Break out your parkas and your winter fishing gear – the days of leisurely kayak fishing on a lake by yourself or your favorite fishing partner are over for the season. Don’t fret though, fly fishing season will be back soon enough later in the year.
The good news is that this opens up lots of opportunity for one of our favorite types of fishing – Ice fishing! While learning to ice fish is an acquired taste that not every fishing enthusiast will dive into, we feel that there’s loads of fishing opportunity out there for the taking.
As with any type of fall/spring/summer conditions, you want to make sure you have the most appropriate type of gear for your expedition and ice fishing is no different. Let’s talk about our favorite Augers in 2019.
Outside of a communication device to use in the event of an emergency, there is no piece of equipment more critical for the ice fisherman than an ice auger.
You travel a good ways to go out on the ice, and you want to put the hole in quickly with a reliable piece of gear that won’t give out on you in the middle of drilling.
You have a lot of choices given the apparent simplicity of a piece of equipment designed for drilling holes.
How do you choose an ice auger for fishing? It all comes down to three choices: human powered versus horsepowered, fuel choice, and blade size.
If you already know that you need a power auger and not a manual auger, then you are way ahead of the game. If you are just starting out in the world of ice fishing, it’s probably smarter to grab a hand auger for your first season to save a little money for additional fishing gear.
The buyer’s guide below will walk you through what’s important to ask yourself before picking up an auger for the winter.
- How to Choose an Auger:
- Auger Blade Types & Choices:
- Top 5 Augers for Ice Fishing:
- Wrapping Up & Final Thoughts:
How to Choose an Auger:
The first thing to decide when purchasing an ice auger is whether to pick a manual auger or a powered model. The selection comes down to how many holes you plan to drill, the speed with which you want to drill them, and the thickness of the ice.
Should you choose a Hand Auger?
Why wouldn’t you want to just select a powered auger? Weight. If you’re fishing in a remote location or one that’s not particularly easy to get into, a hand auger is a good choice.
It’s a third as heavy as a powered auger. Plus, if you’re fishing early in the season when the ice is not so thick, and if you’re not drilling more than a few holes, a hand auger will do the job. It’ll certainly warm you up.
Another reason to select a hand auger is the price. You can find a great hand auger that’ll set you back less than $75. A good powered auger easily cost you three times as much. If you’re on a budget, go with the hand auger until you can afford a powered model.
The hand auger is also a good choice if you are an occasional ice fisherman (is there such a beast?). There’s no reason to spend the money on a powered auger if you’re going out once a winter.
Note, too, that if you’re fishing for large species and need that 10” hole, the hand auger is not the right choice for your situation.
Should you choose a Power Auger?
For many ice fishermen, powered augers have completely replaced the hand auger. They have become extremely reliable and, if you fish a lot on hard water and weight/portability is not an issue, the powered auger is the only way to go.
There are four power sources for powered augers: two-stroke, four-stroke, propane, or battery.
Two-stroke engines have been used to run power augers for years. They run on a mixture of gas and oil, a reliable choice and, until recently, the only real choice available.
For speed they’re unbeatable But with new technologies and designs, the two-stroke is seeing some competition because it’s higher maintenance and can be more difficult to start than other choices.
Four-stroke engines require much less maintenance and are much easier to operate than a two-stroke. The newest four-strokers cut the ice as well as a two-stroke, and some run on propane as well.
Cutting the ice is cleaner with a four-stroke, just as fast, and they don’t produce the kind of smoke you get with a two-stroke. The downside is they’re more expensive than other options.
The propane-driven ice auger has become extremely popular the last couple of years. It’s lower maintenance, easy to clean, and quieter than the two- or four-stroke engines. Propane-driven models are easy to start and have a lot of power.
Electric ice augers are convenient and, with the new lithium batteries, are quiet and efficient. If you’re drilling in a wheel-house, you won’t find a cleaner source of power. The silence with which they operate is a huge factor at first ice.
Auger Blade Types & Choices:
Ice augers come in a variety of sizes, with the 8” and 10” being the ones most commonly used. Blade size choice comes down to the size of the fish species you’re after. The larger hole is going to give you better performance in the long run.
Making sure your blades are sharp is critical when you’re heading into a new fishing season. The regularity with which you change blades is all about how many holes you drill – no surprise there, right?
You can sharpen or replace your blades, and there are sharpening jigs available, though it’s inexpensive to have a pro do it for you. It’s easy to change an auger blade, easy enough that you can do it at home or in the field.
Can I add accessories to my Auger?
We’d be remiss if we didn’t say something about accessories for your auger. The number one accessory? An auger blade extension.
The last thing you want to have happen is be out fishing in March when the ice is the thickest and discover you don’t have enough length to complete the hole. Good luck finding an extension when that happens.
No, you’ll want to have an extension on hand before you hit the heavy ice.
The other thing you’ll want to consider is getting a cover for the power head if you’re using a powered auger. Cold weather makes plastic brittle, so a cover will protect the plastic components. It will also protect the exhaust.
