Tell me if you’ve heard this line before…”I won’t go ice fishing without my <insert brand>!” I simply put “insert brand” because ice fishing fish finders come with A LOT of followers.
While the big 2 of Vexilar and Marcum eat most of the market share, upcomers Humminbird and now Garmin are making strides in the ice fishing industry.
But before you go out and buy one, make sure you understand all the features available and which you will benefit from…a.k.a. actually use.
Here are some ice fishing fish finder features that I can’t live without.
- Zoom – Seems rather obvious what it does…it zooms in showing an interpretation over a smaller area of water. When I’m targeting suspended crappies, this feature is a MUST HAVE.
- CLEAR Reading – EVERY sonar fish finder is going to show fish. But some will show your lure, and the fish, A LOT clearer than others. You almost pay for that entirely.
- Battery Reader – While you can buy this separately and add to any fish finder, I just have to know where I’m at with my battery…ESPECIALLY on long trips.
- Easy to Carry & Maneuver – A lot of sonars have very simple setups, while others are laid out much nicer. What I’m getting at, is your unit should be setup to carry around when checking holes easily.
- Multi-Beam – Having a multi-beam puck (or in my unit, a tri-beam puck) is really nice. You can make the cone wider when shallow, and tighter when deep for a clearer reading. If your unit doesn’t have a tri-beam puck, there is some chances where add-ons can work.
With these features noted, this will help you get an idea of what you get and for what price on ice fish finders.
So with that being said, here are my TOP PICKS for Ice Fishing Fish Finders…
Vexilar FL-28 Ice Fishing Fish Finder
Seriously, if you’re willing to spend the money on a good fish finder, then you’ve got some GREAT options. But for the money, and for the history of reliability and features, I give the Vexilar FL-28 sonar the nod as my top choice. l bought my first Vexilar in 2000, a Vexilar FL-8 SLT. Still have it, still works almost 20 years later. It’s reasons like that why I gave Vexilar the nod.
WHY do you ask? I will break it down with it’s features:
- Instant Digital Reading – First off, I LOVE the fact that it reads the depth digitally. When you’re going from hole to hole, it’s nice to see EXACTLY what the depth is in a flash. No more trying to figure it out.
- Auto Range – It keeps your bait in the zone, every time. So simple.
- Low Power Mode – REALLY nice when you’re fishing in shallow water. Also good for night vision.
- Day & Night Mode – Always makes this fish finder easy to read.
- Battery Display – More standard nowadays, but I really like having this feature.
And on and on with more features. The case is nice and it’s just an all around nice unit. You Will NOT be disappointed in the Vexilar FL-28 reviews either. It’s hard to find someone with complaints.
Garmin Panoptix Ice Fishing Bundle – Fish Finder Plus Mapping
Okay, if you’ve got the coin to shell out, and want the BEST TECHNOLOGY out there, here you go! The Garmin Panoptix is amazing to say the least. It not only displays sonar, but it actually shows the fish taking your lure like a camera (I know, crazy right?). As you can see in the video below, it demonstrates not only how great it is for CATCHING fish, but SCOUTING for fish too.
This isn’t your traditional ice fishing fish finder, it’s an all-in-one machine. Just SOME of the features include:
- 3 Types of Sonar – If you want traditional sonar, no problem. But if you want the Panoptix version, you’ve obviously got that too. It has to be the most advanced ice transducers PERIOD. And a great tool if you want to locate fish.
- Mapping – It has a section for your mapping so you don’t need to use a phone, GPS, or external unit anymore.
- Customization – It allows you to create custom screens displaying exactly what you want out of ALL these tools.
There are SO MANY options and features on this unit in the menu’s, I wouldn’t begin to touch the surface in a review. It reminds me of a regular open water fish finder…so many ways to make it work for you. Plus, it has a SLICK carrying case for it all as well. The ONLY downfall for this unit is carrying all of it around. This may take some getting used to, but when you get to fishing….this thing is almost like cheating… My hats off to Garmin, they knocked it out of the park with this setup.
Marcum LX-7LI Digital Ice Fishing Fish Finder
If you’re going to consider going with Marcum, I highly suggest going with one of their digital models such as the Marcum LX-7Li. Everything is digital with this unit, and it comes with a lot of bells and whistles built in. It comes with an 8-inch LCD screen, so it has plenty of room for visuals. I personally haven’t used this model, but I have a buddy that does and I’ve seen it fished often.
The features I like most about this ice fishing fish finder are:
- Great Screen Setup– You have full control over the display, and it’s really intuitive compared to other sonars.
- Great Zoom – You have full control over the zoom in many ways, while still showing the bottom. Very unique design.
- Multi-View – You can view various sonars from traditional to straight down. Of course, you may favor one over the other.
I’ve owned multiple Marcum’s in my day, including their underwater cameras. Overall, I’ve been happy with them. I still have my Marcum LX-5. Overall, this is a pretty nice unit, but of course comes with a pretty hefty price tag.
Vexilar FL-18 Ice Fish Finder
If you’re on a budget and want the best bang for your buck, then you may want to look into the Vexilar FL-18 ice fishing fish finder. The FL-18 sonar has been around a long time, but there’s a reason it’s never discontinued…it’s SOLID.
This is the starting model of Vexilar that includes the Zoom feature. As I mentioned earlier, I consider Zoom to be ultra-important…especially on suspended fish. The display is a bit old school, but it’s still easy to read. But it still shows good target separation for the price.
It also has the blue base, which fits on a 5-gallon bucket…nice. Plus, this ice fishing sonar is really easy to use. Don’t need to read manuals to figure this thing out, it’s only got a handful of buttons.
I recommend this unit often to people who don’t want to spend a ton of money on a fish finder. I get it, life is expensive and sometimes you just need rock solid sonar without breaking the bank. This is THAT unit.
These are my favorite options for ice fishing fish finders. Of course, there are a TON of options out there, and you can certainly look into those as well. Please remember to use caution out on the ice this winter! Especially early and late ice (see ice thickness chart). And remember to take a kid ice fishing…my kids LOVE it!