Using a Flasher for Ice Fishing

Flashers can be a mysterious piece of equipment. Some people see a wheel of color that is impossible to interpret. Others think that flashers serve to attract fish or some other purpose. I would like to explain how to use a flasher for ice fishing and hopefully remove some of the mystery. I own a Humminbird ICE-45 so this discussion will focus on it.


First, a flasher is nothing more than a portable sonar unit. It allows an angler to 'see' the bottom, his jig and any fish that enter the sonar beam. The harder or more dense an object the wider the signal it will display. The color will also change from green to yellow to red, in that order. So the bottom may start as a narrow green line (sediment) and then turn to a thick red line (hard bottom) on the display. A bait fish may appear as a thin green line and a larger fish as a thicker red line.

The main benefit to using a flasher is the ability to 'see' below the surface. An angler can see his jig and watch the way his jig is moving , how high he is lifting his jig and the position of the fish. When a fish approaches the jig you will normally see a yellow or red line approach the jig which normally will be green. As the fish gets closer, the line will converge or get thicker. If the fish swims away, the angler can vary his jigging motion and actually watch the fish return or leave the area all together. What the flasher allows an angler to do is experiment with different jigging motions to see what the fish are attracted to. It also allows the angler to know when there are fish in the area. Without the flasher an angler is blind and probably won't know if a fish is in the area. The information is also relayed to the angler in real time. There is very little delay, so in a way there is instant gratification.

The Humminbird has an LCD screen and the depths change around the dial as you either adjust the range or change depths in auto mode. This differs from other flashers, where the angler needs to read different rings that are preprinted around the dial. In my opinion, I like the way Humminbird changes the reading for me, it removes one opportunity for me to error.


I almost always operate the flasher in auto mode, so it doesn't matter what depth of water I'm scanning. If I am seeing a lot of lines between the surface and the bottom of the area I'm fishing there is too much interference and the gain and/or noise reduction may need to be adjusted. Gain is how much the return signal on the sonar is amplified. If there is too much clutter on your dial, decrease the gain, if more detail is needed, then increase the gain. Noise reduction eliminates the interference from other electronics, like flashers, that are operating on the same frequency as your flasher.

The ICE-45 has a dual beam transducer. Using the wide beam will allow you to see a wider area under the ice. The narrow beam provides a more detailed view. You can also reduce the amount of cross talk or noise from other flashers by switching the beam used on your flasher.

This flasher also has an adjustable zoom feature which comes in handy in various situations. For example, if you are fishing in 100 ft. of water but the fish are being marked in 70 ft. of water the zoom can be focused in the 70ft. range. The zoom will make the area of the water column larger and easier to see the fish activity in that area.


Flashers require very little maintenance. Basically the battery needs to be charged and maintained and the screen and transducer cable should be wiped with a damp cloth and dried after use. I have shown a few people how to read my flasher and after a few minutes they understand why it makes ice fishing so much easier. If you don't have a flasher I would recommend that you get a friend or other angler to show you theirs. After you use one, you won't know why you ever fished without one.

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