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Can you Use a Chainsaw for Ice Fishing?

Can you Use a Chainsaw for Ice Fishing?

The chainsaw is a favorite go-to tool for many jobs and hobbies, ranging from cutting timber to carving ice sculptures and, yes, ice fishing. Chainsaws are particularly well suited for cutting the large holes needed for ice-spearing larger fish such as Northern Pike or Sturgeon.

However, if you have a chainsaw rather than an ice auger sitting in the garage or tool shed, you have all you need to cut a hole for a good day’s ice fishing. The following article will discuss the pros and cons of using a chainsaw for ice fishing. Teach us about chainsaw safety and how to best cut a hole for ice fishing.

Can I Use a Chainsaw to Cut Through the Ice?

to use chainsaw for ice fishing

Yes, chainsaws will quickly cut a hole for ice fishing, but the holes will be larger than those drilled with an auger and square. So it’s best to keep items like cell phones and children away from the larger holes. Depending on ice thickness, you may find yourself wrestling large blocks of ice from the hole you’re cutting.

You should avoid electric chainsaws. Also, you will need a saw with a minimum 12-inch bar, longer for thicker ice; the Husqvarna 450R Rancher gas chainsaw  is a good choice. You will also need a crowbar  or a pickax to pull the ice block from the hole.

Ice spearing is a popular ice fishing sub-niche in some regions. As the name implies, it involves spearing a target species such as a sturgeon or muskie through an ice hole, typically about two by three feet. Chainsaws are the perfect tool for cutting these large rectangular holes.

Pro Tip – When cutting ice, especially large holes or thick ice, pay attention to the thickness or viscosity of the engine oil. If it cools too much, you run the risk of damaging your saw’s oil pump. As a result, your saw may not cut wood as well the next time you need it unless you replace some costly parts.

Can Chainsaws Cut in Water?

cutting a hole for ice fishing

It’s common for agricultural workers, farmers, and such to use chainsaws to clear streams or cut holes in ponds for livestock. A few things should be evident when using your saw for ice fishing. First, only gas-powered saws work when cutting a hole for ice fishing. Second, only the blade should be in the water, never submerge the engine.

Lastly, maintenance of your saw after cutting ice is critical. Be sure the saw dries thoroughly after cutting ice. Removing the chain is strongly suggested to ensure proper drying of both the chain and bar. Add a light coat of oil to the chain and the bar to help prevent rusting.

There are two schools of thought on the types of oils used. Machine oils are best for lubricating the engine, chain, and bar of your saw. However, they often run afoul of pollution laws. Avoid problems with local or regional environmental or pollution laws and check regulations in your area to ensure machine oils aren’t prohibited before using your chainsaw to cut ice holes.

The second school of thought is to drain all oil from the saw and bar. Clean it out and add in a vegetable oil of choice. This will provide a degree of lubrication but it’s best not to run the saw too long to avoid damaging it. This is why a lot of guys like to use an old saw for cutting ice holes.

A Few Words on Chainsaw Safety

chainsaw safety

Chainsaws are great tools when used properly and safely, but every year avoidable accidents happen when Inexperienced or careless people use chainsaws. You’re not felling trees when ice fishing, but you are cutting ice that can hide potential projectiles like rocks, glass, unspent aerosol cans, or propane canisters. With that said, let’s take a look at some basic chainsaw user safety guidelines.

Things to Do Before you Start Cutting a Hole For Ice Fishing

STP Tools and Chainsaw Oil Treatment

Before you start your chainsaw, you should make sure to correctly lubricate the engine and bar of your saw with environmentally approved oils. Next, make sure of correct chain installation and sufficient tensioning.

A lot of safety gear is available for chainsaw users; at minimum, when cutting an ice hole, you should wear real shatter-resistant safety goggles , earplugs , and heavy cut resistant gloves ; if possible steel-toed boots . Any other gear you can haul, such as a helmet , leather apron , or shin protectors , is recommended.

Finally, clear all the snow before cutting and inspect the ice for possible debris. If you have sonar, it’s good to scan the ice for obstructions. Now you’re ready to fire up your saw and get cutting!

How To Cut an Ice Hole With a Chainsaw When Ice Fishing?

cutting a hole in lake ice with chainsaw-tobin lake

A chainsaw will cut an ice hole fairly quickly and remember you will be cutting a square hole, not a circle. Once your saw is set up, start your saw and gently plunge the tip a few inches into the ice away from your cut to clean any oil from the blade.

Next, to avoid possible saw kick-back, start cutting at about a 35-degree angle while pressing the bar slowly into the ice. Draw the chain edge along your marked cut to the end. Expect the saw to slow a little as you hit the water. The water will have a braking effect on your saw. Repeat the above steps for the remaining sides of the hole.

To avoid being sprayed when the blade enters the water, don’t stand directly behind the saw. A good set of easily removable rain gear is a worthwhile investment.

After cutting the hole, you will need a crowbar or pick to remove the ice block from the hole. You can choose to push the ice block under if the ice isn’t too thick. If you do push the ice block under, it’s necessary to cover or fill and clearly mark the hole when you leave.

Estwing Gooseneck Wrecking Bar

Pulling the ice block is more work; you will need a crowbar  or a pickax to remove the ice block.  Pulling the block is safer because you can use it to fill the hole before leaving.  If the ice is too thick, you will need to cut the ice into smaller blocks for easier removal. Return these pieces to your whole and they will freeze back together making the site safe for the next ice anglers.

It may seem easier to leave the ice blocks on the snow when you leave, but that leaves your hole for the next person to fall in, maybe even a child. Also, a large ice block left on the snow can result in tragedy when hit by a snowmobile at higher speeds. Please think of the next guy and fill your hole.

A popular trick to make filling the hole easier and safer is to insert your saw blade at an angle when cutting an ice hole, so the ice block is more narrow on the bottom. When you return this upside-down pyramid to the hole, it doesn’t push through, providing greater safety for anglers who come behind you.

Wrapping it All Up

Well there you have it, chain saws can work well for ice fishing. So, if you have a chainsaw and not an ice auger in the garage no need to run out and buy an auger. Your chainsaw will work just fine.

Change out your machine oils for vegetable oil; because vege oils have limited lubrication qualities, don’t run the saw too hard to avoid damaging it. Just be sure to use a chainsaw with at least a 12-inch bar, longer if you’ll be cutting thicker ice. Finally, be considerate and fill your ice hole, and don’t leave ice blocks on the snow to ensure the safety of your fellow anglers.

Keep all this in mind and your chainsaw should serve well over many years of ice fishing.


Sunday 12th of February 2023

in shallow water, will it scare off the fish?