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Tiger Muskie Fishing in the Pacific Northwest

When a west coast area code popped up on my caller ID, I assumed that it was yet another marketing call, but this time I was definitely wrong. Upon answering, I was met with a booming voice that quickly cut to chase.

“Hey, I heard you know how to catch muskies and I want you to teach me how.”

The voice on the other end definitely wasn’t foreign, AND he wanted to talk about musky fishing, my favorite subject.

That voice belonged to Andy, a resident of the Pacific Northwest that had recently been bitten by the musky bug while on a holiday trip in Wisconsin. He informed me, to my amazement, that many waterways had been stocked in the Northwest with Tiger Muskies. But unfortunately for those locals who were interested, when it came to information, tactics and tackle, real intel was sparse to say the least.

Fishing for muskies in Tennessee at times has felt like I was the first man on the moon; flying a few thousand miles west to explore these new lakes, felt like a one way rocket trip to Pluto.

These were truly some unexplored realms of the muskie universe.

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Heading to the Pacific Northwest for Tiger Muskie Fishing

After a few phone calls and some intense game planning, everything was set in motion. I would take my leave of Tennessee, make a pit stop in Green Bay, ending up Portland. Our tight schedule would leave us with no more than a solid week on the water. Prior to boarding my flight, I nervously packed nearly every musky lure I owned into a few giant shipping boxes; there wasn’t a tackle store for miles where I was going. Extra this, every color of that, I grabbed it all. Andy and I would be starting from scratch. The only info we could find were stories of accidental catches made by anglers trolling for Salmon and Trout, so finding the right lure combination would be tricky.

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After a grueling travel day that was fraught with long TSA lines, screaming babies and one missed connection, I had finally arrived in Portland.

I grabbed my luggage and waited in front of the airport in a relentless downpour that left the locals unphased. For those of you that haven’t been to the Pacific Northwest, it’s wet, if it’s not raining I promise you won’t have to wait long.

My rainy wait didn’t last long as the voice on the phone now had a face. Andy pulled up to meet me with his massive ‘Deep V’ boat in tow. I jumped in and we were off on a tiger muskie fishing adventure I will not soon forget. Andy turned out to be the quintessential “West Coast Dude”, a laid back, Reggae loving, ‘all grown up’ hippie with no inhibitions or ego, but was harboring a growing passion for all things musky. We were definitely the odd couple, but our mutual love for tiger muskie fishing made us fast friends.

A Background on Tiger Muskie Fishing

The tiger muskie is the result of muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) and a northern pike (Esox lucius) cross breed. Tiger muskies have some of the characteristics of both fish. The caudal fins on the tail of a Tiger Muskie are more rounded than those of a true muskie. These “half breeds” do occur naturally in many places, but the Tigers of Oregon and Washington have been stocked by their respective wildlife agencies in an effort to control other invasive species.

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A nice sized Washington state Tiger Muskie!

Lakes that have been stocked with Tiger Muskies in the Northwest generally have massive populations of Squawfish, an invasive species that feeds on the eggs and spawn of Salmon and other game fish. The presence of this invasive species in Washington and Oregon has had a measurable impact on native populations.

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Squawfish, the primary food source of Northwest Tiger Muskies.

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Washington and Oregon Tiger Muskie Fishing in Reservoirs

The waterways and reservoirs of Washington and Oregon are similar in shape and structural complexity to those found in Tennessee and Kentucky. However, when it comes to depth, there is no comparison. Many of these bodies of water plunge to 200-300 feet if not more, giving a cold water species endless staging options to choose from.

The staggering depths that points, break-lines, and drops-offs plunge to can be perplexing at first glance. On southern reservoirs, muskies may hold slightly off the bottom, near points and other structural elements, but with such great depths, holding near the bottom is seemingly out of the question for these Western Tigers.

With this interesting new detail, special attention must be paid to open water areas adjacent to these structural elements.

Some of the largest Tigers we encountered were in open water, just slightly removed from structural contours. Getting comfortable with open water tactics is highly recommended for encounters like those with the Washington and Oregon Tiger Muskies.

