Ice fishing is a popular winter sport to bring family and friends together. Enjoying a day out on the lake catching walleye and bass starts with loading up your gear and heading out early in the morning to start your day.
Although there’s a long list of the essential gear you need to ice fish, we’re here to discuss the one that will get you into the ice: an ice fishing auger! We’ll walk you through how to drill that perfect ice fishing hole and answer the questions a new ice fisherman usually has, like “What size should my ice fishing hole be?” and “What kind of augur should I use?”
Drilling The Perfect Hole
Drilling holes in the ice takes some practice, but you’ll be a pro at it before too long. Make sure you drill your hole straight. If it’s at an angle, you’ll have trouble getting the ice fishing auger out, and when you go fishing, you won’t be able to see your hook, and you’ll catch the edge of the ice. If you get a fish on a ragged hole, likely the fish will get leverage on the uneven surface and get away from you.
Ice fishing holes can range from 6 to 10 inches in diameter, but the perfect hole size is 8 inches. The 8-inch hole allows you to pull most fish through and is achievable even with a hand-powered ice fishing auger. There are a few situations where the standard 8-inch diameter hole isn’t a great fit.
Deeper ice is harder to drill, and no matter the type of auger you use, it can be hard work getting through thick ice. It’s essential to think about how much energy you exert to get through the ice, as a 6-inch auger will be easier to get through 2 feet of ice than an 8-inch auger. You’ll want to avoid sweating as it will chill you in sub-zero temperatures.
A narrow hole in deep ice gives a fighting fish more control than the angler. While this isn’t too big of a deal with panfish, a larger walleye or lake trout can snap your line and be difficult to pull through a narrower hole. Your ice fishing hole should match the ice thickness of your location, so it’s vital to pick a corresponding ice fishing auger with the correct diameter.
An 8-inch hand auger is alright for ice less than 18 inches, but on days where you’re moving holes often, a gas or electric auger is a must.
What Fish Are You Trying To Catch?
Don’t work yourself to exhaustion, drilling big holes for big fish. A 10-pound walleye is only 5 to 6 inches thick and could quickly come up through an 8-inch hole. If you’re regularly catching 30-lb lake trout, you might consider a larger 10-inch hole, but for the average-sized walleye and panfish, a 6 to 8-inch hole will work just fine.
How Many Holes Are You Drilling?
With a heavily insulated jacket in sub-zero weather, drilling holes isn’t easy–especially if you’re moving spots quite a bit. Sometimes, finding fish involves drilling one hole after another until you get bites. In order not to work up a sweat, make sure your auger size is suited to how many holes you’ll be drilling. Think about using a motorized version to protect yourself from exhaustion and hypothermia.
Ice Fishing Safety
A hole should never be big enough for a person to fall into. A large hole takes longer to freeze solid, and while the top layer will freeze first, it might only be an inch or two thick by the time someone else is walking to their spot. Going through the ice into excruciatingly cold water is life-threatening and traumatic. It can lead to death. Never make a hole larger than 10 inches in diameter. It’s just not needed, and your life or someone else’s could be at stake.
Hand Auger vs Machine Auger
In the old days, anglers used just a pry bar and a chisel. Thankfully, nowadays, we have ice fishing augers.
Hand Powered Augers
Hand-powered augers are built to use your strength. They’re a good workout early in the morning, but if you’re looking to drill multiple holes or move spots, a hand-auger will probably lead to an aching arm. Take this into account before you invest in this as your only option.
Gas-powered augers are falling out of favor. Though they do drill through the ice impressively, a machine malfunctioning out on the ice can be a pain to fix. Not to mention, you’ll need to fill it with gasoline (and worry about having spare gas on hand when you travel). That said, these augers are much better than hand-powered augers if you need to drill multiple holes in a short amount of time, so they’re great for multi-day trips or fishing with buddies. Remember to lift your auger up and down after getting through the ice. The motion will clear much of the slush and ice out of the hole.
There are also ion-battery augers. Environmentally friendly and easy to use on the ice, the only downfall to these is the battery time. While they can make multiple holes quickly, these electric augers will eventually need a longer charge.
Cutting holes with a drill auger doesn’t have to be work. It can even be enjoyable. An ice fishing auger kit is usually an adapter kit to fit an auger drill. Drill augers can beat out many of the top gas-powered augers on the market without the hassle of gas attached.
The rule of thumb is that if you’re only drilling one hole during your session, a manual-powered auger will definitely reduce the amount of gear you have to bring out on the ice. If you’re drilling three or more holes during the outing, you’ll want a motor-driven auger so that you don’t build up a sweat. With conditions changing quickly out on the ice, working up a sweat can lead to hypothermia.
Guided Ice Fishing
The best way to learn ice fishing is to first go on a guided ice fishing tour with an experienced angler. Lake Minnetonka is one of the best ice fishing spots in Minnesota, and Set the Hook offers guided ice fishing tours that will get you set up with the ice fishing techniques you need to make this a permanent part of your winter traditions. Through experience and careful guidance, you’ll learn what makes the best ice fishing hole.