With the hard water finally arriving across Ontario, 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 would be virtually impossible to perform. In today’s high-tech world of ice fishing, augers come in every shape and size imaginable, leaving many fisherpersons utterly confused and bewildered. This doesn’t have to be the case, as figuring out your needs and wants beforehand, will lead you to an informed and correct auger selection. (And hours upon hours of effortless drilling!)
Manual or Gas-Powered?
There are two basic types of augers available to the ice fisherman – manual or gas. Each has it’s own pro’s and con’s, although deciding on your style of fishing, fitness level, expense account and ice thickness will make the task of narrowing it down as easy as 1-2-3.
Manual : 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), which can often be a chore for those with a limited fitness level. Once the ice gets thick (over 12 or 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 – be prepared to pay eight to 10 times that price for a good quality gas auger!
The simple design also equates to less parts to break down when out on the ice, a problem that can rear its ugly head when dealing with the gas variety and its motor, pistons and choke.
Manual augers are also lightweight, allowing ease of carrying when walking out to your hotspots. 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 with.
Gas-Powered Augers : 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 it’s way down 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 two-foot thick ice, a gas auger is certainly the right choice.
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 imperative to have a quad or snow machine to tow it out to your starting point. Another advantage to having a gas auger is hole dimension. As hole size increases with manual augers, the harder it will become to drill. 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.
What Size Hole?
Deciding on what size hole your auger is capable of drilling is dependent on a number of different scenarios. For gas augers, choosing the largest you can afford is usually the best bet to make. (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 stated, the larger the hole you are drilling with a manual, the more effort you will need to exert to drill. When dealing with thin ice, there really isn’t a difference between drilling a six-inch hole in comparison to an eight-inch hole. Take those same augers’ and try to drill through two-feet of ice, and the differences will be astounding. (You may get through the ice with the eight-inch auger, but your body will certainly pay the price!)
Auger hole size is also dependent on the specie you chase. For those that spend the majority of time tempting panfish, a 4 ½ or 6-inch auger 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 (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 (think Bay of Quinte), 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 chase.
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. (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 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, and will have you drilling your way through the ice like a man or woman on a mission for fishing success.
Have fun out there and be safe!!.