How thick does ice have to be for ice fishing ?

Ice fishing is definitely one of the best things you can do during winter. Aside from being able to spend some time, you have the chance to fish for a good meal for yourself. However, how do you know if it is safe to ice fish? How thick does ice have to be for ice fishing?

In general, a minimum of four inches of clear, solid ice are required for ice fishing. Anything lower than that, you will run the risk of ice cracks or breaks that may result in falling into the icy water.

This article will discuss the recommended ice thickness for ice fishing and how much weight ice can bear on different thicknesses. We will also discuss how to safely determine ice thickness and what type of ice to avoid when traveling on it.

What Ice Thickness Suits What Activities ?

In general, the thinner the ice, the less weight you want to put on it. Ice at 4-7 inches thick can handle a person’s weight. A 5-7 inches thickness can handle a motorcycle or snowmobile, and ice 8-12 inches thick can handle the weight of a car parked on it.



Ice Thickness Weight It Can Handle
4 inches A person
5-7 inches A person and a small vehicle
(e.g. snowmobile, motorcycle)
8-12 inches A vehicle (e.g. car)
13-17 inches Light trucks (under 2.5 tons)
17-22 inches Medium trucks (under 3.5 tons)


Source: Minnesota Department Of Natural Resources



When the ice is only 4 inches thick, it can handle the weight of one person, which means the ice surface will be able to handle ice fishing or skating. If a group of people is traveling on the ice, they must move in a single file. This avoids putting too much stress and pressure on the ice.

At 5-7 inches thick, the ice may be able to handle the weight of a human, plus objects such as a snowmobile. Anything thicker than that is good enough for cars. To place a light 2.5-tonne truck, 8 inches of ice thickness is needed.

For medium-sized trucks at 3.5 tons, you will need an ice thickness of 10 inches, while an 8-ton heavy truck requires an ice thickness of 12 inches.

You also need to consider the fact that despite the ice being of the right thickness, putting additional weight on it may cause the ice to sink. This is especially dangerous if you ice fish and have a vehicle parked nearby simultaneously.

To be safe, drill a hole next to your vehicle, and observe the hole once in a while. If water starts to overflow, you need to move your vehicle as it means the ice is sinking.

How To Safety Determine The Thickness Of Ice ?

A drill or hand auger is the best way to safely and accurately mature ice thickness. Simply drill into the ice until you reach the water. Remove the tool, and use a measuring tape to measure the thickness.

It is essential to take your time to measure the thickness of ice, as we cannot tell it just by looking at the surface with our eyes. The last thing you want is your simple ice fishing trip turning into a severe case of hypothermia because you fall into the icy water.

Measuring the thickness of the ice is a simple and straightforward matter. You can use a drill or a hand auger, as well as a measuring tape. Aside from using an auger, you may also use an ice chisel, although it may take more work, and you may damage the ice surface and introduce cracks into the ice.

At your chosen area, drill into the ice. Be sure to keep the drill/auger as straight as you can so as to get a proper measurement. As you drill, you will notice resistance until it suddenly goes away. That means your drill/auger has drilled through the ice and hit the water underneath.

Remove your drill/auger, revealing a hole with water at its end. At this point, simply take out your measuring tape, and measure the distance between the water and the surface where you are standing.

What you read on the tape will be the thickness of the ice. You can now safely determine what you can or cannot do on the ice.

What Types Of Ice To Avoid When Ice Fishing ?

When traveling on ice, avoid walking on ice surfaces with cracks. River ice and slush ice are less robust than clear/blue ice, which means you also want to avoid them unless you can confirm their actual thickness first.

Always remember to match the ice thickness with the weight you are putting on to not cause the ice to break and fall into icy cold water.

Always remember that no ice surface is 100% safe, and you should always be careful and exercise caution when spending time on it.

At the most basic level, keep distance between one another to ensure less weight is being put on a particular point of the ice at a time. Also, whenever you are unsure, drill a hole, measure, and decide if it is safe first before moving on.

The first ice you want to avoid is ice that you are unsure of. Unless you have the tools necessary to determine ice thickness, never test the ice by putting your weight on it. Ice can break quickly, leaving you no time to react and move to safety.

The second ice you want to avoid is ice surfaces with cracks. These ice cracks are probably the breaking point of the whole ice surface. They may look like hairline cracks, but all it takes is some pressure, and you may just trigger the whole ice to break.

You also want to avoid ice on moving water such as a river, as they are weaker than ice on still water such as a pond. Ice on moving water is weaker due to the undermining effects of the moving current.

Also, when moving on the ice, avoid gray, white ice, or ice with snow on it. The best ice you want to walk on is clear or blue in color, as these are the strongest.


We have given you with the general guidelines to follow to allow you to consider have safe the ice is to do ice fishing. Allows check it first before you start.

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