The typical ice fishing excursion used to involve one of two methods for cutting through the ice: A manual auger, which worked well as long as the ice was 12 inches or less, or a gas-powered drill, which had lots of power but also brought fumes and required plenty of maintenance.
The good thing is that ice augers have come a long way, and, in addition to electric ice augers, manufacturers are making more effective drill bits that you can use with your power drill. That’s right — your Makita, Dewalt, or Milwaukee drill can basically become your ice auger.
Should You Use an Ice Fishing Drill Bit?
The drill bits for ice augers are worth considering, but there are also some pros and cons.
Pros of Using Ice Drill Bits
- Faster than a hand auger.
- Lightweight and easy to carry from the vehicle out to the fishing location and back
- They’re extremely portable if you are a walk-on ice-fisherman who wants to keep a light load, as they can easily be carried on your back or a small sled.
- Combined with other new gear like a sonar ball to serve as your flasher, you can really lighten the load compared to the olden days when ever piece of ice fishing equipment weighed 20 lbs.
- Less expensive than some of the gas and electric augers dedicated to just drilling in ice
- Low maintenance
- They usually have blades that can be changed when they start to get dull.
- Tend to have safety plates at the top
- This will prevent you from dropping your drill or losing the auger in the water.
- Not as noisy as gas powered units
- Do not create harmful carbon monoxide fumes
- There is no possibility of gas spills that could leak through your hole and spoil your fishing.
- You’re using a device that you already own — your power drill
- This saves you money and storage space.
Cons of Using Ice Drill Bits
- Smaller in size
- These drill bits are generally smaller in diameter than the dedicated auger bits. The holes they create are smaller and if you want a larger hole you are going to have to drill adjacent holes and break the ice that separates them.
- Not a problem if you will be catching Perch or Crappies, but it could be a factor if you need to pull in a large Northern or Muskie.
- Easier to break
- They are easier to buckle or break under the pressure of trying to cut through the ice.
- Operate slower
- They are not as fast as the augers designed specifically to cut through ice.
- Less battery life
- These drills don’t have the same battery life as a dedicated electric ice auger, and won’t cut as much ice as a gas auger can on one tank of gas.
- Expect anywhere from 6-10 holes per charge, depending on the ice thickness.
- Can be more dangerous
- Dedicated augers are designed with proper safety handles so you hold the handle firmly in one hand and the motorized section in the other hand, with the impact of ice-drilling in mind. This stops the torque from the drill in operation from twisting your wrist or allowing the machine to get away from you.
- The drill that you keep in your garage more than likely does not have this handle design. You can buy adapters to fashion a stabilizing handle on your drill, but the adapter handle will not be as sturdy as the ones on dedicated ice augers.
Recommended Ice Drill Bits
Let’s take a closer look at two of the most popular ice drill augers, which happen to be our favorites on the market today. We will give you the good and bad, but both are recommended models.
Eskimo Pistol Bit
Eskimo just might be emerging as our favorite ice fishing brand at the moment. They are also make some of the very best ice fishing shelters available today.
Crafted from a nylon/polymer Flite, this material allows the flite to be more flexible and less likely to be affected by the freezing temperatures or possible impact. It ensures the ice auger is very lightweight for easier transport.
The inner stem shaft is aluminum. That also keeps weight down, and helps the transfer of power from the drill to the cutting head to be faster.
The bottom of the device is home to steel blades that cut smoothly. The steel blades are replaceable and that increases the durability and life-span of the unit.
The Eskimo comes in a 6-inch or 8-inch model. We recommend the 8-inch because it includes a better centering guide, and an 8-inch hole gives you more room to work with when you have that highly-active fish on the line.
To operate this auger drill you are going to need a ½ inch chuck, high-torque, and cordless drill motor. The drill needs to have a side stabilizer arm and must be at least an 18-volt device.
The Eskimo is compatible with a wide range of drill brands.
- This device has an aggressive cutting head that gets a good bite and does not easily skip across the ice surface.
- It is fast and will use very little battery power to create a hole.
- You do not have to worry about spilled gas or lugging gas along with you.
- It does not create exhaust smoke like dedicated gas augers.
- The centering point makes the auger safer to use and reduces possibility of personal injury.
- The safety plate at the top assures that you are not going to lose your drill or the auger through the hole you are creating.
- If you are not firmly holding the side handle of your drill, the unit can spin violently from the ice’s torque, potentially causing injuring your wrist.
- This unit really needs to be operated with a brushless drill.
StrikeMaster Lazer Drill
This device is designed to be used with the cordless drill that most homeowners already have. It is perfectly proportioned, and honed to cut through the ice quickly with less walking across the top, meaning less possible danger.
The drill is lightweight so transporting the device is easy. Even though the weight of the item is reduced, the strength of the item remains strong and dependable.
You need a drill with a ½” chuck. The drill should be battery powered and it needs to have at least an 18 Volt battery for sufficient power. It also needs to have a stabilizer arm.
- The StrikeMaster is lightweight and easy to transport.
- It cuts fast and may cut a hole through the ice in four times less time than the typical gas auger.
- It does not create smoke or gas fume odors.
- This tool eliminates the need to carry fuel that can spill, or add extra weight to your equipment.
- It’s less noisy than the typical gas-powered machine.
- Requires little maintenance.
- Available replaceable blades.
- Works with the majority of drill brands.
- Can cause injury if you are not holding the stabilizer arm firmly while operating the device – but this is the case with all ice drill bits.
- The blades dull very easily, so sharpen them often.
- You have to have a brushless drill motor.
- If your drill motor has brushes, they will be burned up.
Drill Bit FAQ
Do Ice Drill Bits Scare The Fish?
Ice augers drill bits, like electric ice augers, can scare the fish away at first, but they should quickly return!
Can I Use Regular Drill Bits for Ice Fishing Holes?
Using regular drill bits for ice fishing holes is not recommended. Ice auger bits are specifically designed for drilling through ice efficiently, with features like wider flutes and specialized cutting edges. Regular drill bits may struggle to cut the ice, and attempting to use them could lead to slower progress, excessive wear on the bit, and potential hazards. It’s safer and more effective to invest in a dedicated ice auger bit designed for the task.
How Should You Store Your Ice Drill Bits During the Offseason?
When it comes time to hang up your ice fishing gear, your ice drill bits should get special attention. Remove any ice, water, and debris and ensure it is completely dry before storing to prevent rust. They should be kept in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures. A protective case is a good idea. It’s also recommended that you apply a light coat of oil or lubricant to prevent corrosion.
Are There Restrictions or Regulations on Ice Auger or Ice Drill Bit Use in Certain Areas?
Yes, there can be regulations, restrictions, and rules when it comes to using ice augers. Some locations may limit the types of augurs approved and others may require permits for ice fishing. You will also need to follow the specific guidelines related to ice thickness and safety. If you are unsure of the rules regarding ice drill bit use and ice fishing in your area, be sure to reach out to the local fishing agencies or related organizations for more information.