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
- Best Overall: MarCum Quest 7 HD Underwater Viewing System
- Runner Up: Aqua-Vu HD7i Pro Gen2
- Best Compact Camera: Marcum Recon 5
- Budget Pick: LUCKY Underwater Fishing Viewing System
- Also Consider: Eyoyo Portable 9 inch Fishing Camera
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.
Best Overall: MarCum Quest 7 HD Underwater Viewing System
Marcum is known for producing some of the best fishing electronics on the planet, and this underwater camera is no exception. It features a 7” 1080p HD video widescreen display, providing a crystal clear picture of the underwater environment. Combine that with the brightest screen MarCum’s ever produced, and you’ve got a picture quality that blows the competition out of the water. Solar intelligent technology ensures the screen is visible no matter how bright it is outside.
The camera itself is a Sony 1080p HD with lowlight capable image sensors. 75 feet of camera cable comes included, allowing you to get down deep for targeting serious lunkers. The on-screen display shows battery status, temperature, depth, and an arrow-shaped indicator showing the direction the camera is pointing.
The updated system has the ability to send a full 1080p signal to a monitor or TV via HDMI, which makes it great for use in a fish house or shelter.
While it’s certainly not the cheapest underwater camera on the market, if you’re looking for a cutting edge camera with superior display and features, you’ll have a hard time beating this one.
- 7” widescreen 1080p HD video display with HD video out
- Solar intelligent technology allows use in bright sunlight
- Sony 1080p HD image sensor with .01 Lux dark water LED
- On-screen display shows temp, depth, battery status, and relative direction
- Comes with 12-volt, 9-amp Battery and 3-stage battery charger
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Runner Up: Aqua-Vu HD7i Pro Gen2
The new Gen2 upgrade to the already stellar HD7i includes a full 1080p HD image resolution with image-clarifying TrueColor technology and battery saver mode. The screen display uses an advanced 7-inch daylight viewable LCD for a vivid display that works well no matter what the conditions are like outside. It’s super bright, featuring 2200 nits of brightness, which makes it viewable even in bright and sunny daylight conditions.
The display shows a real-time reading of camera depth, water temperature, and relative camera direction – providing you with valuable underwater intel. A Gen2 power-saving mode allows for up to 7 hours of continuous run time between charges.
The camera works equally well for ice fishing as it does on a boat or dock for fair weather fishing. The LCD is internally heated, as well as IP67 waterproof rated, making it ideal for almost any fishing environment. To add even more functionality, the camera housing is compatible with all Aqua-Vu XD camera accessories including the XD pole attachment for fishing under docks, and the XD trolling fin for viewing your lure while trolling. It’s also RAM mount compatible, adding even more functionality.
- 7” widescreen LCD with water-filtering and sunlight-viewable technology
- HDMI video output allows you to connect to an external display
- Equipped with Infrared lighting
- On-screen water temp, camera direction, and depth readings
- Ideal for multi-season use
- Compatible with XD camera accessories
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Best Compact Camera: Marcum Recon 5
If you’re looking for a pocket-sized, lightweight camera that works well for run and gun fishing, then the Recon 5 makes an excellent option. It’s compact 5” widescreen LCD screen is about the size of a smartphone screen, allowing you to get a clear picture of the underwater environment, but not too big as to slow you down.
The lithium battery lasts for up to 6 hours of run time; while the 50-foot camera cable lets you drop the camera deep into the water column. The underwater camera features infrared lighting, a darkwater LED, and a 100° field of vision. Like most high-end models, in stained water or low light conditions, switching from the color display to black and white allows you to get a clearer picture.
The design provides a highly portable underwater camera in a compact package. It also comes bundled with a soft pack, camera sack, and charging cable.
- 5” widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio LCD screen
- Compact and lightweight design
- Infrared and darkwater LED capabilities
- 50-foot camera cable and lithium battery with 6 hours of runt time
- Black and white capability
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Budget Pick: LUCKY Underwater Fishing Viewing System
If you’re looking for a functional and well-made ice fishing camera without breaking the bank, then this camera makes an excellent option. At less than $200, you get a high-res 4.3” LCD screen, with recording, video playback, and picture taking functionality. The camera unit is combined with 4 infrared/LED lights and a 66-foot camera cable.
Weighing in at just over 2 pounds, the unit is small and light enough to stash in your jacket pocket or tackle box. The unit will last up 4 hours of use on a single charge, which is a bit less than more expensive models but should still allow you to get a full day’s use without needing to recharge.
The screen is fairly bright but won’t remain completely viewable in direct sunlight. If you’re planning on using it outside of a shelter or fishhouse, then adding a sunshade is a good idea. The unit also comes bundled with an 8gb micro SD card, so you can get started recording right out of the box!
- Lightweight, compact design is ideal for mobile fishing
- 3-inch screen size provides a vivid and clear picture
- Camera unit has 4 LED/Infrared lights for low visibility conditions
- Has video recording, video playback, and picture taking functionality
- Excellent value
Also Consider: Eyoyo Portable 9 inch Fishing Camera
This underwater camera features an impressive 9-inch screen, providing an ultra-clear and vivid image of the underwater environment. The camera comes with 12 integrated infrared LED lights, allowing you to switch between color and black and white displays. These lights can easily be dimmed or brightened by the switch on the battery box allowing you to adapt to the surrounding environment.
The 4000mAh battery provides up to 6 hours of run time, so you’ll get plenty of use from it between charges. The system can easily record video and take snapshots, so you can capture that monster pike hammering your lure to show your buddies later on!
Along with the camera and video display, the unit comes bundled with a sturdy hard-bodied carry case, a removable sunshade, 100 feet of cable, an 8GB SD card and an assortment of floats and fishing rod accessories.
- 9” widescreen LCD screen with removable sun visor for bright conditions
- 12 dimmable IR LED light on camera
- Recording and snapshot functionality
- 6 hour run time
- Sturdy carry case comes included
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.
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!