I went ice fishing yesterday with family and friends, including my 9-year-old son who would fish all day if I let him. It got me wondering as we walked out on Keoka Lake in Waterford, just how thick does ice have to be to be safe? I found the answer. 

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.

How do you know 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 at all possible. Just ask all the people who had their cars go into Lake Geneva.

For more tips on ice safety, check out the Maine Warden Service's website.