Sportsman’s Corner: Electric auger, gonna be the very next phase

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 2/8/2019 7:21:06 PM

If you are old enough to remember Donovan’s hit song, “Mellow Yellow,” which was released in 1966, you might recall the stanza which went “Electrical banana. Is gonna be a sudden craze. Electrical banana. Is bound to be the very next phase.” Well, it appears that electrical augers are indeed a “sudden craze.” Serious ice fishermen are quickly moving on from the gas-powered ice drilling devices and have embraced augers that are powered by large batteries.

My ice fishing goes back to those primitive times when chisels or spuds were used to chop holes in the ice for your tackles. The hole often began a foot wide and then ended up much narrower in thick ice. Those chisels would sometimes slip through your frozen hands and that would be the end of your fishing for the day. My father had a prized chisel that a friend had made at one of the local factories as “company job.” It had a curved cutting blade welded on and a large brass knob, presumably preventing loss by slippage. Unfortunately, one cold day at White Pond, it did indeed slip through this writer’s hands. That was not a pleasant confession to make!

The following summer some friends who had been along on that fateful day, joined me and we went diving in search of the lost spud and, amazingly, we recovered it. There was much celebration and I was back in the will! Unfortunately, the chisel was later lost again, never to be recovered.

Then the power augers came along, and ice fishing became much easier. The ever-popular Jiffy augers were effective, and loud. Many a pond or lake resident has cursed the sound of ice fishermen drilling holes in the early morning hours on the weekend. The augers were improved and some even were made to run on propane, to eliminate the need to haul fuel, a mixture of gas and oil. The augers also tended to be a bit obstinate and difficult to start or keep running and someone with expertise in small engine repair was always welcome on ice fishing excursions.

A few years ago, some who were involved in the construction trades decided to use their high-voltage power drills and rigged up mounts to allow them to power an ice auger. It was not long before commercial electric units appeared. When I decided to break down and buy one, my research led me to the Ion brand as the one receiving the best reviews. They were reported to be able to drill a thousand inches on a charge or 50 to 100 holes, depending on ice thickness. The temperature of the battery also was a factor, but it seemed to be plenty for most ice fishermen.

When my daughter Jen planned an outing with ice fishing, it forced me to act and a search of the internet and the regular outdoor retailers showed the Ion augers at a number of prices, not cheap by any means but, as I told my wife, “a long-term investment.” I also talked with “serious” ice fishermen who all spoke highly of the Ion products. It seemed like they were popular as a number of retailers were out of stock. A phone call to the Runnings store in Winchester, New Hampshire, found one in stock and it was on sale to boot! The dogs and I made a run north the following day and ultimately we ended up with and Ion 3-amp 8-inch model. The 5-amp Ion-X seemed like more than this casual ice fisherman will ever need.

Last Saturday was the test and the Ion more than lived up to its billing. It powered easily through a foot of ice and the reverse feature, which is unique to electric augers, helps clear the slush easily from the hole so you don’t have to do a lot of scooping. The fish were not really cooperative but Jen, with some assistance from Danielle Rand, did land one nice pickerel.

If I had it to do over again and had more lead time, I would get the auger from Rodney Flagg at Flagg’s Fly & Tackle in Orange. He carries the Ion line but does not tend to stock them. They do come quickly once ordered, however. Flagg’s does have everything you need for successful ice fishing and his shiners are incredibly hardy, if my purchase is any measure. We did not use very many of the medium and small shiners purchased and they were still alive and frisky, in a bucket of pond water, six days later!

There are a lot of ice fishing derbies going on with the Tully CC and Mahar Fish’Game Club derbies both planning events this weekend. Hopefully the warm weather will not force cancellation. Please check before going out as this unseasonably warm spell could very likely force one of both to postpone.

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