July 7, 2022
By Tim Allard
The auger let out a steady 2-cycle scream as it chewed through 4-1/2 feet of ice. Chips and shards fell around my feet until the blades 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 water with a Vexilar. In 10 minutes we had several holes drilled, cleaned and scanned for depth. Now, we were ready to fish.
Drilling holes may seem straightforward, but there are some tricks that can make you more efficient when cutting through the ice.
Here are some suggestions for the hard-water season with a particular focus on powered augers.
Secure Your Footing
One tip shared with me during an outing with ice-fishing guru Dave Genz and pro angler Big Jim McLaughlin, is to drill over snow patches on the ice. There are several reasons for this approach.
First, snow is a better a gripping surface than ice for your feet, increasing your stability when drilling. Secondly, the surrounding snow turns to slush from the water surge when you break through 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 or after a thaw, however, 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 Blades 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, it will slow things down. A good indicator that you're pushing too hard is if you lose your balance or surge forward when the auger breaks through the ice.
I found that with a chipper drill you need to put just enough down pressure to make the drill cut without overloading the power head, said Cyril Zieglmeier of StrikeMaster Ice Augers. He explains that augers featuring blades, such as the StrikeMaster Lazer 24, behave differently than chipper-style drills.
With a Lazer 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 bit more upward pressure as you feel the tip break through the bottom of the ice, he added.