Ice Fishing: 4 Tips for Using a Manual Auger

You don’t need gas to make quick work of hard-water holes.

Photograph by Travis Rathbone, Nils Master USA Auger

No gas auger? That doesn’t mean you have to blow half of your day drilling holes. If you buy the right manual model and use the tricks I’ve learned from hand carving countless holes, you can spend more time fishing and less time catching your breath.

1. Size It Right
If you don't need big holes, don't kill yourself making them. A 6-inch auger chews through ice much faster and smoother than an 8-inch model, and it's all you need for trout, panfish, and pickerel. For bigger pike or walleyes, you'll want a wider hole.

2. Keep Sharp
Extra blades are a smart investment. I carry a second pair in case mine accidentally get nicked or dulled. If your blades are biting more and cutting less, you can also hone them with a file. Either way, the sharper the blades, the easier it is to drill.

3. Dressed to Drill
To thwart post-drill chills, make sure your base layer is as thin as possible and in a material that will wick sweat—which you'll probably accumulate—away from your skin. You'll be toasty while you're drilling, but a wet cotton base layer can spell misery once you're sitting motionless over a hole.

4. Stand Tall
Drilling with a hand auger is all about form. Keep your feet shoulder width apart [1], and make sure you have solid footing by wearing ice cleats. The handle should be at chest height [2]. Your top hand should never move from side to side and is only there to apply constant pressure while the bottom hand turns the screw [3]. At no point should you hunch over.