For you to get to the fish, when the water is ice covered, you need to get through the ice. Back in the day we used spud bars, axes, and sharpened metal rods. The job was noisy and messy. The resulting holes were misshapen and had sharp edges to cut the line. We used tea strainers or slotted cooking spoons to clear out the chunks.
Technology has come a long way since those ice shattering days. Next, we ended up with creative hand augers. A sharpened end with a spoon or blades would cut slowly through the ice. If you had Popeye the Sailor arms, you could manage a few holes before you are worn out.
The deeper the ice, the harder it is to cut. Power augers are now important to the Iceman. They range from several pounds to well over 45 pounds. Heavy augers are heavy to haul. Here is the whole story about the types of power augers.
Gasoline Jiffy and Strike master gas augers have been around for decades. When they work, holes are easy to cut. They weigh over 40 pounds and can be dangerous and are noisy. Ice conditions are a challenge for any gasoline engine. Reliable augers have certain tricks and tips to get them to run on demand.
Propane These augers are the same as a gasoline auger except the fuel is propane gas. They are more reliable in cold conditions but will freeze when it becomes extremely cold. Full fuel cans seem to work better.
Electric This auger uses a rechargeable, heavy battery to cut ice. The charge will vary on colder days. Carrying a second battery is more weight and needs to be kept warm. They cut more quietly and efficiently.
Tool Battery style This auger is the current Cat’s Ass Auger. You have a great excuse to buy a new battery powered power tool that doubles as an ice auger. An 18-volt battery tool will cut holes efficiently. Depending on the ice depth and cold, you can get through a day of ice fishing with one or two slide on rechargeable batteries. I cover mine with a sock, to keep them warm. If the batteries freeze, they are done. On really cold days I slide a handwarmer between the sock and battery. The 5-amp size works better than the 3-amp ones. You also need to buy the auger attachment, which is like $125 plus. The main advantage is that the unit is light cand more compact than the larger, heavier traditional fuel augers.
Safety Use the protective blade cover when not using the auger. I saw a guy kick the auger accidentally when it was laying on the ice. The sharp blade cut his boot and foot. Talk about a blood trail. I auger mine into the ice enough to stand on its own.
Every auger has its quirks and maintenance needs. Sharpening the blades is necessary. Tool batteries can run so low that they may not be able to recharge. Pull cords will break, propane cannisters will leak on cold days, and batteries will freeze or crack. Whatever style auger you get, keep it tuned and sharp.
Without a hole, there is no ice fishing!