Twenty years ago manual augers were the instrument of choice by anglers for cutting a few holes through the ice. However as ice fishing strategies have progressed and “running and gunning” has gained popularity — sometimes 100 holes are cut over the course of the day — manual augers are no longer the go-to tool.
The issue with a gas auger, however, can be reliability, but proper maintenance will make your gas ice auger bulletproof.
The most important aspect of keeping your ice auger running smoothly for the full course of the hard-water season is using the right fuel.
When you purchase 87 or 89 blend gas, you are buying ethanol-based fuel. The major problem with ethanol is that it can absorb water and gas, and can act as a corrosive agent in any engine. In particular, ethanol fuels can damage carburetors in small engines.
Tom Stephens, a mechanic and owner of Stephens Small Engines in Pickering, has worked on hundreds of gas ice augers.
“The first thing you need to do is use ethanol-free gasoline in a 91 blend, available at Canadian Tire, Esso and Ultramar,” he says. “Make sure that you use a quality 2-stroke oil for mixing your fresh gas at the start of the ice season. Adhere to the manufacturer’s recommendation, usually a 50:1 mixture, and make sure you have a good stabilizer additive.”
I own a Rapala Husqvarna 8-inch model and prefer to use the small 100 millilitre container of 2-stroke premium oil, which contains stabilizer. Mixed with 5 litres of gas, this gives you a 50:1 ratio and will protect your engine throughout the season.
“Don’t leave maintenance until the day before ice fishing,” says Nancy Rowe from Crown Maintenance in Oshawa, a shop that services a wide variety of 2-stroke engines. “Go one step further and run the engine dry at the end of winter. Check to see if the carburetor has a drain plug to remove all gas,” she adds.
Tackling a carburetor overhaul would be the undoing of most anglers, so unless you’ve got experience in small engine repairs, save yourself the frustration and take it to a professional. “Typically a tune-up is suggested every 3 to 4 years,” says Stephens. “When we service an auger we flush the fuel system, replace the fuel filter, clean the muffler, exhaust ports and spark arrestor. We then replace the spark plugs, clean or replace the air filter, and start the engine to tune the carburetor.”
The blade on an ice auger is the workhorse that cuts the ice. Unfortunately, they become dull after a season or 2 of heavy drilling. Due to the angular shape, don’t attempt to sharpen the blade yourself, but do have a small engine shop sharpen it, and keep it as a spare. Purchase a new blade and install it yourself.
Buy a protective heavy-duty case for the shaft section of the auger. It will protect the blades from being banged up during trips on and off the ice.
Hard water comes quickly, so do the maintenance early. A few simple procedures will make for a trouble-free season of ice fishing.