ICE CHIPS and TIPS #3
By Montana Grant

Posted: January 15, 2022

Drilling a proper and safe Ice Hole!

Making a hole in ice requires the right tools and safety techniques. Back in the day, I used my BSA Axe to chop through the ice. Chips would fly and the noise must have scared every fish in the lake. Later we used a sharpened spud bar. My Dad always warned me to not drop it down the hole. To remove chips and chunks, I used my mom’s slotted serving spoon. These often ended up getting kicked down the hole by accident.

Holes cut with an axe or spud bar are jagged, inconsistent and had sharp edges to cut your line. Wearing eye protection was critical. You also worked up a sweat. Folks without axes and spud bars would search for holes that were already drilled. They had no clue whether the spot was any good or not.

Eventually I bought a hand auger. Now I was no longer afraid of how many holes I could make. 

Augers need sharp blades and at some point, every Iceman has bled a bit from handling the blades. Make sure you use the blades safety cover. You need arms like Popeye the Sailor to operate a hand auger. Cutting deeper than 8 inches means several minutes or more of strenuous exercise. For many hand auger Icemen, they drill just enough holes and rarely move.

Finally, I spent money on a 10-inch gasoline motor auger. WOW!!!! Suddenly, cutting holes became way easier. I was able to pop out a hole in just a minute or less. Not all is perfect with power augers. It often takes longer to start the auger than to drill with it. These long augers are also heavy.

My next stop was an 18-volt Makita hammer drill and an auger attachment. WOW again! This system is way lighter and safer to cut holes with. It takes up less space and cuts perfect holes. You do need take spare batteries and keep them warm. They work great!

When starting to cut a hole, look for debris on the ice. Some people feel a need to throw logs and rocks onto the ice to check its thickness. Others shove branches in the hole to mark the location. I first take a shovel and clear the site. That way, I can see what is there and make a clean target. Tuck in you scarfs, jacket, and strings. These tend to get wrapped up in the running auger. Now spread your legs to get into a stable and balanced stance.

Slow wins the race when cutting ice holes. Let the auger do the work. Use both hands to support the auger. The battery drill auger has a hammer drill handle attached to it. You can break your wrist from the tools torque. Hang on tight and throttle up only what you feel comfortable with.

If the auger binds, back off. Clear the hole then go back at it. I rev the auger before setting it otto the ice. Even with an auger center tooth, the auger can slip, so pay attention. This is not the job for a weak, young, or older Iceman.

Once you break through the hole, rev the throttle as you lift the auger blade. This will remove most of the chips and chunks. Now you can ladle out what’s left and get to fishing.

Also consider the wind once you have cut the hole. Shovel extra ice and snow up wind of the hole to make a wind wall.

Holey Moley, it’s time to fish!

Montana Grant