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Merwin Lake located in Washington State.

Early on while dissecting these western bodies of water, one point of note is paying attention to waterfalls. Just like creek mouths in the MidWest and South, waterfalls attract bait-fish which in turn draw predators seeking out an easy meal.

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Waterfalls often do not have the defined edges that a creek entering a body of water will, so saturation casting is recommended as muskie staging areas are not always obvious.

Clear Water Tiger Muskie Fishing & Mid Cast Triggers

The assumption that Tiger Muskies are easier to catch or less temperamental than true muskies does not seem to be the case in the West. The fish we encountered seemed as weary if not more so than Muskies anywhere in their habitat range.

Tiger Muskie Fishing in the Pacific Northwest is generally done on extremely clear bodies of water. This can lead to some frustrating moments. Muskies engaged in a “follow” can be easily spotted, but that is a two-way street; large Tiger Muskies could often be observed turning off baits long before they reached the boat. Here in Tennessee, I am always preaching about the importance of “The Short Game” , and with a high percentage of my Southern Muskies coming in the “figure eight”. However, when targeting these western Tiger Muskies special attention should be paid to Mid-Cast Triggers.

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Andy’s first Trophy Tiger Muskie was caught using a Jointed Depth Raider.

The first element of my clear water equation is distance casting. Regardless, if you are targeting shoreline cover or open water areas, longer casts will afford you the opportunity to not only cover more water, but also allows you to add multiple mid-cast triggers. These clear water conditions often mean that the fish you see are not the ones you catch.

These deep, clear waterways also demand deeper presentations. Even with overcast conditions being normal in this region, Tiger Muskies will hold slightly deeper than one might think.

Deeper running cranking baits like the Joe Bucher Jointed Depth raider allow for numerous float ups and restarts with each retrieve. When fishing hard break-lines, start by cranking the lure down to maximum depth then simply letting it rise to the surface; this can yield phenomenal results. Any presentation that has the potential of getting a muskie in a vertical posture is deadly.

The exaggerated depths of these western waters are tailor-made for these tactics.

Utilizing and augmenting a lures sink / rise rate is often critical for generating mid-cast strikes. Simple modifications like hook changes or the addition of weight to a lure is often the first step for getting dialed in.

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Another trophy Tiger Muskie from Washington State.

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Throw Free-Falling Spinner Baits when Tiger Muskie Fishing

These classic lures are versatile tools for dissecting the water column but their action on the fall is an excellent mid cast trigger. Casts can be extended and spooky fish can be kept away from the boat by letting spinnerbaits fall near edges, drop-offs and cover.

Once the lure is away from shallow cover let it fall freely, and play out slack over deeper water. The blade will spin erratically on the fall like a wounded bait fish. At the climax of the fall, aggressively ripping it towards the surface can trigger extremely violent strikes from once weary followers. Playing with different soft plastics as a trailer is a great way to adjust the rate of descent and add an extra triggering element to the free fall.

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Suspended Animation for Tiger Muskie Fishing

Lures that suspend are deadly in clear water and allow many options for causing mid-cast triggers. The suspending version of the Depth Raider and the ERC Triple D allow for lengthy pauses and glider-like presentations. The neutral buoyancy of these lures means wherever you stop it, that’s where it’s gonna stay. In clear water adding multiple extended pauses to your retrieve is critical when presenting to negative or neutral muskies. These pauses are like a high noon showdown between the muskies and your lure, who’s gonna flinch first. During each pause, I like to wait between three and six seconds. This seems like an eternity, but when you go to make that next move it is often met by an intense reactionary strike.

For more info on suspending musky lures click here.

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The Erc Triple D & Joe Bucher Suspending Depth Raider are both excellent clear water options.

Crawling the Bottom with Gliders While Tiger Muskie Fishing

During cold fronts and less than perfect weather conditions, you can’t deny the effectiveness of glide bait presentations. During my trip west, we did encounter a cold front that brought with it some bluebird skies. The effect of the cold front and added light penetration made the muskies a little more sluggish and less than cooperative.

