Thinking about going ice fishing this winter but I am worried about falling through thin ice. I know that ice should be at least 4 inches (10 cm) if clear and 8 inches (20 cm) if cloudy, but how can I actually tell the thickness of the ice?

I realize that I can use my auger to drill through it and see the thickness that way, but that requires me to get on the ice to drill, which is exactly what I don't want to do unless I already know the thickness.

So is there any other way to measure the thickness of ice?

  • You convince someone you don't like that much to test the ice for you. :) I'm not an ice fisherman but my gut response is that some brave soul makes an educated guess based on experience and local lore. Once they've established whether it is safe or not then everyone else joins them or waits X days to try again.
    – Erik
    Nov 30, 2015 at 18:00

1 Answer 1


Start at the edge and work your way out. The ice will usually be thinnest where the water flows INTO to pond or lake, and will be thickest close to the tail. That's because the ice is being pushed that way.

Take samples as you work your way out onto the ice to continue to measure the thickness.

  • 2
    Anecdotally, I have always found the ice to be thinnest at the edge - won't this make it tricky to get out into the centre?
    – Rory Alsop
    Nov 30, 2015 at 20:51
  • Then don't get on the ice
    – Escoce
    Nov 30, 2015 at 20:57
  • 1
    Exactly. This doesn't help the op though.
    – Rory Alsop
    Nov 30, 2015 at 20:58
  • Sure it does. Read my answer again. The first sentence. "Start at the edge..."
    – Escoce
    Nov 30, 2015 at 20:59
  • @RoryAlsop But water is also likely very shallow at the edge, so falling through at the edge might just get you wet ankles rather than in mortal danger.
    – gerrit
    Dec 1, 2015 at 10:33

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