Camera Or Flasher For Ice Fishing?

By Ted Peck - January 1, 2010
There is no doubt electronics will improve your ice fishing success by at least 75 percent. Both an underwater camera and sonar flasher unit will help you put more fish on the ice.

Which is better? Ask two old bucketeers what they think about either electronics or choice of underwear and you'll eventually get the same response. Camera or flasher? Boxers or briefs? Depends.

If you're an ice fishing addict, the obvious answer is "both". The downside of this response is two-fold : you can only carry so much gear and the checkbook contains a limited number of checks. At $300-500 per unit you may have to choose like a wise Latina.

You might base choice on how deep you usually fish. If most of your hardwater time is over less than six feet of water, the camera has a definite edge. In deeper water a flasher is the way to go. Most of the time I grab my Vexilar FL-18 flasher unit for a day on the ice. The FL-18 has the capability of showing the entire water column on one side of the dial and the bottom six feet on the other side. In many waters, many desirable fish species hang within 6 feet of the bottom for a major part of the hardwater period. The enhanced view on the FL-18 enables an angler to pinpoint targets within a couple inches of the bottom. This can be critical when arctic high pressure limits fish activity.

One major advantage of a flasher is having an electronic signal which covers the entire water column without a need to manipulate a cable to see the fish. The major advantage of a camera is actually being able to see the fish instead of interpreting their intentions by looking at a little red blip on a dial.

The omniscient lens of the camera shows which subtle jigging motions a fish finds irresistible and which are repulsive. With a flasher the only solid indication of a positive presentation is when a fish actually bites. There is considerable conjecture amongst the ice fishing fraternity whether that long black cable with lights and a camera at the end scares fish away from your lure. I'm convinced that perch see this gear as a threat. Crappies will still approach a little jig pulsing in the water. But they tend to be wary. Several steps can be taken to minimize this perceived threat. Some cameras offer infrared lighting which is not visible to the fish. Some cameras are contained in housings which look like a bluegill. This feature can actually attract fish like northern pike. Watching Jaws attempting to devour your camera is a spiffy twist to must see TV.

I use a MarCum VS 380 camera. This basic unit lacks infrared lighting capability and a faux fish at the business end. But it still works better than my flasher when fishing in less than six feet of water-when chasing anything but perch. Decorating the camera and last four feet of cable with a strand of artificial holiday garland cancels out the wary tendency of crappies. It may actually enhance the appeal of your presentation by providing a "weed column" for fish to relate to!

Most underwater cameras come with 60-70 feet of cable which connects the video camera to the monitor. John Gillespie and Dave Carlson are the only two guys I know who bring a camera operator along to run the camera.

If you can talk your wife or girlfriend into raising or lowering the camera while you try to tempt fish through 20 feet of the water column, odds are they would gladly negotiate the option of a $300 shopping spree for allowing you to purchase a Vexilar FL-18 flasher which would free them from this task.

All things considered, the flasher is a more versatile ice fishing unit. But if you're considering purchase of fishing electronics, go for the TV and employ the aforementioned argument to facilitate flasher acquisition. Ask "Santa" for a sled and a pony to pull it and you may get both. Odds that there will only be a couple lumps of coal in your stocking are longer than ever before thanks to the push for more "green" technology proposed in the Cap and Trade legislation.

Author Ted Peck
Ted Peck
Cap'n Ted Peck has over 30 yrs. guiding experience, specializing in multi-species fishing on Pool 9-10 of the Mississippi from Genoa, Wi. to Prairie du Chien. Cap'n Ted is a pro staffer for Lund, Northland Tackle, MinnKota, Bill Lewis Lures, Evinrude, Uncle Josh, HT Enterprises and Custom Jigs & Spins. When not guiding Cap'n Ted communicates the outdoors experience via newspapers, magazines, TV, radio and through seminars. This work has taken him all over the midwest, Canada and beyond... but he always returns to the upper Mississippi which he considers the most diverse fishery in North America. Click here for more info on Ted's guide service. Cap'n Ted's new book Mississippi Musings with the Old Guide is a personal account of his long career as a professional fishing guide on Old Man River.