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Why use sonar when ice fishing?

Sonar is a tool that enables you to catch a glimpse of what lies below the ice. Locating the fish is one of the most challenging parts of ice fishing, and sonar can greatly contribute to a successful ice fishing trip.

When you are ice fishing, most of your playing field will be hidden. Using the best ice fishing sonar helps to improve your visibility and can alert you to hazards that you could potentially encounter along the way.

During the winter season, fish are much more stagnant than the are during open fishing.

This increases your need to know their exact location. 

Sonar ice fishing can help you safely navigate the lake, return to good fishing spots, and find your prey.

How to use a sonar for ice fishing?

Using sonar for ice fishing can significantly improve your experience, but sonar only works as well as you know how to use it.

Newer sonars generally come with a detailed instruction manual that will walk you through the steps to get the most from the features of your unit.

A flasher is the most common type of sonar for ice fishing. This sonar alerts the user to structures in the water column on a circular screen. 

However, it can be a challenge to learn how to use flashers.

  • Step 1: Make sure that your sonar is completely charged or plugged in, depending on the model.
  • Step 2: Turn on the power, and drop the transducer down into the ice hole. If you have an older unit, you should place your transducer on or below the bottom of the ice. While newer units are decent at penetrating the ice, older models sometimes read the ice as a signal, and this will give you an unclear picture of what is happening below!
  • Step 3: Determine your range. Before you begin fishing, you need to know the depth of your water. Most sonar units can read between one and 240 ft down. If you are unsure of how deep you are fishing, use GPS, an app on your phone, or a hydrographic map to research the layout of the lake. Set the range to the closest setting to the depth of the lake to obtain the most accurate reading.
  • Step 4: Set the gain. The gain is the level of power emitted by the transducer.  This setting controls the signal that the sonar releases to the bottom of the lake. The deeper the lake, the higher the setting that you will need. Increase the gain to the level where you begin to notice interference, then reduce the power until the screen gains clarity. 
  • Step 5: Improve your resolution. Zoom in to the portion of the water column where you think that fish are most likely to be located. Your user guide should give you more details on how to properly set the zoom. 
  • Step 6: It’s time to drop your jig. As you drop your jig, make sure that it is clearly visible on screen. You need to be able to distinguish between your line and the fish that are attracted to it! If your fishing lure is not a consistent, solid line, return to step 3 and readjust.
  • Step 7: Wait until a fish finds your lure; then reel in your catch!

To learn more about using sonor, take a few moments to check out this video.  

What to look for in a sonar for ice fishing?

When you’re searching for the best sonar for ice fishing, you must decide on the style you prefer.

Generally, your choice is between traditional flashers and LCD sonar/GPS.

Both are effective for locating fish and mapping the area below the ice, but you should determine the style that you will be most comfortable using.

Flasher units

While primitive, these are incredibly effective tools for increasing your catch.

A circular screen describes everything happening under the ice as it’s happening, by using RTS, aka, real-time sonar.

This gives you an instantaneous understanding of how the fish are moving and reacting to your bait.

Flashers may include technology that allows you to modify the cone angle or personalize the display options.

You can also learn about the composition of the bottom using these tools. 

LCD combination units

Another option in addition to traditional sonar is the use of LCD combination units.

LCD/GPS sonar units have all the bells and whistles. They bring the newest, most innovative technology and include features that you will not see in any standard flasher.

Options such as adaptable zoom, GPS with waypoint capabilities, digital maps, various screens, and other personalizable touches have quickly propelled LCD units to the front of the sonar market.

Anglers love to take advantage of the 2D sonar history viewing feature installed on most LCD/GPS units. This give you an inside view on how fish respond to your presentation.

Best ice fishing sonar

If you’re looking for the best sonar for ice fishing, there are a number of options that could potentially work well for you. The following sonar options may help you get started in your search.

Garmin Striker 4 with Transducer, 3.5″ GPS Fishfinder with CHIRP Traditional Transducer

The Garmin Striker 4 is the total package for ice fishing sonar.

