While fish finders and flashers are all the rage these days among ice anglers, sometimes you just want to see what the heck is going on down there. Underwater ice fishing cameras allow you to get incredibly clear video and images of all the action taking place beneath the ice.
Modern underwater cameras have advanced leaps and bounds since they were introduced to the recreational fishing market back in the ’90s. They allow you to get a clear picture of the bottom content, assess underwater features and cover, and better understand how the fish are reacting to your lure or bait presentation.
I’ll break down what you need to know to pick the best ice fishing camera for your needs, review some of the top models, and explain what makes a good ice fishing camera.
Quick Answer: 5 Best Ice Fishing Cameras
Why an ice fishing camera?
Underwater ice fishing cameras offer a number of benefits that make them invaluable to the modern ice angler. When paired up with a good fish finder, you’ve got yourself an absolutely deadly setup for scouting cover and underwater structure, determining if any fish are in the area, and saving you from drilling unnecessary holes.
While underwater cameras are useful for a wide variety of fishing applications, it’s in ice fishing that they really get to shine. Because of the effort involved with drilling fresh holes, scouting becomes an important aspect of successful ice fishing. You don’t want to spend half the day drilling holes when there are no fish around.
Some of the advantages of using an underwater camera for ice fishing:
Water Clarity: Because the body of water is covered in a layer of ice, waves aren’t able to disturb the water. This combined with cold water temperatures often results in ultra-clear water – greatly increasing the clarity of underwater cameras.
Unobtrusive: Most cameras are designed with a small camera head. This means you can still see what’s underneath without having to drill a full-sized hole. It also means the camera head won’t obstruct your fishing hole when you have it near the surface.
Portability: Modern cameras are lightweight, easy to carry, and can be set up in seconds. When you’ve already got a sled packed with other gear, cutting down on unnecessary weight is a major plus.
Top 5 Underwater Ice Fishing Cameras
How to pick the best ice fishing camera?
With so many models, features, and sizes, picking the right underwater ice fishing camera can seem like a daunting task. Let’s break down what you need to know when choosing the ideal camera for your needs.
When it comes to ice fishing gear, portability is king. No one wants to lug around a heavy, football-sized camera when a smaller, lighter one will do. Smaller units are ideal for scouting and run and gun fishing when you want to minimize the amount of weight you’re carrying. When you’re already hauling an ice auger, pop up shelter, bait bucket, and other gear, cutting down on weight makes a major difference.
If you’re fishing from a fixed position, like a hard-bodied ice shack or hut, then portability is a less important consideration, and a larger unit can work just as well.
Your screen’s size, brightness, and resolution are all important factors when picking out an ice fishing camera.
Screen size typically varies from 4” up to 10”. Models in the 4” to 5” range are common for compact pocket size models that are built for maximum portability. These screens are about the size of a smartphone screen, so they’re not ideal for long-distance viewing. Models in the 7” to 10” size are full-sized, offering excellent view-ability, but typically cost more than more compact models.
Screen brightness is another important consideration, especially if you plan to use the camera in direct sunlight. Look for models with daylight view-ability or built-in sunshields if you plan to use the unit outside of a shelter or shack.
Black and white mode is another key feature for fishing in stained water or low-light conditions. It allows you to switch between color and black and white mode, which increases contrast and visibility when visibility is poor.
Battery capacity is another area where you need to balance portability and size/weight. Typical battery capacities vary from 4 hours of use up to 8+ hours per battery charge. Keep in mind that even battery capacities on the lower end should last for a typical day of fishing, as you’re not normally using the camera non-stop.
Unsurprisingly, larger ice fishing cameras tend to feature greater battery capacities than more portable models do. However, you can always purchase extra batteries or an external battery bank if battery power becomes an issue.
Camera lighting refers to the lighting on the camera head itself. These are usually multiple LED’s facing the same direction as the camera – often with infrared capabilities. The lighting brightness can typically be adjusted from the screen, allowing you to adapt the brightness to the light levels in the water.
Infrared lighting is useful for low-light situations, and when you don’t want to scare off fish with bright lights. Infrared lighting is non-visible to humans and fish, so it allows you to observe fish close up without spooking them.
There are several extra features that can come in handy when picking one of the best underwater ice fishing cameras.
Video Out: Video out allows you to connect the display to an external monitor or screen. This can be useful when you’re fishing from a hard-bodied ice shack, or when you’ve set up a more permanent ice shelter. Newer models will feature HDMI video out, while some models still feature older style display ports.
Warranty: Whenever you’re dropping serious dough on a fancy new piece of gear, you’ll want to be sure you’re covered in case anything goes wrong. Top manufacturers like MarCum and Aqua-Vu typically feature excellent long term warranties and will repair or replace any unit that malfunctions. Cheaper models may not have as good warranties, so much like other fishing gear; you’ll get what you pay for.
Video Recording: Recording video can be a useful feature, depending on how you plan to use your camera. If you plan to use the camera primarily for scouting and testing fish’s reaction to your bait presentation, then it may not be necessary. On the other hand, if you want to record that monster pike or lake trout taking your lure, then video recording is a no brainer – plus you can use it to brag to your friends later on!
I’ve loved being in the outdoors for as long as I can remember. I grew up fishing, canoeing, and camping throughout the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. It’s what lead me to start this site and share my passions for fishing, diving, kayaking and more. Nowadays you can find me writing about my passions or (preferably!) preparing for my next outdoor adventure.