Ice fishing can get expensive, especially for first-time anglers, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. You can cut costs by starting without snowmobiles, sleds, ice shelters, etc. But because the fish are under the ice you’re standing on; you can’t ice fish without some way to make a hole in the ice.
Sure, the easiest way to make an ice hole is the trusty ice auger , but if you’re a novice ice angler and don’t want to spring for an expensive ice Auger right away, there are other ways to reach the fish under the ice. Just like the men in this clip from Disney’s Frozen, you can get through the ice without an ice auger, using some of the same methods.
Cutting a hole in the ice without an auger isn’t as easy as the Frozen clip makes it look, but with a little more sweat and muscle, you can have a hole ready in no time. Keep reading and learn four ways to cut an ice fishing hole without an ice Auger.
- Chain Saws Rank Number One As An Alternative To Augers For Ice Fishing Holes
- Axes Can Cut Ice Fishing Holes
- Opening An Ice Hole With A Spud Bar
Chain Saws Rank Number One As An Alternative To Augers For Ice Fishing Holes
In searching for an alternative to an ice auger, chain saws are the hands-down favorites for two great reasons. First, they get the job done quickly and with less effort than other alternatives. Second, most outdoorsy types probably already have a chain saw in their garage, making them a cost saver.
Choosing A Chain Saw
You’ll need a saw with a minimum of a 12-inch bar. On thicker ice, a chain saw with a lengthier bar to reach the water is a must-have. Many guys swear by their old two-stroke gas-powered chain saw , but new electric chain saws with rechargeable batteries are gaining popularity.
Electric chain saws can help you avoid problems with environmental or pollution laws; however, that advantage comes at the price of questionable power availability.
Some ice anglers don’t think electric chain saws have the power needed to cut thicker ice quickly. Another issue is the battery life of an electric saw. Sufficient power or not, batteries die with use, and decide how many holes you can cut, unless you don’t mind buying extra rechargeable batteries and carrying their added weight.
When cutting an ice fishing hole with a chain saw, you should follow basic ice safety guidelines such as not going out on, or cutting ice less than 4-inches thick. Begin by clearing the ice of snow and inspecting the cut area for debris embedded in the ice.
For safety, start your first cut behind the end of the bar. As you’re pressing into the ice, be alert for your saw suddenly slowing when you hit the water. Repeat the process on the remaining three sides. If you’re cutting extra-thick ice, it helps to cut the ice in layers, and cut the layer into smaller, more easily manageable blocks.
Next, you’ll need to either pull the ice block from the hole with a crowbar or a spud bar or push it under the ice if it’s thin enough. When you’re done for the day, consider the next guy’s safety and fill-in your hole, leaving it clearly marked. Don’t leave an ice block on the surface, it’s just as dangerous as an unmarked hole.
That’s all on chain saws in ice fishing for now, for more on cutting ice holes with chain saws read our post, Can you use a chain saw for ice fishing? Other options for opening an ice hole without an Auger follow. These methods aren’t ranked by ease or popularity, and they all get the job done. Which one is best after a chain saw is strictly a matter of personal preference.
Axes Can Cut Ice Fishing Holes
That’s right an ax. The same you use to cut firewood or fell an old dead tree will get you to the fish under the ice.
What to Do Before You Start?
You need to inspect a few things before cutting ice with an ax. First, just as when you cut wood, you’ll want to make sure your ax is well sharpened. A sharper ax bites into wood and ice more deeply and makes the job easier.
Second, if the ax handle is wood, inspect it for cracks or splintering and replace it if any are found. Composite fiberglass handles are an excellent choice for several reasons, they are light, strong, and perform well in frigid temperatures. A longer handle makes the job easier.
Finally, be sure the ax head is firmly attached to the handle. With all these boxes checked off, make sure you have on good safety goggles, and you’re ready to cut some ice.
Cutting An Ice fishing Hole With An Ax
When using an ax to open an ice fishing hole, cutting through ice more than 10-12 inches thick may be more work than it’s worth. Begin by marking a 12-inch square. It sounds big, but it will narrow as you reach the water level. Still, exercise caution near the hole due to its increased size.
The first step for cutting a hole with an ax is to clear the area of snow and debris and mark off your cut area. Go the ice by cutting at an angle, chipping away ice, and creating a deeper V with each swing. Move down your guideline as you cut. Expect to get a little wet when you reach the water. Repeat the process on the remaining three sides.
With the hole cut, it’s time to push the ice block under the surface or pull it. A spud bar, an ice chisel with an extended handle , will help you do both. Once the ice block is out of the water or pushed below the ice, you’re ready to drop a line and begin jigging. Remember ice safety etiquette, fill and mark your hole when you leave. It might be a good idea to skip your next trip to the gym after the workout you had while cutting those ice holes,
Opening An Ice Hole With A Spud Bar
As good as the concept sounds to this potato-loving fisherman, a spud bar isn’t a restaurant that only serves potato dishes. It’s a long hardened steel rod with either a narrow sharpened point or a broad, flat, sharpened steel blade welded to the end. It might help to think of a spud bar as an ice chisel with an extra-long handle.
Cutting An Ice Fishing Hole With A Spud Bar
Cutting an ice hole with a spud bar is mostly the same as using an ax. The primary difference is the way you use the tool. Like an ax, you want to be sure the blade or point is sharp, and you should probably limit its use to ice around 10-inches thick.
While standing straight up beside the marked cut area, grip the bar about 20-inches from the top with both hands. Lift to chest height and drive the point or blade into the ice along a pre-marked line. Make sure toes are clear of the cut area. Repeat as needed.
After you’ve chipped away the ice and cut through to the water on all four sides of the hole, it’s time to pull the ice block or push it through the hole. Fortunately, when using a spud bar, the tool you need to remove the ice block is already in your hands, so you don’t have to haul other heavy tools onto the ice giving it an advantage over an ax.
Cutting An Ice Fishing Hole With an Ice Saw
The Ice saw was front and center in Disney’s movie Frozen. You can cut a hole with an ice saw, but unfortunately, unlike the guys in Frozen, you can’t just shove it through the ice and begin sawing.
Ice saws are popular with spearfishers and sight-fishers because they produce larger rectangular holes and are perfect for reopening ice holes. Starting a new hole is another thing entirely. To Use an ice saw you need a starter hole for the ice saw blade when beginning a new hole.
Your gear will need to include a cordless drill with an adaptable ice Auger attachment to make a starter hole. Powered ice Augers cut the same size or larger holes as these drill-adaptable models. The cost of a cordless drill and an adaptable Auger combo can easily equal the cost of a powered ice Auger. Finally, unless you need a larger hole for spear or sight fishing I would rank using an ice saw for opening a new hole, low on our list of options.