Ice fishing auger dos and don'ts

Ice fishing auger dos and don’ts


What a great time I had last week doing the fishing seminars at the Toronto Spring Fishing Show.  What I thought was especially “cool”, though, was the number of folks who were still keen to talk about ice fishing and ice fishing techniques, even though it was sunny and warm outside and there was no snow on the ground.  I guess you don’t have to travel too far north of the city – into the Haliburton Highlands and Muskoka region – to find safe ice.

As I was telling a group of folks who had asked about the ice augers I use and the ones I would recommend, if I had a spare million dollars to invest in the fishing industry, the very last place I would risk my money is in anything involved with ice augers.


And not for the reasons you might think.

Over the past four or five winters I have spent close to 75 plus days on the ice fishing and filming television shows.  And I can’t believe the number of folks I bump into with tales of ice auger woes.  Usually of broken clutches, drive shafts and gears.  It is nothing short of bewildering and I do not know how auger manufacturers stay in business.

I say that, because the fault usually lies with the anglers, not with the machinery.


So, let me give you three tips that I absolutely guarantee will add years of life to your ice auger and will free you up to spend your time on the ice much more productively.

Let’s start with the easiest one first:  add fuel stabilizer to the can in which you store your gas/oil mixture.


I have a friend, here in Kenora, who owns and operates a mobile marine business repairing big, medium and small engines of every size and shape imaginable.  Everything from chain saws and ice augers to 4-wheel drive quads, snowmachines and giant outboards.  And get this: he tells me he would go out of business – those are his words, not mine – if everyone added fuel stabilizer to their gas.

He has one or two technicians at the shop that do nothing all day – nothing – other than tune up small gas engines.  Things like ice augers that start, stop, start, sputter and won’t cut, because they’re gummed up inside.

Now, I am not sponsored by any fuel additive company, so I am not going to tell you that you must buy one brand over another, or that one works better than all the rest.

All I know is that I never – EVER – put gas into my ice auger, chain saw, kicker outboard, quad, snowmachine or big boat without adding fuel stabilizer given my buddy’s advice.  And I could not tell you the last time I had trouble starting or running any of my toys.  I also couldn’t tell you the last time I took one of the engines in for a tune up.

The additive – I use the red stuff from Canadian Tire, how’s that for a commercial – is cheap and it works like magic.

Ice auger tip number two: When you finally get down lake and start up your auger for the very first time, let it fully warm up.  Nobody does this.  I mean, how many times have you seen a group of anglers arrive at a spot and watch them unload their augers, start them up, and immediately begin drilling?

The damned auger has bounced around inside a sleigh in minus 30 degree temperatures, is caked in slush and snow and ice and then someone starts it up, hits the throttle and wonders why it “runs rough” or “doesn’t cut”.

Duh ….

Engine repair buddy says you have to let them warm up for at least a few minutes, until they’re purring like kittens.  If you don’t do this and immediately try cutting through three feet of blue ice, you’re asking for trouble … and you’re going to get it.

So, put fuel stabilizer in your gas can each and every time you fill up, and when you get to your fishing spot, start the ice auger and then let it fully warm up while you go about doing all the other chores to get ready to fish.

Which brings us to ice auger tip number three.  Drum roll please, because this is the single most important thing you can do to guarantee you will never blow up, break or otherwise damage the drive shaft, chain and gears in your ice auger.   But, wait a second, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so click on this short video link and you can watch how I do it using my Rapala/Husqvarna ice auger that I have used to drill more miles of holes than TransCanada Pipeline.  Oh, yes, and trust me, I sufficiently warmed up the auger before I shot the video clip.