For years I ice fished without electronics and did reasonably well. Now I have a Vexilar and love it. In deeper water you can often "see" fish well above your lure/bait and can reel up quickly to get close to the fish. You also know if fish are in the area and can keep changing your presentation until they start to hit. In general, it keeps the day more interesting! John
I've used an Eagle unit similar to Talo's and also used an Aqua View Camera unit.
The use of either or these units have added a new dimension to ice fishing. Fishing over sonar at times has been like using my kids play station unit... you watch the fish in the sonar cone, and then manipulate your lure to coax the fish into taking your lure. It's akin to teasing a kitten into chasing a piece of yarn along the floor.
The underwater camera takes it to an even greater level as you can watch fish behavior and see exactly how they react to your lure and your presentation. You can also pan the area under the ice to get a sweeping view of the cover under the ice. The clarity provided by these units is pretty amazing.
I also use a handheld portable fishing buddy. We usually have one or two people drilling holes in a zigzag pattern or a straight line out from shallow to deep water, while I follow them calling out depths using the fishing buddy to locate drops, ridgelines etc. The handheld sonar comes in handy, as it allows you to locate structure to target zones you want to explore and fish. Yes, I love the electronic gizmos, as it makes for a multidimensional ice fishing experience. MAN I CAN?T WAIT TO HIT THE ICE!!!
i use a vexilar fl 18 for 3 years now,when my girlfriend tried it i would've lost it if i didn't buy a vex fl8 for her to use. now when i fish by myself i can use both. i would'nt use any other brand, have has zero problems with vexilars, had some problems with other marcum products..
I wish I had a Vexilar...but I can't use a Vexilar on my pontoon boat and I can't yet justify having two separate fish finders (give me a year or two). I have one of the older model Fishing Buddy series and it works pretty well, though in really cold weather it gives up. It also has about a 1/2 - 1 second delay between detecting a change in the situation below and showing it on the screen, so it isn't quite as sensitive as a flasher or one of the new LCD units. The cone on the my model is pretty narrow (9 degree), so it doesn't search as wide an area as some of the LCDs or flashers, but in deep water (e.g., Blue Mesa), it doesn't matter...the kokes and lakers are normally at least 30 ft down.
Negatives aside, I don't ice fish without it. It is nice to be able to search for fish without drilling holes, and then monitor what is happening while you're fishing. The sidefinder capability comes in handy as well...I've often used it to decide where the next hole should be drilled (if I consistently mark fish in a certain direction, that's where the ice auger goes next).
I also have an AquaView and it is a neat toy/tool. You can set it up to monitor your bait, or you can use it to identify odd-looking sonar marks. This year I plan to use it to locate weedlines to set up my tip-ups. My favorite thing with the AquaView is that you can actually see fish strike and set the hook before your rod even shows any sign of having been bit. I was laughing like a loon at Red Feathers last year when I discovered this! The trout, on the other hand, were not amused.
One other item that is handy to have is a GPS unit, especially if you're trying to locate specific points on the lake. I spend a lot of time during soft-water season scouting lakes (and fishing, of course), and anytime I see something interesting, I mark it on the GPS. Then, when things get hard on top, I use the GPS (and my notes) to go back to those spots to see what is happening with the ice cover. It also helps get you back to the shore on bigger lakes when the *%)$ wind blows up and you have whiteout conditions...this has happened a couple of times on Blue Mesa.
I can live without it early in the season in shallow water when I'm site fishing, but after that, it was amazing I watch the Genz tape about everytime I go. Just like the tape awesome, when the red is there you can't wait ,to set it. You know where your bait is, you see it, you can watch it go down and put it where you want it. Great Tool! If fish at 15' in 40 of water you know.
I love sight fishing so that ranks #1. The Vex is #1 when I fish deep water. I use the FB1100 to get quick reads of the depth when I cut a hole, check for signs of life to the sides or just to simply get faked out. Besides, if Ihad any action at my old holes I wouldn't be drillingnew ones looking for something to do or somewhere to go, right?
And I originally wasted $100 on the FB1100 before I got the Vex, what can I say? Full disclosure. 8)
i bought one of those fishing buddies also, what a waste of money, tried it for ice fishing and on my pontoon boat, it always is marking fish somewhere, but it has never helped me catch one like the vex, anyone want a fishing buddy, i was going to throw mine away as all it does is get in my way in the garage. i never use it.
I have used a Eagle fish easy II and a Lowrance 4200. They both work ok as long as you set your screen to repeat as soon as possible. They have both helped to find structure and dropoff's. I am still rying to get the wife to tell Santa i deserve a Vexilar. Hope the jolly ol elf is a ice fisherman at heart you would think so huh given his home location.
The Lowrance 67 and 68 models both have flasher modes and real-time readouts. The package them in "ice machine" versions, and I was hoping someone had used them. I have the B/W version of them and I'm setting up for ice fishing, so I'm curious.
I haven't used either, but I have a 332 on my boat that has the same feature. I tried it several times last summer just for fun. It behaves much like my neighbors vexilar. I think you will be happy with the unit, but I will guess you will use it in the normal graphing mode because you will get the instantaneous readout on the side plus you will see the history. I like this, it helps my brain process other info, like where suspended fish have been... If I could use my 332 for ice fishing I would, color and 480 lines resolution is great!
From what I've seen of them, the vertical flasher on the side, and the circular are very much real-time. The unit I'm getting also has a gps, so even if not absolutely perfect as an ice fishing flasher, it should be more versatile than any Vexilar flasher (and all for $105) - amazing.