How To Ice Fish with a Vexilar Flasher

The FL Series Color Flasher depth finders are powerful tools for the ice fishermen, and fisher women. After having one, it becomes essential to your trip onto the ice. It is often said “Got halfway to the lake, but had to turn around because I forgot the Vexilar”. If you have one, and know how to use it, you know this to be true. If you don’t, you need one, and here is how to use it.

Getting to Know Your Flasher

First you need to get the unit.Which setup do you need?It is important to have the right accessories to make the unit work to suit your needs. Check out the link for some good advice on proper transducer and accessory selection.

Once you have the setup at home, let’s take a moment to make sure you understand how it works. Set your Pro Pack, or whatever ice kit you have, onto your kitchen counter top or workbench in the garage. There must be a flat solid floor below, no carpet. Place a hard cover book on the carpet if you need to. Hang the Ice-Ducer over the edge so that the bottom is about 24″ from the floor. Make sure that it is hanging by itself in mid air and not resting against anything. This is to insure that the transducer will hang straight. If you have a Puck transducer mounted on an arm, level it off so it is pointing straight at the floor. You should also have a bubble level. Now, turn the bottom knob on the unit one click clockwise to the first range. Ahh, the beautiful sound of that whirling wheel. Hold the face of the transducer up to your ear. Do you here the ticking sound? That means it’s working.

With the Gain set to zero, you will see a mark at the 12:00 position indicating the top, or your transducer, and another mark at the 9 foot line indicating the bottom, or floor. Notice how the depth is completely inaccurate. The reason is that the speed of the burst of sound coming out of your transducer is traveling much slower in the air than it would be in the water. So the unit thinks it’s deeper. Also the strength of your system is much weaker in air than water. Trust me, its science. The top line should be mostly red in color. The bottom line may be green, orange, or red (depending on the strength of your system, how straight your transducer is, and the type of floor). If you cannot see this without having to turn your gain up, try a harder or smoother type of floor. If there is no change, you need to contact us.

OK, go ahead; waive your hand or foot under the transducer like everybody does. You may see it. You may not. It’s all in the reflection. The floor is reflecting the transmitted sound back to the transducer well. Your hand or shoe may not, depending on the surface and position. Change the range to the deeper settings to make sure you understand how to read the scales. Read the manual if you haven’t already. In addition to being a great depth finder, these Flashers will also keep your math skills sharp. Try holding the Ice-Ducer in your hand, by the cord, raising and lowering it over your surface. See how the unit shows it getting deeper and shallower as you raise and lower the transducer? You should also see the echoes beyond the bottom mark. As you get closer to the floor the echoes get stronger. Turn your gain up to about 7 and try it. Cool, hey? Let’s hit the ice.

On The Ice

Usually, you don’t need to have a hole drilled in the ice to see what’s below. The unit can shoot right through it. You will need to scrape away the snow and get down to the ice. Set the transducer onto the ice, turn the unit on to the appropriate range, and pour a small amount of water onto the transducer. This forces any air between the transducer and the ice out, giving you the necessary connection to the water below. If you don’t have any water handy, sometimes a healthy wad of spit will do the trick. Just make sure to not use any liquid that will harm the environment. If you haven’t a clue as to how deep it is, simply start shallow and switch to deeper ranges until you find the bottom. It will appear as the most definite mark clockwise from the top mark. If the water seeps away from the transducer you’ll need to pour on more. Although you can shoot through the ice to find your spot quickly, when it comes time to see if the fish are around, you will need to drill some holes. Also, ice that is layered with slush and snow within can be difficult or impossible to shoot through. This is because there is air trapped in the layers. In this case, drilling is the only way to see what’s below.

Once your hole is drilled, drop the Ice-Ducer down into it. The hole doesn’t need to be slush free, but the transducer needs to be below the debris. Now pull it out again. Rub the bottom of the transducer with your hand. No, it’s not for luck. This “wets” your transducer, giving it a good couple, or connection, with the water. OK, put it back in the water again. Use the float or suspend your transducer over the hole. Do what ever works best for you. Adjust the depth by sliding the stop along the cord. Stick your finger into the slot in the stopper when you slide it. It slides much better. Try to keep the bottom of the Ice-Ducer about the same level as the bottom of the ice. The deeper you go with it the clearer the reading, but the more likely a fish will tangle in it. Setting it shallower can put more noise on your screen, but the tangling problem isn’t as much of a concern. You need to find the best spot for you. Remember, make sure that it is hanging by itself in the water, and is not resting against the side of the hole. Keep the gain low. You can turn it up in deeper water, say beyond 40′ or so, or to see multiple echoes, but for the most part keep it under 3. The bottom will appear as a wide mark of all colors. The width of the bottom and the color content depend upon what type of bottom you are over. Hey, does your bottom appear to be dancing? Maybe colors are coming and going? It could be Fish!

