The Fishing and Marine Industry Daily News Feed

Sonar On Ice

By Bob Jensen

A fishing friend and I were talking about ice fishing recently.  My friend wanted to get involved in fishing through the ice and was curious what equipment he would need to do-so.  Our conversation soon turned to sonar, a.k.a “depth finders”, a.k.a. “fish finders,” and whether he needed one.  My friend understood the value of sonar in open water, but wasn’t so sure it was needed on hard water.  I told my friend that he could use my sonar next time he went ice fishing.  He took me up on that offer.  When he returned it after a few hours on the ice, he declared, “I need to get a fish finder like yours.”    He discovered what most people who fish through the ice know:  Sonar will help you catch more fish.  Here’s why.

When ice fishing, sonar is used primarily to determine if fish are present.  A depth-finder adjusted properly, and it’s easy to adjust them properly, will show the tiniest of jigs.  They will show if a fish is below your hole in the ice.  And they’ll help an angler decide what type of bait the fish are interested in.

The most successful ice anglers will drill a good number of holes in an area and then move from hole to hole searching for fish.  They put the sonar’s transducer in the hole, lower a bait, and watch for a fish to approach it.  If no fish life is detected in a few minutes, they move to another hole.  They keep moving until they find fish.  When they find a hole with fish underneath, they spend some time there.  This is when the “fish finder” takes on a new role.

Once fish are located, use the sonar to position your bait.  When a group of fish is found, there will usually be some that are more aggressive.  Let’s say we’re fishing for perch. Our sonar reveals some that are close to the bottom.  Lower your bait until it’s two or three feet above them.  See if they’ll come up to it.  If they do, they’re often going to bite.  If they don’t, lower it so it’s a little closer to them.  Make the aggressive fish come up to your bait so the not-so-aggressive fish don’t get spooked.  At times, a hooked fish that is struggling will cause the other fish to leave the area.   

This brings us to another function of sonar.  We find some fish and they come up to look at the bait, but they don’t eat it.  They’re interested, but they’re playing hard-to-get.  When they look but don’t eat, you need to convince them to eat.  Try a different lure color or size.  Maybe move the bait slower or faster.  Try different presentations until you find what they want.  If they don’t respond to anything you show them, check out a different hole but remember to come back to that one.  At some point during the day, they’re going to be hungry.  You want them to see your lure when they’re hungry.

Vexilar sonar units are very popular among ice anglers.  They’re reliable, easy to use, and available in several models.  One of them will be just right for any ice angler.

If you want to be more successful in your ice fishing, using a fish finder and paying attention to what it’s telling you will definitely help you put more fish on the right side of the ice.

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