Regardless of where I’m fishing, under conditions like these, I’m going to turn to a glide bait.

My lure of choice is the highly popular 6″ Phantom softail, and in these clearer waters, taking advantage of the screw in weight system is critical. A Phantom with a 3/4 ounce screw-in weight will sink far faster and allow for a slower, more methodical retrieve.

With each cast in clear water, I allow the lure to fall to the bottom before I begin. Once the lure has come to rest, slowly walk it a few feet forward then allow it to again come to a full stop. Strikes using this presentation are often more of a light tick, as the muskie simply picks the lure up off the bottom. If working into deeper water, as was the case out west, vertical jigging becomes an option.

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As the lure nears the boat use vertical jigging to keep the muskies deeper and out of visual range.

I have been fortunate enough to pursue Muskies across their entire habitat from North to South and East to West. The Muskie waterways of North America do vary greatly in terms of structural composition, depths, cover and available forage bases, but one constant does exist.

Regardless of their geographical location, muskies are always looking for the same thing: forage and an advantageous strike.

If you find yourself in a new region, take what you already know about muskies and make slight alterations that fit the situation until you find the solution. For Andy and I, conquering the Pacific Northwest was a hard fought struggle. For my part, I was battling against unfamiliar waterways and a constant barrage of tough conditions. For Andy, it was an uphill climb from novice to proficient. Despite the challenges, we learned together and put some beautiful fish in the boat.

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Muskie Fishing Videos

When you Google “Muskie Fishing Videos,” a whole plethora of videos pop up. From “Musky Fishing 101: All You Need To Know About the Fish Of 10,000 Casts” to “Crazy Boat-Side Muskie Strikes,” there are a ton of videos posted about the strong fighter, muskellunge.

So, what are some great ones?

Here are a few that you can add to your watch list. Enjoy!

Muskie Fishing Videos For Beginners

 

Muskie Fishing for Beginners – Part 1 of ?? Release Tools is the perfect introduction to muskie fishing, starting you from the ground – up. Getting Crushed TV kicks off its four-part series with a tackle-packing list, so you’re not left surprised and up a creek before your first outing even gets started.

You can easily progress to the rest of the series, which takes you through different lures and techniques for the best approach :

Muskie Fishing for Beginners – Part 2: Bucktails

Muskie Fishing for Beginners – Part – 3: Jerkbaits

Muskie Fishing for Beginners – Part – 4 Topwater

Giant Quest has put together a Musky Trolling Tutorial to give you an overview of techniques used to catch musky. It’s not as exciting as some of the other videos, but it really gets into how to find your catch and some basics of landing, clearing, and releasing.


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Orvis takes you through what you need to get started chasing muskies fly-fishing-style in their Video Pro Tip: How to Rig Line and Leader for Muskies. Kip Vieth of Wildwood Float Trips shows you what kinds of lines to use and how he builds a leader to cast big flies, deal with a toothy quarry, and handle a big fight. If you’re after these giants on the fly.

Bennett Marine Video has put together another good all-around video full of tips coming from Lake Saint Clair, where the largest population of muskies in the world resides. Captain Frank Piku takes you through an exciting lesson that will teach you the best ways to hook up muskies on a variety of lures using a variety of approaches in How to Catch the Big Muskies.

Taking Muskie Fishing Videos to the Next Level

Monster Muskies in Weeds is a good introduction to muskie lures and hardware. This video isn’t just about the big one highlights. It takes you all the way from tackle selection, to testing the fish, and some great landing techniques. Linder’s Angling Edge shows you how to experiment and find out how individual lures have unique triggering characteristics which get muskies in the weeds to bite.

Still want more? Leave it to Bass Pro Shops to bring you an in-depth tutorial focusing on one technique at a time. Musky fishing: Walking the Dog tells you exactly what you need to know to perform Walk the Dog, working a topwater lure that has side to side action for muskies with both a slow and high speed retrieve reel.