Drop your favorite lure down the hole and watch it go down on the depth finder. Oh yeah, make sure it’s tied on your line. Drop it down until it hits the bottom. If the depth finder lostsight of your lure on the way down, it’s because it either went out of the cone angle or the reflection wasn’t adequate to give a return mark. Now, reel it up until you feel the lure come off of the bottom. Raise it up about a foot and then drop it down again until you feel bottom. Watch for it to rise away from the bottom mark on your unit. If you can’t see it, bounce it a bit and slowly increase the gain. Watch for your lure movement on the screen. Once it’s in view, adjust the gain so your lure mark reads green, maybe flickering into orange. Now you’re set. Let’s get one thing straight, though. Just because there are fish down there doesn’t mean they will bite, well, unless you’re a Pro.


What the Colors Mean


You need to understand a bit abouthow sonar worksin order to fully understand what you’re seeing on the flasher. Check out the link if you need help. Remember, we are taking a 3 dimensional space and squashing this information into a 2 dimensional display. The circular area of the bottom becomes a wide mark on the screen and fish inside the transducer cone can be any color and in any position, including inside and beyond the bottom mark. The colors give us the advantage of knowing the different strengths of the signal marks. This can be roughly correlated to a position inside the cone. Red being the center most part, orange the area around, and green the outer edge of the cone angle. Now, just to keep things interesting, there is also this. Targets (fish, bait fish, your lure, even plankton) with larger surface areas will show redder, less surface area shows orange, and green for the smallest stuff. These two different phenomenons make reading FL flasher an art. It means you could have Mr. Monster Musky, hanging way out on the edge, while your thinking you have a nice gill about to bang your waxy worm. Yet, on the other hand, you could be looking at a stubborn fish for 15 minutes, sitting exactly one foot above your line, when you remember that you just put a split shot a foot up to keep your bobber a little straighter. The colors will give you information. You need to interpret it. Experience and experimentation are the keys to being very good at reading your flasher.

Now let’s fish. Bait your lure and drop it down. You will need to fine-tune your gain often to maintain a consistent color. This is due to the changing position and reflection of your bait. How far you let it go down depends on where you are and what you’re fishing for. This is where the actual fishing skill comes in. If you’re in luck, a fish will appear. It may be interested in your bait. They can appear rising from the bottom or coming from the side. A fish can appear to you to be rising straight up, but it is really coming from the side. The flasher simply sees it getting closer. The fish mark itself holds a lot of information. With only little experience you can tell if fish are bigger or smaller, because the thickness of the red mark correlates to the thickness of the fish. You can also tell a fish’s attitude by the way the mark on your screen behaves. Aggressive biters can race through groups of fish to slam your bait. And you can see them coming. That’s when foretelling the near future becomes very easy. “I’m going to get a bite right.. NOW!” On the other hand, finicky biters can sit by your bait for, what seems like, forever before you get the tiniest little tick.

Changing Your Ways

After you use the unit a few times in different situations you will begin to understand very well how it works. You may find that your old ways of fishing just aren’t good enough anymore. If you drill a hole and sit on it for hours without out getting a bite or seeing a fish you’re likely to get pretty frustrated. You have to try something different or you have to move. I know, you’ve got on your favorite lure that killed ‘em on that trip three years ago or the thought of packing everything up, pulling the stuff down the ice, to hand drill another couple of holes doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. But if you don’t do something different, you might as well go home. To make things easier,and a lot more fun, you need to rethink your methods and equipment. You’ll find that you don’t really need a bobber anymore. Sure, there are times when you’ll use them, but a good sensitive rod with light line and a spring bobber on the tip can be much more effective. A good variety of lures and bait will give you a better chance of enticing the finicky fish to bite. A comfortable, yet very portable, fish house can make moving a snap. And, a lightweight power auger can make drilling twenty holes at a time a breeze.

That’s about it. Of course there are many more tips and tricks to help put meat on the table, but you’ve now got the most important ones. Ice fishing with a Vexilar FL series flasher is not a difficult thing to do. Changing your old habits should not be either, once you see for yourself whatnew methodscan do for your catch. One last thing, when you find that your freezer is full and your neighbors aren’t thanking you so enthusiastically anymore when you give them a bunch of fish, it’s time to practice catch and release. Fish responsibly so others can too.