Ice Auger For Ice Fishing: Tips For Choosing and Using It Effectively


December 24, 2021


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Ice auger: An ice fishing ally

The first step of ice fishing is to break through the ice. To do so, you will need an ice auger. But which model should you choose? Gas, electric, manual? Here’s an overview of the main types of ice augers available on the market so you can make the right choice and use it properly.


Article written in collaboration with FedeCP.

Thinking of ice fishing during the winter season? Check out our Ice Fishing Guide for even more tips.

First, the ice drill, or ice auger, has an end made of knives to cut the ice. It is activated by hand with a crank or by a power source such as a gasoline engine or battery.

You can start shopping for the product of your choice online or at any SAIL store.

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Types of ice augers

Gas powered ice augers

Much like gas-powered lawn mowers, gas-powered ice augers are increasingly giving more and more room to electric (battery-powered) models. Gas-powered ice augers are powerful, but their fumes do not make them suitable for use inside a fishing hot or shelter. In addition to their noisy sound, their weight and the extra maintenance of the gas engine do not make them the best choice in most cases.

Electric (with battery)

The world of battery-powered tools is evolving at a fast pace. Electric ice augers benefit from technologies and are a good quality alternative to gas-powered augers. They are lightweight, quiet and very durable when equipped with a lithium battery. These ice augers can drill 50 to 100 holes with a single charge of the battery, depending on the diameter of the holes to be drilled. Since they do not emit gas fumes, these rechargeable ice augers are perfect for safe use inside a cabin or fishing shelter.


This simple version of the ice auger has no motor, but rather a hand crank operated by arm strength. It is the lightest and least expensive model. For some people, the effort required can be a disadvantage, but it can also be a good choice if you want to combine your fishing trip with an outdoor workout. If you’re in good shape and your ice auger has sharp blades, you won’t have too much trouble drilling holes in 6″ thick ice in just 15 seconds.

Converting a manual ice auger to a cordless ice auger

Did you know that you can convert your manual ice auger with an adapter for a cordless drill? Yes, the one you’re using for home renovations.

Opt for a model with side handles. Some adapters do not have a side handle, so only the hand holding the ice auger controls the power of the tool. In the case of a blade lock, your hand and wrist will be pulled into a twisting motion. An adapter that includes one or two side handles is much safer.

  1. First, make sure your drill has the following features to do the job properly without overheating or wearing out too quickly: It should not have brushes and should be capable of delivering a minimum of 20 volts.
  2. Next, remove the crank handle from your manual ice auger.
  3. Attach the drill to the adapter and then to your ice auger as detailed in the instructions.

Also consider using another accessory that is not essential, but could save you trouble: the blade retainer. It is often in the form of a disc, sometimes a simple rod, which is installed perpendicularly to the blades, between the drill and the blades of your auger. This device, which is wider than the drilled hole, will hold your tool in place if a problem should arise, such as the blades coming loose from the drill or the drill falling to the ground. You can also opt for the simple and economical solution: a stopper disc drilled in its center.

This method of converting the hand auger is becoming increasingly popular due to its low cost and convenience. There are now blades sold separately that are designed to be connected to a cordless drill.

Blades and cutting diameter of an ice auger

Ice auger blades, once made of metal, are now more often made of polymer. They are much more lightweight and easier to pull out of the ice hole, as they can unbend, unlike metal.

There are three sizes (diameter of the drilled hole) of blades on the market: 4, 6 and 8 inches. Of course, drilling a smaller hole will be less forceful and faster. However, you should also base your choice on the species of fish you want to catch. If you are targeting brook trout or yellow perch, a 4 inch diameter will be sufficient. For walleye, 6 and 8 inches will be more suitable. Finally, an 8-inch hole will be ideal for pike fishing.

Maintenance of the ice auger

The blades are the most delicate part of your tool. They should always be protected when you are not using the ice drill. If necessary, have them professionally sharpened to maintain the perfect angle for biting into the ice.

Beware of sediment; the sand on the bottom of the water is very bad for the blades. When drilling a hole in shallow water, try to stay off the bottom. A bathymetric chart or sonar will be of great help to avoid wasting the blades.

Finally, always be very careful when handling the blades.

Pro tips

  • Planning to use your manual ice auger with a cordless drill/driver? Bring the hand crank anyway, just in case!
  • Going fishing in a remote location? Consider bringing extra blades.
  • Use blade guards at all times or, if you don’t have any other solution at hand, protect them with tape.

The ice auger is a tool that may seem very simple with its single screw, but technological advances keep improving it. It is always possible to drill faster with less effort. Don’t hesitate to ask for advice to make a purchase that fits your budget and your needs.

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