Maybe you’ve been ice fishing with the guy who brings every new gadget, or maybe you’ve just heard about underwater ice fishing cameras online.
Is a fishing camera something you need, or is it just a fun “extra” for ice fishermen to waste their money on?
The truth is, it’s not really necessary to have an underwater camera, especially if you’re just starting out.
But if you want to take your ice fishing to the next level or just try a fun twist on the old hobby, then an underwater camera will be a lot of fun for you.
To help you make up your mind, we’ve put together some of the benefits of these cameras and how they work. In the end, we’ll show you our top 3 ice fishing cameras for different budgets.
- How Do Ice Fishing Cameras Work?
- Are Underwater Fishing Cameras Worth It?
- Top 3 Ice Fishing Cameras
- Wrapping Up
How Do Ice Fishing Cameras Work?
An ice fishing camera has four main parts:
- Screen. The display is usually the size of a small tablet and has a sturdy, waterproof housing. It’s resistant to cold conditions and minor impacts. It plays video in real time from the camera. Some models offer DVR, which is great if you want to document or publish your fishing.
- Camera. The ice fishing camera is usually small enough to fit in your palm. It can be plain or shaped like a fish for camouflage. Most models have lights that you can turn on or off. The lights increase visibility but can also lure in fish (be aware of regulations in your area that may prohibit fishing with lights).
- Cord. Some cameras have a separate cord with waterproof coupling, and others have a cord that is permanently attached to the camera. Whatever kind you get, make sure your cord is long enough to reach the bottom in the lake where you usually fish. A little extra length doesn’t hurt.
- Case. The whole unit should be contained in a waterproof case that you can shut during transport or if it’s snowing too hard. Even water-resistant electronics can be delicate. It’s also nice if the case has a sturdy handle for carrying.
To use an ice fishing camera, you simply plug the camera into the screen using the cord, and lower the camera down the hole.
The camera can swivel in any direction just by twisting the cord on the surface of the lake.
Some cords have a piece of foam to set your depth, but it’s nice to have a sturdy plastic device that holds the cable and keeps it from twisting, so you can focus the picture on your bait.
I like to position my case and screen a few feet away from the hole and wrap the cord around something heavy like the leg of my chair. This lowers the chances of the camera slipping into the open hole and sinking in the water.
Are Underwater Fishing Cameras Worth It?
There aren’t very many drawbacks to using an ice fishing camera, but one drawback is that you do usually need to drill a camera hole near your fishing hole, so if you don’t have an efficient auger it may be too much work.
Another issue is that the camera can actually scare fish away. Some cameras are shaped like bluegill or other small fish to blend in, but it’s still possible to spook your target fish with a camera. Of course, if you are only using the camera for scouting purposes, this should not be an issue.
If those issues don’t sound like a problem, then you will probably enjoy using a camera.
If you have the budget for an underwater camera, it’s almost guaranteed to make fishing more fun, especially if you want to introduce young or inexperienced folks to ice fishing. It’s also possible that you will gain some information that actually helps you catch more fish.
Beware if you fish in a lake that has exceptionally murky water. You may be wasting your money on a camera for these conditions. You’d hate to lower your camera into the water and see nothing but brown dirt floating around! However, this is unusual as icy conditions usually improve the clarity of the water.
There are a lot of benefits that make an ice fishing camera worth the purchase:
See the Bottom Structure
A lot of ice fishing strategies rely on bouncing the bait off of the bottom of the lake, but without a visual you are always basically guessing about your depth to the bottom.
Similarly, you may be targeting walleye or another species that hunts along weedlines and drop-off points.
An underwater camera allows you to watch exactly what your bait is doing down there. You can be sure your jigging is targeted to the depth where fish are likely to see it.
Cameras also help you know what kind of structure is on the bottom of the lake.
If it’s a fine, sandy lakebed, you want to avoid actually touching the floor and stirring up sediment that will cloud the water. If there are a lot of weeds, you may need a brighter color of bait to stand out from the surroundings.
A camera also helps you avoid rocks and other hard structures that can snag your line and cost you a lure.
Observe Fish Activity
There is a lot you can learn from actually seeing what the fish are up to down there.
Most importantly, a camera will inform you if you are in the wrong spot to catch a fish.
If you don’t see any fish in about 15 minutes (making sure to rotate the camera 360 degrees periodically), you should probably find a new spot. Without a camera, you may commit to a dead hole for hours.
But if you are seeing fish on your camera’s screen, you can see if they respond better to an aggressive presentation or more subtle jigging. Are the fish timid or do they eagerly chase and bite the lure?
Information like this can help you select the bait and presentation to get the fish biting consistently.
It’s not just about gathering information, though. A camera will help you watch bites, react in real time, and set the hook so you can reel in your fish every time.
Practice Your Lure Presentation
There are a million different types of ice fishing spoons, jigs, lures, and baits. Many of them have complex action patterns designed to mimic small fish or other aquatic critters.
