The Best Weapon for Ice-Fishing

There is one piece of equipment that can double your ice-fishing success overnight. Here's some advice on how flashers can make cold fishing trips turn red-hot.

Photo by Ron Sinfelt

When it comes to ice-fishing, a flasher is one piece of equipment that is an important part of a savvy angler's arsenal and it can open up a whole new exciting world of fishing for you, plus double your success overnight. Flashers are easy to use, compact, rugged and built to withstand the brutal elements of winter.

Electronics determine water depth, identify baitfish and structure, and locate the fish you want to catch. They work great on forays for perch, crappies, bluegills, walleyes or any other fish species. Once you have used one, you will come to the conclusion that a flasher increased your catch tenfold. Here's why.

The most understated advantage to using electronics is actually seeing how fish respond to your presentation. If you are jigging a teardrop for bluegills and see a fish approach the offering but not strike, you know to make an adjustment like change bait or lures. Making the right choice is the heart and soul of what fishing is all about, and guarantees you are shooting bull's-eyes instead of missing the target.

A lot is written about how to find fish by using electronics but little is published telling you what to do once you find them. It is no big problem to locate perch, crappies, walleyes and bluegills in almost any lake. But what do you do to catch fish once you mark them?

One important facet of fishing is to keep the offering in the strike zone, where fish will take the offering. Once you mark them on the flasher, lower your bait so it is suspended slightly above target fish. When you have the lure positioned above fish, give it a jigging action, then pause a few seconds and wait for a strike. If they don't hit, give the offering a stair-step jigging motion and move the bait upward. This causes fish to instinctively think an easy meal is swimming away and they will follow and take your offering. Bluegills require a tantalizing upward jigging action that draws them several feet off the bottom before they strike. Walleyes will grab an offering close to the bottom. Again, the key is to watch the fish on the flasher and fool them into striking by keeping the bait close, in the strike zone.

Electronics will show active fish that suspend off the bottom. In this situation, you keep lures in the zone slightly above the red bands on the flasher farthest off the bottom. Now wait, because about 90 percent of active fish will slam the lure because they are in a feeding mood.

Another important benefit of a flasher is that it will tell you when to change your lure. This point is best made by the following anecdote.

It was a quiet afternoon, with no wind, as the setting sun outlined the distant treeline in warm colors of yellow that quickly turned to orange, then dark purple. I was mesmerized by the dead silence; there was no sound of automobiles, phones, planes or trains. A large red band appeared on my Vexilar flasher that interrupted the tranquility.

The fish was close to the bottom and as I worked lures upward, it followed. I was fishing two rods, one rigged with a silver spoon, the other a white lure. I twitched both rods and then held them motionless, waiting for the take. POW! There was a solid strike on the white lure from a big fish and soon an 8-pound walleye was coaxed onto the ice. I quickly unhooked the fish and glanced at the flasher, and there on the screen was a second big red band moving upward to the silver lure. I grabbed the rod and twitched it, but the fish rejected the offering and slowly drifted back to the bottom.

I worked frantically to re-bait and drop the white offering to the strike zone. The instant the lure settled, the red band returned and the rod was almost jerked from my hand.

After icing the second fish, I removed the silver lure and replaced it with a white variety. Then all heck broke loose. I was soon into a doubleheader. Few fishing experiences are more hectic than trying to land two fish at once. I finally set one of the rods between my knees, landed the first fish and then put the second on the ice, too. Obviously, on this particular day the walleyes wanted a white lure and my flasher helped me see which lure color the fish preferred.

A flasher can also show you the mood of fish. Each fishing outing can be different. Sometimes fish move quickly and bite fast; other times they are lethargic and slow to strike. When you see fish rejecting your setup, then you know it is time to make a change. The key to this decision is totally dependent upon what you see on your electronics and how you interpret the valuable information.

Electronics also tell you which jigging action draws fish. At times, powerful windmill-like rod strokes are in order to attract fish, while other times a slower action is required to draw fish. One trick is to use two rods, one in each hand, and jig with the right rod and have the left rod sitting motionless. This is called "dead stick" fishing. When a fish comes close but refuses the faster lure, lift the lure out of the strike zone and give the dead stick a little jiggle. The fast-moving lure draws fish from far, and the subtle movement from the stationary rod causes the minnows to swim. This seductive action is powerful medicine for fooling shy fish.

Electronics can show you how to hook minnows, too. Again, you must use trial and error to determine which method works. Most anglers hook bait in the lips, but if the lips rip or the hook is crooked, the minnow will die and the fish will refuse them. When in doubt, it is a good policy to put a lively new minnow on the hook. One surefire tactic is to hook the minnow through the tail. The impaled offering will wiggle with an enticing whip-like action that sends vibrations that few fish can resist rocketing through the water. You can actually see the minnow moving on the electronics, and nine times out of 10 you can observe the target fish as it swims close to the bait and slurps the offering. Ice-anglers who understand how to use electronics can call out strikes before the fish bites, because they can see the fish on the flasher and they know their bait is working right.

Bluegills have a reputation for not biting jigs if the barb of the hook is exposed. With a flasher you know when this happens because you will see fish reject an offering that has been a producer. When that happens you know it is time to reel up and make certain the mousie or wax worm is hiding the hook.

No tool is more important than a flasher when fishing at night. The lighted flasher screen makes it possible to see your lure and your jigging action and to see fish before they strike. There is no better way to evaluate the night bite on your

local lake than with the aid of a flasher.

If you are like me, just an average Joe looking to catch more fish, then electronics can give you a big edge. Ice-fishing of all varieties is much easier when you can see what is going on below the surface. In any fishing situation - deep or shallow water - and with any fish species, a flasher is a lethal weapon to use to shortcut your road to fishing success.

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Game & Fish stories delivered right to your inbox every week.