Though a bit of a longer watch, Musky Fishing with Bucktails produces BIG Fish takes you all through the power of bucktails in the sport of muskie fishing. Keyes Outdoors Musky Hunting Adventures shows you size of bucktails and when is the proper time to use them, then goes so far as to break things down into seasons. Color, size, shapes, and speed make all the difference in success when fishing for this fish of 10,000 casts. This is a must-watch, well-directed, educational video put together with big wins, and sad losses.

Fun To Watch Muskie Fishing Videos

Topwater Muskie Fishing Close Calls And Amazing Strikes starts off a little slow, but if you can hold on ‘till around the 1:00 mark, you’ll start to witness a couple of great topwater strikes.  Chris Munchow even slows it down a bit for us to see just how powerful a strike this bulldog of a fish has!

In Why We Musky Fish – 2018 Highlight Video, Burning Eights make you believe all you’re going to see are teasers of anglers just hooking the big dude, but as suspense builds, they finally allow you the satisfaction of a landing, and a peek at the prize is well worth the wait. It only gets better from there. This is a must see!

Muskie Fishing – CHAOS TACKLE – PREDATOR NATION has most certainly been put together by Tea Predator Nation for the purpose of highlighting what the Chaos Tackle Madussa can accomplish, but if you’re looking to get your off-season jollies by looking at an overwhelming array of striking muskie pictures, check this one out!

Whoops! Sometimes the fish just surprise you! Mark Daniels Jr. hooked what he thought was a giant smallmouth, but he soon realized he had hooked into a massive muskie on the final day of the Advance Auto Parts Bassmaster Elite on Lake St. Clair. It’s amusing to watch, as he’s not even quite sure how to handle the giant in the video.

Animal Planet heads to Canada with Jeremy Wade to film a shoot on River Monsters. He heads out in pursuit of the elusive muskie, but his confidence as an expert angler takes a hit as he’s faced with one of the greatest challenges and most extraordinary catches of his life in Canadian Horrors – How to Catch a Muskie.

As a final video to round out this list, although it may not be specifically about Muskie, you can see Major League Fishing Pro, Dave Lefebre, holding up a solid Chautauqua Lake Muskie in ANGLR’s video below!

 

Ice Fishing Forums For All Of The Bucket Butts Out There

The lakes aren’t yet frozen over, but soon they will be. Now is the time to start brushing up on some of your techniques and making sure that you have the right jig for the job. Just how do you do that in the off-season? By visiting an online forum geared toward ice fishing.

Just like those that partake in this rugged sport, ice fishing forums are few and far between and not always easy to spot. So how do you know which ones are worth visiting and paying attention to, and which ones you should slide on by?

Stick with us, as we go through some of the best ice fishing forums out there.

Why Visit a Forum?

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A forum is a great place to connect online with like-minded people that share similar interests. Users from across the globe can hold discussions, ask questions, share information, tell tales, and talk about the one that got away. Pros can offer advice, and beginners can expand their knowledge base. Often forums will include competitions hosted by sponsors where users can win prizes. Unlike a chat room, conversations are typically able to be viewed long after they started.

Just as ice fishing is seasonal, the ice fishing forums tend to go through a period of hibernation. During the off-season, the conversations can become a little quiet as many users take up other hobbies and endeavors. Some of the threads continue to be active, though most are left to rest until the season draws nearer. As the weather takes a colder turn in the fall, more and more anglers flock back to their favorite forums, getting geared up.

Ice Fishing Forums: IceShanty

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IceShanty is one of the most active and helpful sites around. Even through the offseason, members carry conversations throughout the day. This time of year, they’re motivating each other with videos of last season’s highlights and lamenting the fact that the lake can’t freeze over fast enough.

They tout themselves as the ice fishing spot for everyone. Whether you are a rookie ice-man or seasoned ice fishing master, you will definitely learn something. You can discover what jigging rod, reel, auger, fish locator, or portable or hard side shack is appropriate for your methods and budget. If you think ice fishing isn’t necessarily your sport because of the temperature, there’s a special section on “Dressing For Ice Fishing.”

