredible detail and separation that flashers offer.


Battery life

For battery life, more is always better, especially when ice fishing, and this is an area that finds the fish finder at a clear disadvantage since its battery life is poorer compared to that of a fish flasher. The main reason for it is the large LCD screen that requires a lot of power to stay on.

You can extend the battery life by lowering the brightness, but unless you’re fishing in low-light conditions, this can make it even more difficult to read the information on the screen.

Depending on the model, price, and battery size, most fish finders on the market deliver around 4 to 12 hours of use on a single charge. However, if the temperature is low and the GPS enabled, the battery life can be even worse than that.

That’s not the case with fish flashers since the simple LED display doesn’t require a lot of juice, and this allows most units to last an average of 18 hours or more on a single charge.

However, you shouldn’t focus too much on comparing which gadget delivers better numbers. What matters the most is to get a device that has a battery that will last as long as you intend to fish. If you select the gear with that factor in mind and you know its limits well, you won’t be disappointed.



The key to ice fishing is finding the right spots where the fish concentration is at the highest. Fish finders that have built-in mapping and GPS make this process much easier. Newer fish finders may even come with base maps for lakes and detailed contour maps.

This way, you can use the built-in GPS sensor and the maps to find the perfect position for your holes. With a flasher, finding the perfect spot can require more planning and the use of a handheld GPS or your smartphone.


Multi-season use

Fish flashers are designed primarily for use on ice, so they’re only meant for use in one season. That’s not the case with finders since there are many brands that produce quality multi-season fish finders that come equipped with two transducers, one to use on ice and the other to use on the open water.

It is possible to use a flasher in the open water, but the results are not as great since its sensor is fairly limited. As a general rule, fish finders can work while moving, but flashers are better for stationary and vertical fishing.


Which one is the best?

It is up to you to decide which one to get. If your main concern is catching more fish, neither of these devices can get you more fish than the other, since this will still largely depend on how you use the gadget. You should get the one that seems best suited to your fishing style.

Objectively speaking, flashers are the better choice for ice fishing since they’re designed primarily for fishing vertically. They’re more sensitive, and accurate interpretations are made very quickly. However, if you’re looking for a versatile product to use on all your fishing expeditions, a fish finder might be the better choice.



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