A camera will let you see exactly how your lure swims around in the water when you move it from the surface of the ice.
Some baits need constant up-and-down jigging to give a strong visual look for the fish. Other baits benefit from a very subtle shake. Still others should be pulled up 1-2 feet in a smooth motion and then dropped to flutter through the water.
While you can read this information on the package, actually seeing it from the fish’s perspective on your camera will foster a strong skill for presenting any type of lure to the fish convincingly.
Introduce Kids or Others to Ice Fishing
Maybe this is the best reason to get an ice fishing camera: they’re fun!
Kids will love to watch fish appear out of the murk and stare into the camera. It’s especially fun when a school of perch or bluegill swims into the picture.
A camera certainly helps pass the time for less-enthusiastic fishers. Ice fishing can be boring if you have no idea what is happening under the water.
Underwater cameras are great for “gamifying” fishing. They will help new anglers of all ages to engage with the lake without having to worry about the technical skills and knowledge involved in ice fishing.
Top 3 Ice Fishing Cameras
1/ Bare Bones: Eyoyo Portable Underwater Fishing Camera
- 【7" Color LCD Monitor】: This underwater video fishing camera has a 7 inch large TFT color screen with 800*480 Pixels and removable sun-visor ideal...
- 【1000TVL Camera】: The definition of the camera is up to 1000TV lines, which is clearer than the 800TV lines camera
- 【With 12pcs Infrared Lights】: With 12pcs IR lights, fishes will be seen more clearly in the dark environment. Please note: the image will turn to...
The Eyoyo camera is a great option for fishermen on a budget. It’s relatively cheap but gets great reviews year after year. With 720p video and infrared lights on the camera, it will give you a good-looking picture of what’s going on under the water without breaking the bank.
It’s a good buy for your first camera, especially if you only go ice fishing a few times a year.
What We Like:
- 3 Cable Length Options. Choose 15m, 30m, or 50m cable lengths for the depth of fishing you usually do.
- Infrared Lights. Plug in the lights to illuminate fish that are near the camera.
What We Don’t Like:
- Rear-Mounted Camera Cable. The cord comes straight out the back of the camera, so you have to loop it through the eyelets on the camera. It can be a chore to hang the camera straight.
2/ All the Bells and Whistles: Aqua Vu HD7i Underwater Viewing System
- Modular XD Camera Housing with Quick Attachment accessory system
- 1080p Color high-definition XD Camera with Auto-Clear Technology
- Opti-RX Lab-Quality Lens for ultimate clarity
This is what’s considered a mid-range camera from Aqua Vu, the brand that sets the standard for underwater cameras. It’s got every feature the regular ice fisherman could need in a camera, including crisp 1080p video.
The 75m cable with a built-in spool is plenty for almost any lake, and while the camera is pretty expensive, it’s an excellent value buy.
What We Like:
- DVR. This is one of the more affordable systems with an HD DVR if you want to capture footage of your bites and catches.
- Depth Markings on the Cable. This helps you keep track of your fishing depth without another tool.
What We Don’t Like:
- Not the Best Display Quality. Some users find the screen can be a bit dim and grainy. You can attach the HD7i to a separate 1080p display to remedy this, but it would be nice to see the included screen perform better.
3/ Ultra Portable Option: Aqua Vu Micro Stealth 4.3 Underwater Camera Viewing System
- Smartphone size color 4.3-inch high resolution LCD
- RCA Video Out
- Full Color Micro Camera with 50-feet of Ruggedized cable with Depth (marked on cable), Super Wide 135° field of view
This system gets you the name and quality associated with Aqua Vu but for about half the price of the HD7i. This unit is ultra portable and could even fit in your pocket. If you’re usually fishing alone or like to travel light, this is a great camera for you.
You’re sure to get a solid camera that you can take with you absolutely any time you go fishing. The portability also lends itself to other seasons of fishing, as it would be easy to lower off of a pier or over the side of a kayak.
What We Like:
- Thumb-Size Camera. Not only is it portable, but this little camera body is less likely to spook the fish.
- Video-Out for Connecting to Larger Display. You have the option to hook up to larger screens if portability isn’t a big issue for you.
What We Don’t LIke:
- Lacks a Sturdy Case. The larger units generally zip into a self-contained unit, but you might not need that feature with a camera that fits in your pocket.
In this article, we covered a variety of reasons why an underwater camera is a great tool for ice anglers. They can be not only entertaining but help you scout out the terrain and bait presentation under the water.
Our top pick for fishermen looking to purchase an underwater camera is the because it has all of the features any amateur fisherman could want. It’s better to buy a full-featured product upfront rather than buy a simpler camera and find yourself lacking the functionality that you need later on.
Hopefully, this article has shown you how an ice fishing camera can make you more successful on the lake and helped you choose the camera that’s best for you.