I'm not a big fan of winter, mostly because of the nuisances that come with it. Shoveling snow, icy walkways, cars not starting. One thing I do enjoy though is ice fishing, but I actually don't do the fishing. I leave that up to my friends and sit in the warming hut, having a few drinks and waiting for a flag to pop up.

My son loves it. He'd fish all day if I let him. I still love his reaction from the time we went ice fishing when he was 9 and the first fish was pulled out of the hole in the ice on Keoka Lake in Waterford.

It got me wondering while we were out on the lake, just how thick does ice have to be to be safe? You don't want to end up losing your car or worse a person on thin ice, so here are some general guidelines from the Maine Warden Service on how thick ice needs to be on a lake to be able to be safe.

  • For new, clear ice, 2 inches or less is dangerous. STAY OFF the ice!
  • 4 inches might be safe for ice fishing and other activities on foot.
  • 5 inches is good for snowmobiles and ATV's.
  • 8 to 12 inches of good ice will support most cars or small pickups.
  • 12 to 15 inches will usually hold a medium-sized truck.

While this information is very handy, just how can you verify how thick the ice is?

If you have an ice auger, you can dig a hole and find out for yourself, otherwise ask someone. Local fishermen or bait and tackle shops near the lake you want to go on can tell you. Even a local convenience store might be able to let you know how thick the ice is. If in doubt, stay off.

It's also a good idea not to drive your car or truck on the ice if you have any doubts about the thickness of the ice whatsoever. You don't want your car to go into the lake as so many did in Lake Geneva in Wisconsin back in 2016.

Westbrook, Maine Ice Disk 2022

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