Courtesy of Justin Hoffman/sportsmansguide.com With the hard water finally arriving across North America, anglers everywhere are converging on its frozen surface to drill their way through to the fish below.
Without the use of an auger, however, this simple task is virtually impossible to perform. In today's high-tech world of ice fishing, augers come in every shape and size imaginable, leaving many anglers confused and bewildered. Here's a look at what's out there in the world of ice augers to give you a "head's up" if you decide to make a purchase.
The two most popular styles available to the ice angler are manual or gas augers. I will note there are also electric models on the market, but they can be cumbersome to use since a vehicle needs to be nearby so you can use its' battery for power, or you need to drag a big battery with you.
Manual- and gas-powered augers each have their own pro's and con's, although deciding on your style of fishing, fitness level, expense account, and typical ice thickness your fish, will make the task of narrowing it down as easy as 1-2-3.
The Manual Auger Manual augers are basic in design and use. In order to drill holes, you have to use your own body strength (mainly shoulders and arms), to turn the auger blades, which can often be a chore for those with a limited fitness level. Once the ice gets thick (between 12 inches to 16 inches), the harder the work will become, which can pose a problem if you like to move around a lot and drill numerous holes.
If the lakes or ponds you fish have relatively thin ice, or if you only make it out a few times a year, a manual auger is certainly the way to go. It is also a great choice for the budget-minded angler, as they can be purchased for less than $60.
The simple design also equates to fewer parts to break down when out on the ice. Manual augers are also lightweight, allowing ease of carrying when walking out to your hotspot. This is especially useful when you can't drive out to your holes, or don't own a four-wheeler or snowmobile to cart your equipment around.
The Gas-Powered Auger For quick and effortless drilling, nothing compares to a gas-powered auger. No matter how thick the ice, an auger of this type will work its way down to open water like a knife through butter, leaving you sweat and ache-free.
For those that spend a lot of time on the hard stuff, or deal with 2-foot thick ice, a gas auger is certainly the right choice.
However, keep in mind that gas augers can be prone to not co-operating occasionally (think gas lawnmowers!), but for the most part are very reliable and efficient. For those anglers concerned about mechanical failure when out on the ice, bringing along a manual as a backup can be a smart move.
Gas augers can also be heavy in weight, so it is smart to have a quad or snow machine to tow it out to your starting point.
Another advantage to having a gas auger is hole size is really not a factor in the effort required to drill the hole. As hole size increases with manual augers, the harder it becomes to drill (because you have more ice to cut through). This isn't the case when using gas; so bigger holes can be utilized to make your fishing easier.
Remember, gas and oil adds to the expense of running one of these augers, in comparison to the one-time fee of a manual.
Gas augers range in price from about $300 to $600 depending on horsepower and the cutting diameter of the shaft. And extensions are available for cutting through very thick ice.
What Size Hole? Deciding on what size hole your auger should be capable of drilling depends on a number of different scenarios. For gas augers, choosing the largest you can afford is usually the best bet. A 10-inch diameter is a common size, although 12 inches is certainly available.
For manual augers, it can become a bit more complicated. As I've already said, the larger the hole youare drilling with a manual unit, the more effort you will need to exert.
When dealing with thin ice, there really isn't a difference between drilling a 6-inch hole or an 8-inch hole. However, take those same augers and try to drill through 2 feet of ice and the difference will be astounding. You may get through the ice with the 8-inch auger blade, but your body will certainly pay the price!
Auger hole size is also dependent on the species you chase. For those that spend the majority of time tempting panfish, a 5-inch or 6-inch auger blade is tops in my books. If your goal is to chase both panfish and walleye, then a 6-inch will certainly shine the majority of the time. If larger gamefish are your prey (such as lake trout or pike), an 8-inch auger hole will become a necessity.
I still rely on a 6-inch manual for the majority of my ice fishing. I've caught a ton of panfish and walleye easily and effortlessly through that small diameter of open water, although if I were to hit some of the lakes that hold larger walleye, a step-up to an 8-inch hole would certainly be more practical.
Choose wisely, but choose the size that will suit your style of fishing, and of the species you pursue.
Tips For Improved Performance 1. Always dry your auger blades after returning home from the ice.
2. Apply a thin coat of oil to the metal blades to help prevent rust.
3. Keeping the blade guard on will increase the life of your blades, while also limiting the chances of accidental cuts.
4. Carry a spare set of auger blades with you at all times. And don't forget the necessary tools needed to change the blades.
5. Use the manufacturer's recommended oil and gas for gas-powered augers.
6. Do not attempt to sharpen blades if you are unsure of the proper way to do them. Allow a professional to do the work, or replace the blades entirely.
7. Do not bang your auger on the ice. Allow the blades to do the work, while applying minimal pressure when drilling holes.
Ice fishing is a wonderful winter sport that everyone can enjoy. Deciding on the right kind of auger will make the your outing more enjoyable and rewarding. Have fun out there and be safe!