Obviously, the thickness of the ice is a crucial factor in your safety this winter. To start, don’t even think about setting foot on ice that’s less than two inches thick. In fact, ice typically won’t support your weight until it’s four inches thick or more. When it’s thicker than five inches, the ice will be able to support the weight of a snowmobile. Large groups of people won’t be able to gather safely on the ice if it’s less than seven inches thick. Finally, vehicles like cars and trucks won’t be able to get out there until the ice is more than eleven inches thick.

Generally, the thicker the ice is, the safer you’ll be. However, thickness is not always a guarantee of stability. If you can’t see the ice through a layer of snow, you can use a stick to test the surface before you. Ice that’s safe to walk on will make dull thump sound. Thin ice is resonant, and ice that’s beginning to thin will creak.

Finally, you’ll need to keep an eye out for a few telling signs that the ice isn’t safe. Such signs include a slushy, white surface, bubbles, fault lines, a black or grey color, or any open water nearby. Furthermore, look for any standing water or snow cover, both of which add weight to the ice and can prevent the ice underneath from fully freezing. Also, look for any current beneath the ice, especially near streams and inlets, as this can reduce the ice’s strength. Lastly, take notice of any structure, such as rocks or timber, which weakens the ice it contacts.

Thousands of anglers head out to the ice each year to pull in a good haul of fish, but it’s vital to make sure the ice is safe enough to step onto before fishing it. Keep the tips above in mind and you’ll be sure to stay a little safer this season!