Part of the joy of fishing is the mystery of what is going on under the surface. Well, using some clever technology, the mystery is solved.
Both flashers and cameras can really help you to glimpse into the depths. Flasher or Camera? Which will hold the most benefit?
Today I’m going to show you, talk through the benefits of each and tell you everything you need to know.
Disclosure: At BonfireBob, we recommend products based on unbiased research, however, BonfireBob.com is reader-supported and as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases if you shop through the links on this page. For more information, see disclosure here.
Table of Contents
- Flashers and Fish Finders – What’s the Difference?
- Flasher vs Camera – Which is Better for Ice Fishing?
- Flashers and Cameras – Other Notable Differences
- Are Flashers Worth It?
- Are Underwater Cameras Worth It?
- When is a Flasher Better for Ice Fishing?
- When is a Camera Better for Ice Fishing?
Flashers and Fish Finders – What’s the Difference?
Essentially both fish finders and flashers tell you one thing.
What is going on beneath the water?
Both fish finders and flashers work similarly. They send a signal down to the bottom and time how long it takes for that signal to be returned. If something gets in the way, it ‘paints’ this as a fish!
So, what’s the difference?
Well, in essence, it is actually pretty simple. Look at it like this.
A fish flasher is ‘live’. It is showing you what is going on beneath you ‘real time’ at that very second. On the other hand, a fish finder is a historical record of what has happened in the past. It will display this information on a visual timeline that you can then use to assess general trends.
Interestingly there are now fish finders that can come fitted with a flasher mode, so you might be able to get the best of both worlds! You can check out a range of great ice fishing fish finders packed with features right here.
Flasher vs Camera – Which is Better for Ice Fishing?
To make a true comparison, it is best to look at the standout features of cameras and fish flashers. Both have qualities that really stand out, and there are other areas in which they are weak.
Once you know these, you’ll be able to make a better decision.
In the red corner, the flasher. In the blue corner, the fishing camera.
Ding ding! Round one!
Here’s what you need to know…
It is always possible to spend huge sums of money on fishing, so anything that reduces the cost could be a potential benefit.
I’ll say it right now.
Cameras tend to be cheaper than flashers. There are some really cheap models of underwater cameras available. A budget fish flasher will normally cost about the same as a mid-priced camera.
Ice fishing flashers tend to be fairly specialized products that are custom-built for exactly the kind of environment in which you’ll be using them. They are designed to withstand cold weather.
It is worth noting that there is a direct relationship between cost and performance when it comes to fish flashers. Pricier fish flashers are more accurate and give a better picture of exactly what is going on beneath your feet.
Round 1 | Cost
- Camera: 1
- Flasher: 0
I know what you are thinking.
Cameras are super portable.
Except, they really aren’t. You will need to cart around a lot of cables if you want to explore the depths.
Flashers, on the other hand, are surprisingly portable. If you’ve seen my own fish flasher guide, you’ll have noticed that many also come with their own carry case.
Fish flashers are ideal if you are on the move. Just haul the transducer up, throw it in the bucket with the rest of the gear, and move to one of your many ice holes.
Round 2 | Portability
- Camera: 1
- Flasher: 1
Here you have a little bit of a choice.
Would you rather something that pretty much does one job and does it really well. Or something more of a jack of all trades, but master of none?
Fish flashers normally have one display. This can give you lots of useful information, but it will be up to you to interpret what it is telling you.
On the other hand, cameras will allow you to cruise around the bottom, visually checking out features, watching your bait, and seeing if you can spot fish. There will likely be a few settings to adjust for light levels, resolution, and image quality.
In terms of functionality, I’m going to say this round is a draw. You can see more with a camera, but flashers are also a real niche choice once you learn how to use them…
Round 3 | Functionality
- Camera: 2
- Flasher: 2
If you are looking for a round where there is a clear winner, ice fishing flashers reign supreme when it comes to battery life.
Provided you pick a decent-sized battery, you might manage two full 12-hour sessions with a flasher. Conversely, cameras are thirsty beasts. Powering a screen positively drinks electricity, and combined with the cold temperatures, you’ll be lucky to get a full day’s use from a fishing camera.
You could always consider bringing an external power pack. Still, your camera will need to be out of the water while you charge it, which kind of defeats the object.
Round 4 | Battery Life
- Camera: 2
- Flasher: 3
Ease of Use
Now here’s another that has a clear winner.
Don’t get me wrong, ice fishing flashers are easy to use… Once you know what you are doing. Deploying the flasher transducer is easy.
So why are cameras easier to use?
It is literally a case of ‘what you see is what you get’ with a camera. It’s literally an underwater portal, showing you visually what is beneath.
Flashers, on the other hand, have to be read. And this takes a little skill and practice. A flasher display is more like a calibrated instrument. With practice, you’ll be able to identify certain species of fish, ground features, and even your lure. Still, when starting out, they can be a little tricky to understand.