With ClearVu scanning sonar, this tracker will reveal more of what is hiding in the water near your boat. The pictures have such crystalline quality that you may think you are looking at a photo.

Using very high frequencies, you can see detailed images of fish and surrounding objects.

This sonar is very user friendly with a keyed interface and dedicated buttons. Installation quick and simple so you can get back to fishing!

Displays are offered in 1.5, 5, and 7 in. sizes.

The water rating of this device is IPX7.

For easy navigation, you will be able to use the waypoint map to find the route to obscure locations like coves, brush piles, docks, and log clusters.

This sonar can reach to a maximum depth of 1,600 feet in freshwater and 750 feet in saltwater. 

The current draw is 12V : 0.23A.

CHIRP Sonar is one of the most innovative aspects of this equipment. It sends a constant sweep of frequencies to attain a larger range. It begins by sending lower frequencies and increases to send higher frequencies, which are individually evaluated as they return to the device. 

This allows the software to form clearer fish arches with improved object separation than traditional 77/200 kHz transducers.

You have the additional option of upgrading to the high-performance level Garmin CHIRP as well. The Garmin CHIRP gives you more defined target separation and improves resolution in the deepest reaches of the lake.

It also shows more enhanced bottom contours and can update faster than a standard unit by minimizing the signal noise.

You can also use the built in flasher to view the sonar data in the standard format which is perfect for vertical jigging or ice fishing. 

With a 1.9 x 2.9 in. display, you will be able to clearly view the screen using the built-in GPS system with excellent tracking.

This very sensitive sonar picks up on major landmarks and objects like docks and boat ramps, making it easy to find your way and avoid obstructions.

When you find a spot that you would like to return to on future trips, you can quickly mark it as a hotspot.

It also has easy access keypad operation for use on the go.

View at Amazon to learn more about how this product may work for you.


  • CHIRP (77/200 kHz) sonar transducer
  • Transmit power (200 W RMS)/(1,600 W peak-to-peak)
  • Upgrade to CHIRP with a GT8 or GT15 transducer, sold separately
  • 1.9 x 2.9 in. display


  • High frequency range with individual frequency analysis
  • Crystal clear images and defined target separation
  • Built in GPS system with mark and return capabilities
  • Shows major surrounding objects
  • Easy keypad access

Deeper PRO+ Smart Sonar – GPS Portable Wireless Wi-Fi Fish Finder for Shore and Ice Fishing

The Deeper PRO+ Smart Sonar is a great find for anglers.

This model is excellent for shoreline fishing but is versatile to cover all of your sonar needs.

It’s wireless, castable nature enable you to use it conveniently on the go to find fish faster.

The viewing screen boldly shows you fish location, size, and suspension depth. For even more definition, you can view underwater structure, plants and moss, underwater contours and hardness, too! It even describes the water level and the temperature.

You can use the built-in GPS to draw bathymetric maps while you stand on the lakeshore.

This product includes free access to Lakebook, a bathymetric management platform. Using this tool, you can store, read, and interpret your bathymetric maps from any location.

You can cast to up to 330 ft and scan to depths as deep as 260 ft.

Deeper PRO+ Smart Sonar utilizes dual beam sonar frequency with a 55° wide beam at 90 kHz and a 15° narrow beam at 290 kHz.

Since it generates its own wifi signal, you can easily sync it with your smartphone and download the Deeper App, which comes with monthly updates for free, to your iOS or Android device.

The ice fishing mode features a traditional flashing display and 2D vertical zoom. The device can withstand temperatures as low as -4 °F, so you can use it on even the coldest days. 

It also allows you to map each ice hole and make bathymetric maps as you move. 

If you have any issues, 24/7 customer support is readily available to you.


  • Great for shore or boat fishing
  • Wireless and castable
  • Viewing screen for target size, location, and depth
  • Determines underwater structures and contours
  • Easy to avoid obstructions
  • Built-in GPS and wifi signal
  • Capability to draw bathymetric maps with free access to Lakebook
  • iOS and Android compatible
  • Traditional display and 2D vertical zoom
  • 24/7 customer support

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