In general, the rules for ice thickness measurements are:
- 3″ (7 cm) (new ice) – KEEP OFF
- 4″ (10 cm) – suitable for ice fishing, cross-country skiing and walking (approx. 200 pounds)
- 5″ (12 cm) – suitable for a single snowmobile or ATV (approx. 800 pounds)
- 8″ – 12″ (20 – 30 cm) – suitable for one car, group of people (approx. 1500 – 2000 pounds)
- 12″ – 15″ (30 – 38 cm) – suitable for a light pickup truck or a van
These are commonly cited measurements.
Understand that ice strength is not the same everywhere, not even on the same body of water. The strength of ice is also affected by factors other than color and thickness. Also take into account:Location of the ice: is it on a pond, a lake, a stream or is there evident flowing water underneath it? Is there a flow into or out of the water body? This will give cause for concern.
Constitution of the water: is it fresh water or saltwater? Sea ice tends to be weaker and needs greater thickness to support the same weight as fresh water.
External temperature and season: temperature changes constantly. Beware microclimates in the local area. Mid-winter ice is bound to be a lot stronger than spring ice which is subject to rapid thawing and warming bouts of sunshine.
Size and depth of the water body: larger bodies of water take longer to freeze than smaller ones.
Presence of snow on the ice: snow can warm up the ice because it acts as an insulator; ice under snow is generally thinner and weaker than ice without snow.
Weight on ice: what are you putting on the ice? Just you or you and a vehicle? There is a big difference in the weight distribution between a body and a snowmobile with said body on top.
Stay Safe on the Ice
For safety, every ice fisherman should keep a life preserver, a length of rope, and a pair of screwdrivers within reach. Aside from the obvious safety factor, the life preserver provides a comfortable cushion for kneeling. The rope gives rescuers a means of pulling you out from a safe distance, should you fall through. You can use the screwdrivers as ice-grippers to help pull yourself out.
Stay Safe While Ice Fishing This Winter!
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