Tips for Drilling Ice Holes
The auger let out a steady two-cycle scream as it chopped through a foot and a half of ice. Chips and shards fell around my feet until the blades finally broke through. I hit the throttle and cleared out the slush, before walking a few yards and punching another hole. Behind me my partner followed, checking the depth of the water with a vexilar. In ten minutes, we had several holes drilled, cleaned and scanned for depth. Now, we were ready to fish under the ice.
Drilling holes˝ my seem straight forward but there are some tricks of the trade that can make you more efficient when cutting the ice. Here are some suggestons for this upcoming hard water season with particular focus on powered augers.
SECURE YOUR FOOTING
One tip shared to me on an outing is to drill over snow patches on the ice. There are several reasons for this approach. First, snow is a better gripping surface than ice for your feet, increasing your stability while drilling. Secondly, the snow surrounding turns to slush when you break through the ice. You can then use the slush to anchor your portable ice hut and secure the tent skirt in windy conditions. Early in the season after a thaw, even snow can be hard to find. In this case, pack a pair of ice grips or cleats for sure footing in these slippery conditions.
LET THE BLADE DO THE CUTTING
A common drilling mistake is applying too much downward pressure on the auger. Pushing down too hard won’t make an auger cut any faster and in some cases, will slow things down. A good indicator that you are pushing too hard is if you lose your balance or surge forward when the auger breaks through the ice.
“I found that with the chipper drill, you need to put just enough down pressure to make the drill cut without overloading the power head,” says Cyril Zieglmeier of Strikemaster Ice augers. He explains that ice augers featuring blades like their Laser 224, behave differently than chipper style drills.
With the Laser drill you should never need to put downward pressure on it. It should cut its best with no load or even pulling it up just a little, and adding a little upwards pressure as you feel the tip break through the bottom of the ice,” he added.
CLEAN THE HOLE
Let’s return the the scenario I mentioned at the beginning of this article. It’s standard practice with my fishing friends that as one of them drills holes, the others follow and clean them. This clean up role is more tolerable (and in the best circumstances unnecessary) if the angler drilling the holes makes and effort to remove slush with the auger. I got the straight goods on how to drill a clean hole from ice fishing guru, Dave Genz.
“One thing that works really well after you drill through the ice is to kick the snow away form one side of the hole, then run the auger again as you lift it out,” Genz said. He explains that you don’t kick the entire mound of ice shards away, only a section.
This cleared area acts as a channel, directing the slush and water away from the hole as you run and remove the auger. The remaining snow around the hole directs water to the channel and prevents additional snow and slush from entering the hole. “This approach usually gets almost all the slush out,” Genz noted.
“It’s best to kick snow away on the downwind side, this way when you’re checking the depth with your electronics you can place it in the space you cleared and fish with the wind at your back,” he said.
KEEP THE BLADES CLEAN
Having ice build up on blades during an outing dramatically reduces your drilling efficiency. A good rule of thumb with power augers is to run them above ice for a few seconds to spin off the remaining water before setting them down.
Genz recommends clearing a section of snow away on the ice before putting your auger down. This way you can place the blades on ice instead of snow. This prevents the snow from sticking to the blades.
Zeiglmeier talks about lying an auger in the sun and explains that this helps keep the drill warmer than if being stored in the shade, and in some cases, provides enough heat to keep the ice from forming on the blades. Should ice accumulate on the blades, which is often unavoidable in extremely cold conditions and when drilling lots of holes, it is better to remove it before ruining the unit.
The Genz Tool is a good product that has a chipper at one end and a scoop at the other. A small hammer is just as effective. Tap the bottom of the blades (not the edges) to remove ice form the blades. In most cases the ice shatters right off. Using a tool with a handle is a very safe way to clear ice and keep your hands away from auger’s shape blades.
Lastly, never drill the auger halfway through the ice and use this half hole as storage. This practice is not recommended by manufacturers as the drill could freeze in place and removing it could result in damage to the drill or the powerhead.
Try these hole cutting tips on your next outing. Not only will you be more efficient at getting through the ice, but you’ll also spend less time drilling and cleaning and more time jigging and hooking fish.