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How Thick Should Ice Be

First Ice in Ontario

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I decided to take a drive out to our local reservoir, where we spend days ice fishing for perch, crappie and pike, to see how thick the ice was. It was early in the season, the second half of December, and we didn’t expect to be on the ice any time soon. We brought along an auger and a tape measure, lifting our hopes a little that this year might be different. We parked on the dirt road at the trail head which leads through the second growth forest out towards the lake.


Upon arriving, we noted that the marsh areas of cattail along the shore was soft and slushy. Our hopes dropped quickly. We pushed through the reeds though, and made it out to the open, on the ice. Two feet off shore we drilled our first hole. Surprise! The ice here was already five inches thick. Very promising. We decided to take a few steps out further, and drilled another hole. Here the ice was still five inches thick. We continued moving out, drilling a hole every few paces and checking the thickness. Needless to say, everywhere we drilled the ice was at least five inches thick. We were out on the ice within a couple of days for some early season perch. The bite was slow, but the itch was scratched!

General Ice Thickness Guidelines

Great care must be taken when Ice Fishing. Ice thickness can differ within a few feet, and it is very important that you pay close attention to your surroundings when you are out. Below are some general ice thickness guidelines.

  • 2″ or less – STAY OFF
  • 4″ – Ice fishing or other activities on foot
  • 5″ – Snowmobile or ATV
  • 8″ – 12″ – Car or small pickup
  • 12″ – 15″ – Medium truck

***REMEMBER THAT THESE ARE ICE THICKNESS GUIDELINES FOR NEW, CLEAR, BLACK ICE. MANY OTHER FACTORS COME INTO PLAY WITH ICE AND ITS THICKNESS

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