Canada is featured in prominence (where better to fish cold weather?), but each cold-wintered North American State from Alaska to Maryland has its own thread featured! This is where locals and visitors, alike, can share reports on their favorite ice. This forum maintains one of the most exhaustive lists of technical threads with conversations on equipment, “Ice Shack Tips,” and Darkhouse Spearing, to a very lengthy list of every kind of ice fish imaginable. If you’re looking to increase your knowledge base and make some friends across North America and beyond, IceShanty is a great forum.

There are typically upwards of 300 visitors to the site at any given time, and over 20 contributing members.

Ice Fishing Forums: In-Depth Outdoors

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In Depth Outdoors is another highly active forum, especially given the current off-season. Posts are updated within the hour daily, so there is always plenty of fresh new content to draw you in. If you’re looking for a new perch rod, or tip down system, there’s plenty of expert advice to be had. If you’ve got an opinion on which auger is the best for you, feel free to throw your 2-cents in on your favorite: hand powered, 2-stroke, 4-stroke, or electric.

While threads aren’t organized well into easy-to-locate-and-navigate sections, there is no lack of variety and information. You’ll have absolutely no trouble locating a wealth of knowledge. While they don’t list how many members are a part of this forum, or how many are currently active, we get the feeling the quantity and quality of posts speaks for itself.


This Ice Fishing Quick Start Guide Covers All You’ll Need!


Ice Fishing Forums: Ice Fishin 247

Ice Fishin 247 is also a relatively active site, though not quite to the extent of the previous two. Many conversations are updated daily and members are starting to really get in the mood for the upcoming season. There are generally over 200 users online at any given time, though the vast majority of them are guests, with less than five contributing members at a time. That appears to change during the ice season. This is likely the result that this forum doesn’t have the same quantity of members as the other ones.

Content is solid and extensive, with already over 8,000 topics garnering over 75,400 posts. Posts are easily organized and broken down into easy-to-digest topics. New to the sport? There’s an entire section dedicated to “Ice Fishing For Newbies,” where beginners can glean knowledge from more experienced experts. There’s a whole section dedicated to “Ice Safety” (making it hard to miss for those in a hurry). Just as with the larger IceShanty page, Ice Fishin 247 offers all the information you could desire on ice fishing in the States and beyond.

They even offer an occasional contest or giveaway.

Though the lakes aren’t yet frozen over, the time is coming! Get inspired to hit the ice with your cleats on this year by visiting one of these informative forums!

 

Ice Fishing Auger Comparisons – Interview With Minnesota’s Abby Olson

If you’re itching to get out there in the peace and quiet of the still winter air, alone on the ice with your thoughts and the fish, don’t think you’re alone.

If you’re counting down the days until you can spend time sharing the experience, trading back and forth between beer and coffee holed up in a shack with a couple of buddies, you’re not alone.

Coooooold is blowing in and the water is cooling down. The ice is coming.

Are you ready?

Do you have the tools it takes to get yourself set up with ease? Check out our comparisons of the Top Ice Fishing Augers. Fishing expert, Abby Olson shares her top picks and her experience with them.


LEARN MORE ABOUT ICE FISHING IN OUR QUICK START GUIDE


Best Hand Ice Fishing Auger: Strikemaster Lazer Hand Auger

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Lazer ice augers seem simple at first glance, but they’re designed for comfort, speed, and precision. The Strikemaster Lazer Hand Auger is efficient enough to match up to a powered performance. Don’t let the lack of power fool you. This auger is able to make every revolution count, so you won’t need to use as much energy as you do with other augers. It cuts through the ice as quickly and easily as a manual auger is able.

Because it only weighs between 5.5 and 8.5 pounds (depending on the size) it’s a great choice when you need to pack light. It also breaks down into two pieces to make it extra portable.

The chrome alloy, stainless steel blades are dipped in powder coated paint, which reduces the amount of ice build-up your stuck dealing with, and they stay sharp longer than the blades of most other models. They cut through most surfaces quickly. The ergonomic handle design helps to reduce fatigue and transfers your effort directly to the blade. It’s built to last for years out in the freezing cold temperatures.

