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December 28. 2013 1:00AM

Dick Pinney's Guidelines: Ice fishermen are sometimes only as good as their cutting tools

One of the most valuable possession of any ice fisherman is the tool that cuts through the ice. In my time this was often a fancy chisel with a curved cutting edge. Then came the hand-powered ice auger and finally, a tool that is just about universal in this day-and-age, the power auger.

Universally these power augers were heavy, tough to start and keep going and quite expensive. It seems that they were the work of the devil, often starting and letting you think you're on easy street and then sputtering and quitting on you because they had flooded or some other dumb thing. Often the flooding was caused by the operator by over-use of the choke or pulling the starter cord many times before finding out that the spark plug wire had come undone. It took forever, unless you were lucky enough to have a can of ether-starting fluid, to get 'er going again!

Because these gasoline powered augers were two-stroke engines, you needed to use an oil and gasoline mixture. If by chance you forgot to add the oil you'd end up with a damaged engine. Almost as bad, if you forgot that you had added the needed oil and dumped in another shot of oil, your auger would smoke like crazy if you were lucky enough to get it going and then it would quit with a fouled spark plug.

Thinks have started to change at a shocking pace. Just a couple of years ago propane-powered augers hit the market, these using the small and convenient propane tanks that were just screwed into the motor and ran both clean and started quickly. That is if you hadn't made the mistake of allowing your propane tank to stay outside on a very cold night and the propane turned to liquid and wouldn't fire off your auger. These propane units hit the market with a big splurge and at times were back-ordered for months at your favorite sporting goods store.

As fast as those propane units were being utilized by the ice fishing crowd, now comes an even more popular unit powered by a rechargeable battery. The only knock on these we've heard has been the weight of the auger, about 40 pounds on average and unless you are using an ATV or snowmobile to move to your fishing location, adds quite a bit of weight to your rig. Similar to the propane units, these battery-operated ice augers are claimed to be able to cut 40 holes on a charge.

Just a short year or so after the advent of these battery operated augers, the industry answered with units that would convert your hand powered (crank) units to be powered by your portable battery operated hand drill, that are just about standard equipment to all home dwellers. Although touted to be able to do 40 holes as do the units with built-in batteries, they won't cut the large holes as they have much less power. We think that their limit is somewhere near six inches, which, when you think of it, unless your quarry is a huge fish such as northern pike, there are very few freshwater fish that you can't nurse up through a six-inch ice hole.

We've been through the gas-powered auger and then regressed to the hand-cranker. One reason was weight. Another was the problem with keeping the gas powered augers running and the bother with fuel. The last reason was when we asked ourselves if we were ever going to catch a fish that needed a ten-inch hole.

It's looking more and more probable that the Dickster will be brandishing a conversion model that will power the old hand crank cutter, using one of my three (yup, don't we all need three?) battery powered drills we have at home.

Drop us an email at DoDuckInn@aol and be careful out there on the ice!


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