Top 5 Augers for Ice Fishing:
1. Eskimo Mako Quantum 43cc Power Ice Fishing Auger:
This Eskimo Mako comes with a 10-inch auger that’s 42-inches long. With a 30:1 gear ratio, it’ s going to cut through any ice you’re facing this winter without breaking a sweat.
It runs on a high-performance, 8000 RPM Viper engine and is easy to operate. It features a fingertip throttle control and foam-grip handlebars. The dual Quantum blades are replaceable.
The Mako starts right up in cold weather. It’s not going to win a speed contest, but it’s slow, steady, and persistent.
The 42-inch auger cuts through the thick ice so well you’ll be tempted to drill more just for the heck of it. It’s easy to keep upright, too, and runs very smoothly.
As with any gas powered auger it takes a few holes to break in, but it is a workhorse that will serve you extremely well for years to come.
2. ION 40V Max Electric Ice Auger, 8 Inch, with Reverse:
Behold the electric ice auger! Ion’s 40V Max Electric is a surprisingly high-performance beast, featuring an 8-inch auger that’s 34 inches long.
A 12-inch extension is included, bringing the auger length to 46 inches. At a measly 21 pounds, the Ion is lightweight and easy to carry. It’s easy to operate, too, thanks to the wide-spaced handlebar design and large trigger. A battery charger is included.
It really can drill holes as well as a gas auger, too. You will need to keep the battery warm on extremely cold days when you aren’t using it – keep it in the shack or in your pockets and it will be fine.
The lithium ion battery lasts a long time, much longer than you’d think. You should be able to drill 30 to 40 two-foot-deep holes on a single battery charge (Ion specs it at 40 holes.) This electric auger has a reverse feature, too, which is a plus.
3. Eskimo High Compression 40cc Propane with 10-Inch Quantum Ice Auger:
With a high-compression, 40cc, 4-stroke engine, and a 10-inch auger that’s 42 inches long, you are going to be the envy of every other fisherman on the ice with this Eskimo.
It features an auto-prime fuel system, too, so you simply flip the switch to ON and start drilling. The beauty of the Eskimo High-Compression Propane auger is that it is both lightweight and powerful.
With its high compression ratio, this auger eats ice like butter, and it’s a dependable piece of equipment.
It’s easy to pull start this beauty, too, and is available at a very good price. In practice, a single 1lb tank of propane should drill around 100 holes before changing. It will chew through the ice with no effort at all.
It has plenty of power for even the thickest ice, and with no gas fumes it is a perfect choice for indoor drilling.
4. Strike Master Ice Augers Lazer Hand Auger:
You’re going to be surprised at how quickly the Strike Master Lazer hand auger puts the hole in the ice. It features chrome-alloy stainless steel blades, powder coated paint to reduce ice build-up, and an ergonomically designed handle with soft rubber grips.
The handle adjusts from 48 to 57 inches, so it accommodates various ice thicknesses and fisherman heights. It’s a precision instrument that’s faster than you would expect it to be.
You’re not going to want to use any hand auger on holes that are bigger than 6 inches unless you are in excellent shape or have a helper on hand.
That said, the Lazer blades on this hand auger do a fantastic job – it is fully capable of enabling you to cut through 15” of ice in about a minute. It cuts smoothly, and makes a nice backup for your powered auger, too.
If you need something portable and you are fishing for sunfish or perch, this is a perfect hand auger.
5. Strikemaster Ice Fishing Mora Hand Auger:
If you plan to hike in and fish, then this Strikemaster Mora hand auger is perfect for the job. It features high alloy carbon steel blades and powder coated paint to reduce ice build-up just like its big brother, the Lazer.
Soft rubber grips and ergonomically designed handle system make this hand auger a joy to use. The adjustable handle goes from 48” to 57”. Its two-piece design makes it easy to transport and store. Comes with a blade guard.
The Mora is an impressive ice auger that drills quickly and effectively. It’s worth purchasing the adaptor for use with a drill, but unless you plan on drilling a dozen or so holes you’ll likely find the auger alone does a fantastic job.
It takes very little effort to operate and does extremely well with 6” holes. The 8” version cuts through ice like butter, too, though it will give you a workout if the ice is fairly thick.
Wrapping Up & Final Thoughts:
Ice fishing is one of the most exciting times of the year for any angling enthusiast and we feel it’s a great experience to try out as long as you have proper guidance and take proper care during your first expedition.
Seasoned Ice fishers know that this sport is more dangerous than traditional lake, river or stream fishing and as such, we always recommend that you tap into any resources that you have to get someone with a high level of experience in ice fishing before braving the cold on your own.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our breakdown of one of the most critical pieces of gear for any serious ice fisher. If there’s a model we missed that you feel belongs in our list, please feel free to let us know by dropping a line in our comments section.
Hey, look at that! You found me! Lucky for you, because when I’m not writing articles all about the wilderness life, I’m out in the bush. Camping, fishing, canoeing, and sometimes even getting lost. You know the drill.