Hand vs. Electric Auger: Which One Is Best For Ice Fishing?

Wintertime brings with it plenty of chilly indoor activities, but if you love the outdoors, you’re in luck! Some of the best outdoor activities are ideal for snowy conditions. Ice fishing is a popular pastime that thousands of Minnesotans undertake every year, trekking out onto thickly frozen lakes to drill a hole through the ice in hopes of catching a variety of fish. But how do you get started?

When it comes to ice fishing tools, the ice auger is a piece of gear you should take the time to research. After all, you need a hole even to get the fish. An ice auger is a specialized tool that drills holes into the ice. These holes must be large enough to drop a fishing line through and haul fish out of the water. If a hole is too small, the fish can bump against the sides of the holes, allowing them to slip off your line. Making a hole by hand can be tiring, so you may want to consider an electric ice auger if a hand auger sounds too daunting for you.

Several types of ice augers are available, ranging from electric ice augers to hand ice augers. Both have their own unique benefits and drawbacks, so consider which one is best for your needs. In this article, we’ll break down hand ice augers and electric ice augers so that you can make informed decisions on the ice.

What To Consider For Your Ice Auger

The thickness of the ice, the size of the holes you need to drill, and the number of holes you need to create will all impact what ice auger that’s best for you. Choose a high-quality auger that is reliable and durable. There’s nothing more disappointing than getting out on the ice with a poorly-performing auger, or even one so poorly made it breaks after a hole or two. You’ll either have to repair out on the ice or just head home early without a reliable ice auger. There’s nothing more frustrating than hiking out to the perfect ice fishing spot, only to have your ice fishing trip ruined because of a crappy ice auger.

If you’re new to ice fishing, you’re probably thinking of getting a hand auger for your first purchase. Hand ice augers are generally more affordable and lightweight than electric ice augers. Since hand augers don’t require fuel, they eliminate the need to figure out gas or charge up an auger. However, the ice thickness proves a real problem with hand ice augers.

Ice Thickness

For ice up to 12 inches thick, a hand auger can be a practical choice. However, if the ice gets thicker than 16 inches, a hand auger can become extremely time-consuming and labor-intensive to use, even with the best hand augers on the market. In these cases, investing in an electric ice auger is more practical and safe. It is generally only advisable to use a hand ice auger up to two feet deep.


Remember, hypothermia is a concern out on the ice. If you’re using a hand auger and it takes a long time to drill through the ice, or if you’re digging multiple holes, you may begin to sweat due to overexertion. This can lead to hypothermia, which is a dangerous condition that can occur when your body temperature drops too low.

To practice safe ice fishing, choosing an auger suitable for the thickness of the ice and the number of holes you’ll be drilling is essential. This will help you avoid overexertion and the risk of hypothermia. Always be mindful of your physical limits and take breaks as needed to stay safe and comfortable on the ice.

Additionally, be careful not to fall in icy water. You should consider bringing extra clothes on your ice fishing trip so you can change out of soaking clothes just in case an accident happens.

All About Hand Ice Augers

As far as affordability goes, hand augers are the most popular choice. Most anglers prefer to use hand ice augers when portability and simplicity are the goals, such as a simple, inexpensive set-up for ice fishing that only includes the bare minimum. These manually-operated augers are powered by physical effort and are suitable for drilling holes in ice up to 12 inches thick.

Hand-ice augers are relatively low maintenance and don’t require batteries or fuel. Still, if you’re an angler who grapples with physical limitations or you intend to drill through very thick ice, a hand auger may quickly become more of a problem than it’s worth. Ice thicker than 16 inches will be highly labor-intensive and time-consuming, even with the best hand ice augers on the market. If the ice extends beyond two-feet deep, avoid a hand-powered auger altogether. At that point, an electric ice auger is what you need.

You’ll want to pay attention to the blade’s sharpness when considering a hand ice auger. The best hand ice augers have chrome-alloy stainless steel blades that will drill into the ice. Powder-coated paint is another product trait to check off of your list. The powder-coated paint will reduce ice build-up and keep the auger working. The best hand augers on the market are sharp and ice build-up resistant to keep your auger working smoothly.

Do You Plan on Going Ice Fishing Often?

If you know you’ll be putting a lot of sweat and time out on the ice, an electric ice auger is what you need. These augers are powered by electric batteries and are generally faster and more efficient than hand-powered augers. This is useful if plan to change fishing spots frequently, which means you’ll need to drill multiple holes through thick ice. Investing in quality ice fishing tools, including an electric auger, means you have an enjoyable and productive outing on the ice. That means the possibility of a lot of good catches.

Electric Augers

Need something dependable and lightweight, but with enough power to get through multiple holes in a trip? Electric augers are environmentally friendly, unlike gas-powered augers, and powered by electricity. If you’re not drilling through incredibly thick ice, an electric auger will be great, though they don’t provide as much torque as a gas-powered auger. You also need to keep track of an electric auger’s charge. If you forget to charge before a long day out on the ice, you’ll run into issues that will have you packing up early unless you bring a charged spare battery or two.

You’re in luck if you already own a high-powered handheld electric drill. Drill-powered ice augers are generally half the price of a gas or electric auger, and you already have part of it. Drill-powered augers are lightweight, though they’re not as powerful as electric augers, and are more suited for 6 to 8-inch blades.

Be Prepared Out on the Ice

Ice fishing tools make or break your fishing experience out on the lakes. After all, you don’t want to hook a trophy fish only to lose it from an improperly drilled hole or a too-small hole. A 6-inch auger will handle trout and panfish but move up to an 8-inch for larger trout and bass. If your plan is to hit pike and musky, go for a more robust 10-inch auger. Also, consider your other gear. Make sure you have weather-resistant and water-resistant outer layers, and stay warm. If you’re a new angler unsure where to start, consider hiring a guide service like Set The Hook. Whether renting one of their ice houses or using a guide service, the holes will come pre-drilled, and you won’t have to worry about an auger. Have a great time out on the ice, and stay safe!