There is a good deal of variation to be had with this model with the size range from four to eight inches auger length. The handle is also adjustable, making it easy for different people to work with it, and the rubber grips make the auger comfortable on your hands. The blade guard protects you from harm.

The auger can be adjusted to move from 48” to 57”, so cutting through 15” of ice in a minute is no problem.

Best Electric Ice Fishing Auger: K-Drill Electric Ice Auger System

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The electric auger movement hasn’t yet swept completely across the nation; experienced ice-angers are a bit skeptical still. But ANGLR Expert, Abby Olson was introduced to her cousin’s K-Drill Ice Auger System last winter, and she fell in love with its ease of use and lightweight design. It’s been designed specifically for modern high-powered, brushless, handheld cordless electric drills, making it a very lightweight system.

“When driving out to a spot is not an option, it takes a load off of the weight of the sled,” says Olson. “Unlike the Ion (22#) or the Strikemaster (24-27#) electric ice augers, the weight of the K-Drill auger is only five pounds.” That lightweight design “will make it easy for any ice fisherman or woman to “hole hop” quickly and easily,” she explains.

You can purchase the system by itself to use with your own electric drill, but it also comes as a combo package with either a Milwaukee or DeWalt Drill. With no gas or propane involved, there is no exhaust or “smell” left in the ice shack.

The efficient chipper blade design ensures you’ll be able to drill easier and with more confidence than ever before. That’s thanks to the unique three-blade high carbon steel chipper design which chews through both fresh ice and old frozen holes. So far, it’s the lightest and easiest ice auger system ever developed and the ONLY system designed specifically for cordless electric drills.

“The best part of the K-Drill system is the high speed,” explains Olson. “The drill chews through the ice. Even a pre-drilled hole that has frozen over, common in permanent ice shacks, is no problem for the K-Drill’s efficient chipper blade design.”

It has a float at the attachment point of the auger, allowing the bit to float in the water should it become unattached from the dill.

Big bonus? Olson tells us the Chromalloy blades that are made in Minnesota can be sharpened by the company for free!

Best Gas Ice Fishing Auger: Eskimo Mako 43cc Quantum Ice Auger

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The two-stroke gas-powered Eskimo Mako 43cc Quantum Ice Auger ($378) runs on a high-performance, 43cc Viper® engine and has cutting ability far above the rest of the crowd thanks to a combination of the powerful engine and Quantum blades. This makes it a great choice if you’re getting a later start in the season and the ice is already thick and hard. It’s easy to operate with just a light touch to the controls, so you don’t have to remove your gloves or mittens to use it.

Extremely reliable, it doesn’t take but a tug or two before it’s ready and raring to go, no matter how frigid the temperatures are, in part thanks to the included primer. Fuel efficiency isn’t a problem. People tout they can cut multiple holes without having to refuel. We think it’s also one of the most pleasant augers to hold since there are minimal vibrations. There’s no jarring your cold bones with this one, especially given the anti-vibration foam-grip handlebars.

8” model weighs 31 pounds. 

10” model weighs 33 pounds. 

Things to watch out for:

  • The pull cord is a bit more fragile, so you may want to use a little TLC when tugging. Since you don’t ever have to really manhandle it, it shouldn’t be a problem.
  • The tank takes a mixture of fuel and oil, so it requires a little work before you fill the tank, but what a small price to pay for a great high-performance auger!

Best Propane Ice Fishing Auger: Eskimo Mako HIGH COMPRESSION 40cc Propane

If you’re going with propane, who doesn’t love an auto-prime fuel system? All you need to do is flip the switch to ON and start drilling. No priming. You can’t argue with that! The Eskimo Mako 40cc with 10” Quantum Ice Auger is both lightweight and powerful, and the high compression ratio makes it eat through ice like it’s butter.

The auger features a 40cc, four-stroke with a 10-inch two-blade system that’s 42 inches long, making it both lightweight, and powerful. The transmission is ball bearing and this auger operates well in most cold conditions.

Though propane, there aren’t gas fumes, so it’s a great choice for indoor drilling. This Mako is easy to start and a one pound tank should get you around 100 holes with no effort.