Ice Fishing Flasher vs Underwater Fishing Camera: Expert Guide

As two of the most popular fishing electronics used by ice anglers, the ice fishing flasher and underwater fishing camera offer a unique way to view the underwater environment and …

As two of the most popular fishing electronics used by ice anglers, the ice fishing flasher and underwater fishing camera offer a unique way to view the underwater environment and help you locate fish quickly and accurately.

Flashers provide a real-time, 360-degree view of the lake bottom, while underwater cameras give a live video feed of the aquatic environment in a set direction. Each device has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to know which one is right for you before making a purchase.

This article will take a closer look at both electronics and help provide you with a basic understanding of how each device works, so you can make an informed decision on which one will help you catch more fish.

Flasher vs Camera: What’s Better for Ice Fishing

Ice fishing flasher
Dashboard view of an Ice Flasher

Since flashers use sonar to detect fish under the ice, they can provide an approximate location and size of the fish in the cold water below you. This can be extremely helpful in finding schools of fish, single large fish, as well as estimating the size of the catch.

When it comes to underwater cameras, you will get a more detailed view of the underwater environment, which allows you to identify the species of fish as well as observe their behavior. Cameras also allow for more precise placement of bait and lures and can provide an entertaining visual experience too.

In terms of which is better for ice fishing, it really depends on the specific situation and your own personal preference. Flashers are more suited for finding fish and estimating their size in a larger area, while cameras are better for identifying species and observing behavior up close.

Flasher vs Camera: Comparison 

This comparison table will provide a quick view of the differences between a flasher and an underwater camera at a glance so you don’t have to dig around to find what you need.

Ice Fishing FlasherUnderwater Camera
Cost Range$200 – $500$400 – $2000
PortabilityExtremely portableSomewhat portable
Ease of UseExtremely easy and beginner friendlySomewhat difficult to set up and use
Battery LifeExcellentSomewhat short
VersatilityHighly versatileSomewhat versatile
Max Working DepthUp to 200 feetDependant on cord and mounting pole length
Depth Measurement?Included with most modelsOnly included on higher-end models
ProsTracks fish at a 360-degree range in murky waterBeautiful photographic images in clear water
ConsDoesn’t produce photorealistic imagesImage quality and distance suffer in murky water

Flasher vs Camera: In Detail

Ice fishing flasher 1
The choice between a flasher and a camera depends on the specific situation and the angler’s personal preference.

Cost Comparison

The cost comparison between an ice fishing flasher and an underwater fishing camera can vary significantly depending on the brand and model of electronics you purchase.

Ice fishing flashers typically cost between $200-$500 and will provide an accurate picture of what is below the ice with the help of sonar. For some anglers, however, sonar can be difficult to learn how to read or simply not provide enough targeted information about what’s happening under the ice.

An underwater fishing camera can cost anywhere from $400-$2000 and will give you a more detailed and precise view of the underwater environment. The more expensive the camera, the better the quality of the picture and the more features it will have. 

Additionally, a high-end underwater fishing camera is more likely to come with features such as panning, zooming, and night vision, which can be very useful when fishing in low visibility conditions.

Portability

The portability of a flasher is great for ice fishing because it can fit into a tackle box or even the pocket of your lucky fishing vest or jacket. It is lightweight and can be moved to different locations on the ice with ease. 

An underwater fishing camera, on the other hand, is usually more of a stationary device. It is typically mounted on the side of a boat or to a dock and requires a power source such as a battery pack or an electrical outlet.

Ease of Setup and Use

Ice fishing flashers are extremely easy to set up and use, even for beginners. They are quite simple in their construction as well; basically being a box with a transducer attached to it with a cord. 

All you need to do is ensure the transducer is receiving images from the water and transmitting them to a nearby Bluetooth smartphone or tablet, and then place it into the water. 

The Flasher then uses sonar sound waves to detect nearby objects including fish, sunken logs, rocks, and vegetation, allowing you to see them on the screen at a high level of accuracy. Flashers are very user-friendly and easy to interpret, making them ideal for beginning anglers of all ages.

In contrast, an underwater fishing camera can be more difficult to set up and use. The camera usually needs to be mounted to a pole and then placed into the water. You will either need to manually adjust any changes in direction or simply be content to view fish in one direction.

An underwater fishing camera usually also needs an external power source in the form of a battery pack or portable solar panel, and can overall be considerably more expensive than a flasher. 

The image on the screen is also harder to interpret in murky or dark water and can take some time to get used to. However, in clear water, an underwater fishing camera can deliver some amazing shots of nearby fish, even giving you a clear way to identify the species.

Battery Life

The battery life of an ice fishing flasher is typically much longer than that of an underwater fishing camera because most flashers use a low-power transducer, which is specifically designed to conserve battery life. 

This technology allows you to keep your flasher running for much longer periods of time without having to worry about changing or recharging the batteries.

An underwater fishing camera, on the other hand, usually requires more power and has a much shorter battery life. This is because the camera has to be constantly running in order to capture images and videos

While the battery life is considerably shorter on an underwater fishing camera, it allows you to capture images and videos of the underwater environment in real time which a flasher cannot.

