Flushing the slush: Northwest Minnesota inventor takes the mess out of clearing ice fishing holes with the Slush Copter
GRAND FORKS -- There are a lot of ways to clear the slush out of an ice fishing hole, but most are either sloppy or time consuming.
Now, an inventor from rural Badger, Minn., has come up with a solution to that dilemma in the form of the Slush Copter. Similar in concept to a boat propeller, the Slush Copter features a foam-covered metal shaft that attaches to a half-inch, battery-powered drill; an 8-inch plastic base at the other end of the shaft has three flat, prop-like blades that spin the slush down the hole and under the ice.
"It's almost like a boat prop wrapped in a case," said Mike Burkel, who invented the Slush Copter. "It basically works the same way."
Clearing the slush is as simple as pushing the 3-foot shaft about halfway down the hole and firing up the drill. That causes the plastic blades to rotate clockwise, producing a whirlpool-like effect that essentially flushes the slush down the hole.
Burkel, who had tried a few other slush-clearing devices that didn't do the job for him, said the idea for the Slush Copter just kind of "popped into his head" one morning last winter. Burkel, who works at Polaris in Roseau, Minn., then began experimenting with various prototypes for fishing friends to try.
A five-blade prototype took too much battery juice, Burkel said; he also experimented with the pitch of the blades until landing on the version that hit the market about three weeks ago.
Burkel's wife, Monica, who owns MonTech Computers in Roseau, has helped with marketing, along with designing the website and packaging for the Slush Copter.
Available online and at several locally owned convenience stores, hardware stores and other retail outlets throughout northern Minnesota, the Slush Copter retails for $34.99. Burkel said they've moved about 600 Slush Copters since the product hit the market last month -- just in time for ice fishing season.
The Slush Copter can clear both 8- and 10-inch holes.
"I didn't know what to expect," he said. "Most of it's word of mouth. Everybody says it's pretty good for only a couple of weeks."
Burkel had an injection-molding tool made to manufacture the plastic base, and he assembles the Slush Copters in his shop with help from Monica, along with his brother, Jarrid, and sister-in-law, RaeLynn Burkel.
"They're actually fairly quick to make," he said. "(We) can do about 100 an hour once the parts are prepped, so they go pretty fast."
Burkel said he's invested about $30,000 into the product, including the tooling equipment and the expense of obtaining a patent, which currently is pending.
Put to the test
During a recent test on Lake of the Woods, the Slush Copter cleared three, 8-inch holes in the time it took to clear a single hole with a traditional scoop. Using the Slush Copter requires having the proper drill, which isn't included; an 18-volt drill is recommended, but 12- and 14-volt drills also will do the job.
"When the ice is 2 feet thick, I would say with an 18-volt you can do at least 30 holes" before the drill battery runs low, Burkel said. "When it was only a foot thick, I did like 45 or 50 holes and it was still going strong, but 3 feet plus, then I can only do like 20 holes. So, it varies with the ice thickness."
The Slush Copter without the drill weighs only 2 pounds, but it's one more thing to lug around for run-and-gun anglers who cover the ice with portables and ATVs or snowmobiles. But with the growing popularity of wheeled ice fishing houses, the Slush Copter is the kind of product anglers could keep on the shelf until they need it.
"There's no mess, and you don't have to haul out all that slush," Burkel said. "When the ice is 3 feet thick, that's 5 gallons of slush."
On the Web
For more information, including a video demonstration and a list of retail outlets or to order the product online, go to www.slushcopter.com.