Unless you enjoy chipping holes in the ice with an axe or a chisel, you need an auger to ice fish.
When out in the bitter-cold of winter, nothing is worse than having problems with your auger after getting to your favorite spot. After all, if you can't get through the ice, you can't fish. Whether you use a hand or a power auger, here are some operation and maintenance tips on keeping your auger in top shape.
Obviously, if your blades aren't razor sharp and in excellent condition, it's going to take more time and energy to drill through the ice. Both Mike Seifert of Jiffy Ice Drills and Cy Zieglmeier of StikeMaster Ice Augers, stress the importance of taking care of an auger's blades. They are also adamant about never dropping your auger blades on the ice, which ruins their edge and can damage the unit's head.
"Augers have a protective guard to sit over their heads, and without it the blades get nicked-up (affecting drilling performance)," Zieglmeier said. "Not only that, it's a safety hazard as well."
Seifert also advises anglers to use the blade protector that is furnished with your drill for a custom fit and guaranteed protection.
Before drilling holes, anglers should inspect and tighten blade screws to reduce the chances of losing parts or causing personal injury. Any other connections (such as the drill and the power head joint) should also be checked for tightness as they can work loose over time.
"Loose blades change the pitch of the unit, and it won't cut the way it's designed to," Zieglmeier explained. "If the collar bolt comes loose where it attaches to the motor, you tend to get a shake in the drill."
When drilling the hole, let the blades do the cutting, and don't exert too much pressure on the auger. Once you've finished drilling the holes, anglers should shake ice away from the blades (drying them with a rag if possible), and place the guard on the auger head. Augers should not be stored upright in a hole halfway through the ice. Drills can freeze in place and the force required to remove them can cause significant damage to the unit.
Today, hard-water anglers are drilling more holes and covering greater distances than ever before. Whether you're traveling by foot or snowmobile, ensure your auger is properly secured. Granted, carrying a hand auger can be an over-the-shoulder option. They can also be fastened to sleds with elastic shock-cords.
Yet heavier power augers need better protection.
Products are available to lock augers in place on snowmobiles or ATVs. Additionally, there are a variety of hard-plastic cases or heavy-duty bags that protect augers for transport in automobiles, and have handles to make carrying units easier. Some bags also include pouches to hold items such as extra spark plugs or spare blades.
Power Augers Specifics
Although power ice augers are designed to be low-maintenance, they do have a few extra requirements than a hand auger. Seifert advised that users should keep their gasoline fresh and ensure they have the proper mix of fuel to oil.
"The 24-to-1 gas to oil ratio is standard because most ice augers today use Tecumseh engines," Seifert said. "Use only a good, quality 2-cycle oil. Regular motor oil is not an option. For convenience sake, I recommend buying the Jiffy Smokeless 2-cycle oil with fuel stabilizer in the pre-measured containers."
All owners should check and follow their manufacturer's instructions regarding the oil and gas ratio. It's also important to ensure you keep the unit's parts clean, such as the air intake, air filter, and spark plugs. Also, when cold starting your auger, it's a good habit to let the engine run and warm up for a few minutes (like a boat motor) before aggressively drilling holes.
For short-term storage between outings, auger blades should be dried and lubricated with motor oil or a water-displacing lubricant, such as WD-40, to keep the blades from rusting. After treating the blades, it's best to hang augers vertically, especially power augers, as laying them horizontally can cause warping of the drill portion of the unit.
Various products are available, including stands and wall-mounts, to properly store augers. Zieglmeier noted that for both hand- and power augers, drills should occasionally be removed from the rest of the unit to prevent the two pieces from permanently joining together. If one leaves them connected too long and the two parts seize together, removing them without causing damage is next to impossible. Upon reassembling the parts, applying a small amount of grease in between them will help them from rusting together.
"Anything that has an anti-rust component to it, like axle grease, will work," noted Zieglmeier.
Gas Auger Storage Specifics
Zieglmeier suggests the following process for preparing the auger's fuel line for long-term storage.
"At the end of the season there's usually some fuel left in the tank. You want to mix in about a cap-full of fuel stabilizer, one such as SeaFoam, with the remaining gas, and then start the motor," Zieglmeier said. "You will see the stabilizer working through the motor, because it will start to smoke. Once this happens, shut off the motor, dump out the old fuel, and leave it sit dry with the SeaFoam sitting in the carburetors. This prevents any fuel from varnishing and causing damage to your unit."
Finally, cover the engine head with a bag during storage to prevent debris from collecting in the unit. Some specific bags are made for covering augers such as StrikeMaster's Storage Parka.
The above preventative maintenance and operating suggestions will keep your auger cutting through ice for years to come. It's a good habit to review your unit's operating instructions each year for operating, maintenance, and storage information. Take the time to keep your auger in top-shape and you won't get stuck shelling out money for replacement parts and repairs -- instead of getting the latest hard-water tackle and catching more fish!
For a fine selection of ice fishing gear, including augers, click here.