This website is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission.

Chainsaws and ice fishing – The works

Last Updated: 08.12.22

Before you and your friends so much as set foot on the ice, there are a few key points, safety measures, and tricks you need to consider if you want a successful ice-fishing session, where everyone is unharmed and with plenty of fish in his or her bucket. Things such as convenience, environmental damage, safety, location, and maintenance matter more than one would think at first glance – and this comprehensive article put together with care, will tell you all about how to use your chainsaw to cut ice like a pro.

General Notes

In many places, all across the continent, the use of a chainsaw to cut the ice on a river or lake is illegal, mostly because of the harmful oil used by these power tools. So before getting started, check your local laws, and see if any explicitly prohibits you from this endeavor. If your local rules ban ice-cutting, we advise that you don’t proceed to do it anyway.

These seemingly annoying rules are in place to protect not only the environment you live in and the water you drink but also yourself. If you are a beginner and you have no idea what you’re doing, you could end up cutting too much ice and hurt yourself badly, which is not something any angler would want.

However, if you can do it without disregarding any law, down below, you have some of the vital info one should read before starting experiencing ice fishing on his or her own.


How To Get Started

The first thing you ought to do is check if the lake where you want to cut a hole in is either public or private property. Either way, you need to ask permission to do so. It seems like a no-brainer, but many people forget to do that, and it can lead to unpleasant fines and angry neighbors. Moreover, some of those water bodies can be breeding grounds for endangered species, so you have to be conscious about these things.

Fishing experts also recommend that you have a map of the body of water where want or plan to fish on. A GPS will allow you to do that for a small price, so if you have the chance to pack one, you won’t regret it.

Check to see if there are any shallow areas or hot springs nearby, as those could compromise the stability of the ice sheet, and you might find yourself underneath the frozen water. You can get pneumonia and even drown, and this should tell you just how serious things are.


What You Need

Packing essential gear is vital to any type of fishing, not to just this specific one. Luckily, you’ll only have to make a few simple buys, which we hope won’t break the bank. You will need a quality pole, a robust winter-friendly reel with line and, additionally, brightly colored jigs.

Don’t forget about the lure and the fact that everything should be made for winter time use and below freezing temperatures. If you don’t own any, the market is your best friend as you can sure find there an excellent fishing rod and reel combo for you to choose.

Many experienced anglers also recommend you to get warm clothing with insulation and waterproof capabilities. Fishing boots are a must, and so are gloves since you’re going to be outside for a long time. Frostbites can lead to finger injuries and even amputations if you’re reckless.

And, of course, you are going to need a chainsaw. You could use a traditional model, the one you might have around the house to cut down wood. It can be efficient and fast, but make sure it is easy to handle and that it has non-slip handles, even if it gets wet. If not, use winter gloves, since you can buy those anywhere.

If you browse the market, you can find specially designed chainsaws for ice-cutting, alongside a premium ice fishing rod, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised also to realize that they are not more expensive than your average tool. A fair warning – the cutting process can be messy. But we’re going to talk about that in a minute.

Some people also use specialized ice-cutting tools like ice augers. They are a type of tool, utilized to cut circular holes in the ice. They have a diameter of about 6 or 8 inches, and they usually don’t require any oil to work properly, which is great for the environment and the health of the fish. If you’re really out of options, you can opt for an ax, but that will require a lot of hard work.

Other small accessories that might come in handy are a large spoon-like product to scoop ice out of the hole, or even a bucket, which you can use to carry your gear and to use as a seat if you flip it over. The list could go on, but the ones presented here are more than enough.


How To Go About Things

Ice fishing methods and the required tools have changed drastically over the last few years. With light gear, and fast and powered augers and chainsaws, anglers can drill and check hundreds of ice holes in a single day with ease, which is the definition of success.

You can also invest in a sonar device, to look for underwater activity, so you won’t have to test the water every five minutes. You can also use it to find a location where to drill the hole – drill it two feet away from where the fish are hiding, so you won’t scare them.

Moreover, devices like this can also help you determine the depth of the water, so you know what to do or expect in case of an accident. Another pro trick is to use a sonar to test the thickness of the ice so that you won’t drill in a weak spot.

Modern ice anglers who do their homework and read buying guides created to aid their tasks can also use advanced reels mounted on shorter fishing rods. This allows them to successfully fish by corroborating all the information they get from their tools, and that without struggling to handle chunky rods.

Ice fishing, experts reveal, can be performed at any time of the day you prefer, depending on whether the fish you want to catch is active around dusk or at dawn. Different fish species are active at different times of the day, so you’d better prepare ahead by asking other fishers how things work.

If you want to experience this at night, we should mention that there are many lightweight and portable shelters on the market, models that mount on plastic sleds and easily collapse for transportation. They can vary from one-person shelters to complex pieces that can house more than five people at once.

The Messiness

Now it is time to actually drill the hole. You will proceed the way you would do with a tree. If you never used a chainsaw before, you need to learn how to handle it safely so you won’t get hurt. That’s not all. You need to clean the top part of the product with hot water and soap, to remove any oil from its surface, as that can poison the fish and pollute the waters.

Don’t worry about rust, as that can easily be taken care of with some canola oil, which is environmentally friendly and non-toxic for marine life. Another benefit is that it is cheap and it has mild antifreeze properties.

You’ll need a long bar on the chainsaw in case the ice is thick. This way your tool can take care of it. All you have to do, ice fishers mention, is carefully cut it down by inserting the blade into the ice with slow movements. You will feel a little resistance – try not to let the ice overpower you. Don’t push too hard, so you won’t be taken by surprise when the bar reaches the other side.

Also, the chainsaw will kick out water as you cut, meaning you need to be extra careful where you position yourself so you won’t get wet. You will need the aid of an ice pick or bar to extract the larger ice cubes. If you can, try to push the blocks underneath the ice, as they can slide and hit someone if brought on the surface.


Final Concerns

If you decide to use chainsaws to catch fresh fish, you have to be environmentally safe, especially if you want to do it again in the future. Also, avoid doing it during breeding seasons, as it can lead to a decline in the fish population.

You will have to drain and wipe clean the crude oil, as we previously mentioned, and fill the chainsaw with vegetable oil – which can be cheaper. Dry your chainsaw after you’ve finished cutting the holes, to prevent rust and freezing damage.

When it comes to the size of the holes, each angler can approximate. An eight-inch hole should be more than enough for a successful trip. When it comes to the number of drills, it is up to you and your luck. Just try not to make them very close to each other so as to prevent weakening the ice sheet.



Leave a comment