Ice Fishing Safety: How Much Ice Do You Need? [+ Chart]

How Much Ice for Ice Fishing
Disclaimer: Readers are responsible for their own safety. Slo-fishing website and its owner can not be responsible for any incidents and accidents resulting from following recommendations and instructions given in this article.

Every form of fishing is fun, but ice fishing offers an adventure and enjoyment that is hard to replace. From scenery to that feeling you have while walking over it, everything is very special.

With this also comes certain danger, and it is on you to reduce any risks and make sure that you and others around you are safe.

How much ice for ice fishing is enough to keep you above water depends on the way you travel over it. Less than 4inch/10cm is a big NO even by foot. And if you plan to get your truck on it, it should be over 14inches/35cm.

Of course, it also depends on a quality of ice. Thick, clear, and well frozen water surface is much safer than other forms.

Avoiding cracked parts of the ice and places near water inlets significantly increases your safety.

Here is a short guide that has everything you need to know about this topic!



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How Many Inches of Ice Do You Need?

As already mentioned, knowing how much ice for ice fishing is safe depends on how you plan to move around. The heavier the vehicle, the thicker it must be.

How Much Ice for Ice Fishing - Chart

To Walk on It

Thickness of the ice that can support average human weight is only 3 inches. A single person can in theory walk over safely, if the ice quality is good. That is around 7.5 cm and when you think about it, it is quite thin.

And why do I say you can walk in theory? Well, I would never ever suggest anyone, especially a beginner, to go ice fishing alone or to be on such thin ice in case of accident (it could be really dangerous). Besides, if it can hold just one person, how will anyone come to help you?

To support a group of people, which means that you can safely walk around with all your fishing equipment and a friend, ice must be 4inch/10cm thick.

Such thickness allows you to enjoy without too many worries.

To Drive on It

Driving on ice is both interesting and scary. Thickness of the ice that can support a vehicle depends on what kind of vehicle you are driving. Small ATV, or even snowmobile, require thinner ice than a regular car, or a full-size truck.

ATV or a snowmobile can be supported by 6 to 7 inches (15 to 18 cm). Keep in mind that the way you are driving influences how the ice will react. The slower you go the safer you will be, especially with larger vehicles.

Regular, medium size car can be supported with ice 10 to 12 inches (25-30 cm) thick. If you check out various sources online, you may find slight variations in these figures for vehicles. This doesn’t mean that someone is wrong. It simply means that our ideas about what a regular car is may vary. Therefore, I like to state the higher figures, just to increase the safety margin.

Lastly, we have a truck! Trucks are great! They can drive on any terrain; you can put a ton of stuff in them and have enough of everything to fish in the middle of nowhere for 2 weeks! But those can be heavy. Minimum required thickness of ice for a truck is 14 inches (35cm).

For Ice Fishing

How much ice for ice fishing you need to actually fish is an interesting question. In theory, it can be half an inch thick if you can drill a hole from the shore and stand on the shore while fishing.

It can also be 50 inches thick if you are able to drill hole through it. You are basically limited only by the ability to stay on top of it. Fish will live the same life beneath the ice, especially in deeper bodies of water, no matter the thickness of ice above.

Here is a quick overview chart that is valid for clear, good quality, ice.

0 - 3 Stay away of the ice!
4 - 5 People on foot
6 - 7 Small ATV/snowmobile
8 - 9 Small car
10 - 12 Regular car
13 Large car/small truck
14 and More Full Size Truck

How to Check / Test Ice Thickness?

How much ice for ice fishing is enough means nothing of you don’t actually know how thick it is in a certain place.

Firstly, never assume the thickness, even if you know the area.

To measure it, you will need an auger and any kind of measuring tool, like a tape measure. Drill a hole close to the shore and measure how thick it is.

If it seems thick enough for your means of transportation, start going onto the ice. Repeat this process on various distances from the shore to make sure that the thickness is consistent.

Don’t be lazy, drill a couple of holes to make sure that you are safe.

General Ice Thickness Guidelines for Fishing

The thinner the ice, the more careful you should be! If the thickness is on the bottom of the required range for a specific vehicle, measure it often along the way to a desired spot.

Clear and firm ice, so called blue ice, is the best one you can get, and places covered with such ice are ideal for fishing.

White ice is not as strong and potentially dangerous. It forms as snow freezes on top of the ice, and it is not as firm. Grey ice is to be always avoided.

Places to also avoid are parts where the ice is cracked which can happen due to temperature changes or mechanical damage.

The same goes for moving water. Ice over it may seem firm and nice however it is unevenly frozen, and you are risking serous problems.

One more important thing to mention is water that is present on top of the ice cover. This is a bad sign, and such places have to be avoided.

Here are some additional tips:

TIP #1: Unbuckle your seatbelt while driving on ice and keep the window opene and door unlocked.
TIP #2: Drive very slow and do not drive in tight formation with other cars. Go one by one.
TIP #3: Park away from other cars.
TIP #4: Never go ice fishing alone.
TIP #5: Carry a mobile phone, rope, blanket, and a life jacket – those things can save someone’s life (you can check also the other ice fishing essentials)!
TIP #6: If ice is covered with layer of snow, make sure that you don’t calculate snow into the ice thickness.


How much ice for ice fishing is enough to support you depends on various factors including quality of ice and the weight of you and your vehicle.

To safely move around by foot, you need 4 inches or more. To drive a medium car, you need 10 to 12. All this info is easily available in the chart above.

What is extremely important here is to use common sense and obey rules about behaviour on ice! And one more tip here – check if your car insurance company covers driving on ice! Many of them don’t.

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