For years now, savvy ice fishermen have been using their Vexilars to check the depth of the water without drilling any holes in the ice. Simply put, shooting through the ice to read the depth saves time, energy and also prevents spooking fish by avoiding drilling unnecessary holes. Lets take a further look into the reasons and how we do this.
Although it is obvious we need to eventually drill a hole to fish, drilling lots of holes can spook the fish particularly in shallow water situations. But how do we know where to drill the holes until we can get a depth reading anyway? The answer lies in the principal of how a depth finder works. You can actually use your depth finder on top of the ice to show you a picture of what is below you. How? Believe it or not, sound waves actually travel better through most hard material then they do the air or water.
By simply placing the Vexilar Ice-Ducer (transducer) or LPS-1 on top of smooth ice, you can view what is happening as if you had the transducer directly in the water. However, a little bit of water is needed on the ice to seal the transducer to the face of the ice. If the transducer is not tight to the ice then the unit will not read correctly. Squirt enough water onto the ice so that the transducer face will entirely touch wetted ice. Dont worry about ruining the transducer. Shooting through the ice will not damage the transducer so go ahead and try it a few times. Just wet the ice and try a reading, if you cant find bottom, squirt more water and try again. If that doesnt work make sure you change the depth setting on the unit to make sure the unit will be able to capture the depth. If that still doesnt work, then try a different spot.
Factors that will influence the effectiveness of shooting through the ice include: air bubbles in the ice, cracks, debris and basically anything between the transducer and the water that has a different density then the ice itself. Anything in the ice, whether it is air or debris will either absorb or deflect the sound waves and disrupt the reading. When in doubt simply move over a little and try again.
Because shooting through the ice requires you to read through two different materials of differing density (water and ice), you may need to increase the gain (sensitivity) on your Vexilar in order to read the depth and what is in the water column. Simply turn the dial up until you mark bottom. LPS- s do this automatically.
The ideal condition for shooting through the ice is totally clear ice. However, you will be surprised at how effective this is at reading bottom in many different ice conditions. During the early ice stage, you can normally take a reading just about anywhere on the ice. By the time winter is in full swing, youll have to clean off the snow to get down to bare ice. Late ice is difficult to shoot through at all, due to the deterioration as the sun eats away at it. A quick tip is to take advantage of previously drilled holes of other ice fishermen. Even when the holes have a lot of new ice, it is usually clear ice and will give you a great reading.
Seeing fish is easy too. When you get the gain set correctly, seeing fish underneath you can be just as easy as if the transducer were directly in the water. Simply look for the classical green or red marks between the ice and bottom.
Time and efficiency are important for effective ice fishing. Using your equipment to the fullest will allow you be more effective and help you to catch more fish. Be sure to carry a bottle of water with you next time you venture onto the ice and use your Vexilar to paint the picture underneath you before you even have to start the ice auger.
Steve Mattson - Vexilar Pro-Staff