Ice Fishing – Sonar selection

  • Flashers vs Graphs
  • Find the Right Unit for the Job

for-sto-12192016-picture-1of1By Gord Pyzer

After the bare necessities of rod, reel, line and tackle, a sonar unit is your single-most important piece of ice-fishing equipment. I’ve been almost two hours down the road, on an early morning crappie adventure, when I’ve turned around and driven all the way back home to get the Humminbird Ice 55 unit that I left orphaned on the back porch steps. That’s the value I place on a good unit. But “good” can mean different things to different people, leading to a preference for one type of sonar unit over another—namely, flashers versus LCD graphs.

Sonar Styles

An ice-fishing flasher, which provides real-time feedback, is the traditional choice for hard-water fishing. However, some ice anglers have difficulty interpreting what they see on a flasher’s multicolored circular screen, preferring the more intuitive view of an LCD graphing unit. But when teasing a fish into biting, these anglers are at a disadvantage.

“Conventional LCD graphs only display your sonar history, so there’s a slight delay in the transfer of information,” says Darrin Bohonis, a sonar specialist with Johnson Outdoors Canada. “Add in the inherent performance issues of older models, especially in extremely cold weather, and the delay becomes even more noticeable. Older liquid-crystal displays can even freeze up.”

That’s not the case, however, with many of today’s newer LCD units, which also have a real-time sonar, or RTS, window. Displaying an instantaneous readout, the RTS view is essentially a vertical—rather than circular—flasher mode, showing what’s happening directly below the transducer beam in real time (see image below). Bohonis says you can even set the RTS view next to the traditional scrolling graph view, which will continue to show how a fish may have reacted to your bait if you had happened to look away for a moment.

Some manufacturers offer kits and accessories to convert an open-water sonar/GPS chart plotter for ice-fishing purposes. While many anglers question the wisdom of removing these expensive units from their boats and subjecting them to harsh winter conditions, Bohonis says there’s no need to worry. These brilliantly colored LCD units, with their TFT (thin-film-transistor) screens, can be used in temperatures well below what most ice anglers can bear, he says. “This lets you get four seasons of fishing out of a unit that you’re already familiar with.”

Using a sonar/GPS chart plotter on the ice also lets you navigate as you would in open water, and mark waypoints on all your hot spots. It’s also a great safety feature if you’re caught in a whiteout. “Sometimes, getting back isn’t a simple matter of heading in a straight line, since you often have to navigate over ice ridges and varied ice conditions,” Bohonis says. “Many times on Lake Winnipeg, when the visibility has been next to zero, we’ve navigated safely off the ice using a sonar/GPS chart plotter.”

Setting up – Common Mistakes

Whether you’re using a flasher or an LCD, you should …  ….