Versatility

While both an ice fishing flasher and an underwater fishing camera are two extremely popular tools for anglers heading out onto the ice, the flasher has an added layer of versatility that the underwater camera does not.

An ice fishing flasher allows you to see what’s happening in the water beneath the ice in real-time. You can view single fish, schools of bait, bottom structures, and more. You can also adjust the sensitivity of the flasher so that you can better identify the fish you’re targeting, which is extremely useful in murky or stained water. 

Additionally, a flasher allows you to mark and track the location of fish in real-time, making it easier to find them again. This is probably one of my personal favorite reasons to use a flasher since I know exactly where to bore my next ice hole when setting up a secondary fishing spot.

An underwater fishing camera also allows you to view the underwater environment in real time, but it doesn’t allow you the same level of precision and sensitivity in a 360-degree view. Instead, you are limited to viewing in a single direction which may or may not be where the fish are swimming.

Pros

Since a flasher is using sonar technology to detect fish beneath the ice, it can display a detailed image of the bottom of the lake regardless of how murky the water may be. This allows anglers to easily identify schools of fish, weed beds, and other underwater structures, as well as track fish movement patterns.

An underwater fishing camera provides you with a live view of what is happening beneath the surface of the water. It gives you the ability to not only see the bottom of the lake, but also the size of the fish and their exact locations in the water. In fact, if the water is clear, you can see fish so well you may even be able to identify the exact species by their color, patterns, or body shape.

Cons

On the downside, a flasher transducer can be affected by extremely cold winter temperatures and can be unreliable if not cared for properly. This is especially true of more budget-friendly models which might not have the same internal insulation and water seals as a higher-end model.

Fishing cameras can be expensive to purchase initially and may require the use of additional equipment in order to get the best results, such as external batteries and underwater lights, which can add to the overall cost. Additionally, the camera can be rendered almost useless by murky water, floating sediment, and other poor underwater conditions making it difficult to obtain clear images.

When Is a Camera Better?

In clear and open water, an underwater fishing camera can be highly desirable for anglers to use. This is because an underwater camera provides a greater range of visibility and can be used to observe the entire water column from the surface to the bottom if mounted on a pole you can raise and lower it as needed. 

You can not only see and identify fish by their body colors and patterns but can also watch their activity in and around your lure. This helps you make an informed decision on exactly which bait or lures are the best to use in that particular location. 

When Are Ice Fishing Flashers Better?

Ice fishing flashers are outstanding when you need to see what’s happening deep beneath the ice quickly and with minimal effort. Not only can flashers provide a 360-degree view of the water around your fishing hole, but they can also deliver clear images of what’s happening in water 30 feet below the surface. 

Fish Finder vs Underwater Camera

Ice fishing camera
Underwater fishing cameras rely on video imaging to track fish and provide a real-time view of the environment.

A fish finder uses conventional sonar, which is the more traditional method of tracking fish and other objects in the water. This is generally considered more reliable than an underwater fishing camera since the sound waves are emitted and reflected off objects in the water. 

The returning sound waves are then processed to determine the size and location of the object, including the depth or distance it is from the transducer. This method is highly accurate and can detect even the smallest of objects in the water such as your bait or lure. 

An underwater fishing camera lacks any type of sonar and instead just uses video imaging to track fish and other objects in the water. This method provides a real-time view of the environment in front of the camera, however, it may not be as accurate as conventional sonar and can be completely useless if the water is muddy, murky, or full of sediment.

If You Can Only Choose One…

For anglers that can only choose one or the other, I would personally recommend going with an ice fishing flasher. This is an outstanding piece of fishing equipment because it allows you to see what’s happening beneath the ice whether the water is crystal clear or heavily stained. 

It’s especially useful for finding the right spots to drop your lure in, and it can also help you determine the size and species of the fish that may be circling around your bait or lure. With a flasher, you can not only spot fish and identify their depth, but can also see the location of larger fish or schools of fish in the area.

Ice Fishing Sonar vs Camera: FAQs

Are Ice Fishing Cameras Worth It?

Ice fishing underwater cameras can be very useful when used properly and in the right water conditions. They allow you to see what is going on beneath the ice which can help you identify potential target fish and how to lure them in more effectively. They also allow you to monitor your bait and line, so you can adjust your technique depending on whether fish are showing interest or completely avoiding your presentation.

Do Underwater Cameras Scare Fish?

Underwater fishing cameras may scare some fish away, but for the most part, fish do not seem to be scared off by them. In fact, some anglers have reported that fish seem to be more attracted to their baits when the camera is in use.

Can You Catch Fish Without Fancy Electronic Gear?

Absolutely! In fact, some popular but slightly unconventional methods of fishing without using electronic gear include using cast nets, spears, bow and arrow, or traps.

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Jeff Knapp is an expert fisherman, guide and outdoor writer whose work is widely published across a range of sites including Tackle Village. Jeff is based in Pennsylvania and loves exploring the waterways of that state in pursuit of smallmouth bass, largemouth, panfish and trout.
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