Ice Fishing: Using Electronics to Determine Fish Behavior

Occasionally, I’ve suggested that maybe we should call depthfinders, “mood-finders!”

Yeah, I get a few funny looks when I throw that idea on the table, but hear me out on this concept.

Most people view flashers strictly as tools for showing depth and location of fish. But by watching and judging the speed at which a fish enters the cone angle of our transducer under our dial-style depthfinder, we can learn a lot about the mood of that fish. Knowing that will help determine what bait or lure we should be dropping below the ice. Here’s how:

Terry Tuma

When a fish first enters the outside edge of cone angle, we see green bands on our flasher. As it approaches the axis (the imaginary line from the center of the transducer to the bottom of the waterway) those bands turn from orange to green. Directly under the transducer, we get a red signal.

Red Means an Aggressive Fish
If I’m watching my flasher and I see an immediate red color, I know I have an aggressive fish that just came cruising into my presentation. If a fish approaches and it slowly transitions from green to orange, then hangs there, then finally moves toward a close (red) location, I’ve got a neutral or tough-bite fish.

If you’re also using an underwater camera, this device can help us here, too. Watch how fish are fanning their fins. A curved body signals a more aggressive fish. If he’s moving slowly, and barely moving his tail, that’s a neutral or tough-bite fish.

Now we know the mood, so we need to use appropriate lures and actions. We’ve just made lure selection a much easier proposition. If you have a fish looking at your lure and you can’t get him to take it, bring it up 3- to 5 inches. Twitch the rod tip and see if the fish starts to rise. If so, you’re probably getting some interest in your bait. Stay the course. If your bands turn from red to orange, or orange to green, you’ve spooked the fish. You’ve got the wrong bait or too aggressive of a jigging action.

At seminars, people ask if they can get good depthfinder readings through the ice. Yes, with good, clear ice you can get accurate depth readings. Simply pour a tablespoon of water from your minnow bucket onto the ice (to get a clear contact) and take a reading. If it’s honeycombed or snow-packed ice, don’t expect a good reading. Also, with any ice, if you’re looking to mark fish, I recommend cutting a hole and dropping the transducer down.

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