If you don’t need big holes, then don’t wear yourself out making them. A six-inch auger chews through ice much faster and smoother than an eight-inch model, and a six-inch hole is all you need for smaller, thinner species like trout, panfish, and pickerel. Of course, for bigger fish like pike or walleye, you’ll want a wider hole.
Where auger blades are concerned, it’s smart to invest in extra blades and keep them on hand. Many anglers carry a second pair in case of nicks or dulling. If your own blades are biting more and cutting less, you can either replace them or hone them with a file. Either way, the sharper the blades, the easier it will be for you to drill.
Improper clothing can make a day of ice fishing miserable. For this reason, you’ll need make sure you’re dressed properly. Make sure your baselayer is thin and made from moisture-wicking material, since you’ll likely work up a sweat while you’re drilling holes. A wet cotton baselayer can spell misery once you stop moving for a few minutes to sit over a hole.
Finally, drilling with a manual auger is all about form. To make sure your body doesn’t quit on you prematurely, stand straight up without hunching over the auger, keep your feet shoulder width apart, and use ice cleats to make sure you have solid footing. The auger’s handle should be chest high when you drill. Finally, your top hand should never move from side to side; it’s only there to apply constant pressure while the bottom hand turns the screw.
Some parts of the country will allow for a few more weeks of ice fishing before Spring sets in, so you’ll want to keep the manual ice auger tips outlined above in mind if you’re not drilling your holes with gas or electric assistance. Good luck, and be careful out there as the temperatures warm up.