It isn’t all plain sailing with cameras either. For you to see the fish, you’ve got to orient it in the right direction. This can be tricky, especially if you try to keep it clear of your treble hooked lure!
Want to know how to read a fish flasher? Check out this short and really informative video: –
Round 5 | Ease of Use
- Camera: 3
- Fish Flasher: 3
First, let me describe what I mean by ‘performance’.
It’s pretty simple.
Taking all the above into account… Which will help you catch the most fish?
I’ve got to admit, it is really fun being able to actually see what is going on down under the ice.
You are not there to film a documentary; you are there to catch fish.
For catching fish, I tend to find that a flasher is of much greater value. The fact that, once you have learned to use it, you can flit from hole to hole, work out what’s on the bottom, and still see both fish and your lure means that a flasher does everything a camera does.
The display just isn’t as pretty.
Listen, guys, you can watch fish on TV any time you like. It looks like this:
A flasher will allow you to properly survey the bottom and plan a strategy accordingly.
Flashers and Cameras – Other Notable Differences
Ok, we aren’t going to pit cameras against flashers in these rounds. However, it is still important to recognize these differences between them.
A fish flasher may ‘paint’ the fish and show you what they are doing, but it has limits. You might see a fish head up to your lure and then turn away. But why?
With a flasher, you are not going to get any answers.
With a camera, you get lots of vital clues.
Did the fish chase your lure when it was moving, then lose interest when it wasn’t? Did it bite your lure but couldn’t get it into its mouth? Did another big fish come and scare it away?
You’ll know the answer to all of these questions because you’ll have seen it happen live.
Here is an area where flashers are absolutely invaluable. They give a really great ‘big picture’ view of what is going on, all the way from the surface down to the very bottom.
You don’t need to know what depth the fish are to start using a flasher. This is information that the flasher will provide to you!
With cameras, it is a different story.
In order to see the fish, you’ve got to have a good idea of where they are in the first place, both in their location on the lake and at what depth they are. If you know this info already, one could argue that you don’t really need a camera in the first place.
And trust me…
Sitting, freezing cold, staring at a blank screen gets old, real fast.
With flashers, it is super simple. Drop your transducer in. Fish past it with your lure or bait, read the display. Job done.
These involve a bit of ‘juggling’. Not only are you busy altering the depth of the camera, but you also have to alter the depth of your lure. You haven’t known frustration until you can’t, for the life of you, get that lure to lower into the right spot.
With cameras, there is often the tendency to start ‘fishing for the camera’ instead of fishing your lure in the most effective way to catch fish.
If you are looking for something that you can use without restriction, I will go right on ahead and say, go for a flasher. There are going to be very few times when you won’t be able to use it.
Cameras? It’s a bit of a different story.
If the water visibility is poor, then a camera isn’t going to offer you that much. Likewise, if it is dark, then a camera is always going to lose to a flasher.
A flasher will also allow you to fish multiple holes at once. A camera isn’t so great and will actually cost you fishing time each and every time you want to move from one hole to another.
Are Flashers Worth It?
In my opinion, ice flashers are worth the extra.
Reading a flasher is an art form, but once you nail it, you will be able to catch more fish.
They are also surprisingly easy to get set up.
When you look where flashers ‘win’ against underwater fishing cameras, there are many valuable qualities that will help you become a more effective fisherman. To recap, flashers:
- Have great battery life.
- A pretty portable.
- Are super accurate.
- Offer great performance.
- Work in any water visibility.
Are Underwater Cameras Worth It?
Cameras can also be pretty great value. The beauty is that you get nearly as good a performance as a flasher for less cost.
It’s a tradeoff. There will be some things that you can’t do with an underwater camera, but you will probably pay a little less.
Let’s look at why cameras could reign supreme. Fishing cameras:
- Are cheaper.
- Can be easy to use.
- Come packed with features.
- Will still help you to catch fish.
When is a Flasher Better for Ice Fishing?
Ok, this is what you are here for.
Want to know why a flasher could be a great option. Here are the ideal times that a good ice fishing flasher comes into its own and will easily beat a camera:
- Night fishing or in darker conditions.
- Fishing in water with poor visibility.
- When you aren’t sure where on the lake the fish are.
- When you aren’t sure at what depth the fish are.
- For long sessions.
When is a Camera Better for Ice Fishing?
Cameras need some love too, and there is certainly a place for them among your ice fishing arsenal. Want to know when to use a fishing camera.
Here are the situations and times where it would be beneficial:
- Fishing in areas with an inconsistent bottom or with lots of features (like sunken trees).
- In really clear water on bright days.
- When creating fishing media.
- When using new lures.
- When fishing short sessions.
When talking about a flasher vs a camera, I’d say that a flasher is a more effective option. You’ll always find a flasher as an essential on my ice fishing gear list. The only downside is that they cost a little more and are slightly less intuitive to use.
That said, for a modest increase, you are gaining a great deal, both in terms of flexibility, battery life, and portability.
Which do you prefer fishing with and why? Let me know in the comments below!