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Ice Conditions

With the ice fishing season now kicking into high gear on Lake Simcoe and across most of Ontario, I would just like to remind everyone to please be safe and sensible this ice fishing season. Always be aware of the ice conditions.

For inexperienced and seasoned ice-fisherman alike, remember that safety always comes first and you can never be too cautious. Every year we lose fishermen in Ontario through the ice, irrespective of skill level.

The bare minimum safe thickness of ice to walk on is 2″ of “black ice” (ice that is clear and you can see through). If you’re taking a snowmobile on the lake, the minimum safe thickness is 3″ of black ice.

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"Clear Ice" or "Black Ice"

Remember that white ice is only half as strong as black ice . So, when you are determining the ice thickness, treat 4” of white ice as only 2” of black ice.

If you find a mixture of white ice and black ice, assume that it is all white ice and divide the measured thickness in half.

Ice must be supported by water underneath. If you hear a hollow sound when poking the ice, this is an indication that the water level may have dropped since the ice sheet was formed. This ice cannot support a load and is unsafe.

Know your body of water. Some lakes have areas of current from warm water inflows or springs that create areas of thinner ice. Also keep in mind that ice may be thinner or thicker near shore. If you are unfamiliar with a body of water, never go out by yourself.

Air temperature affects the strength of ice, especially bare ice without a layer of snow on the ice surface.
  • A sudden large drop in temperature can cause ice to become brittle and unsafe. In this case, the ice may not be safe for up to 24 hours after the temperature drop.
  • Air Temperatures above freezing can weaken ice. If the air temperature has stayed above freezing for 6 of the prior 24 hours, you must multiply the minimum safe thickness by 1.3 to account for weakening. If the air temperature has stayed above freezing for 24 hours, the ice can no longer be considered safe even if it has an adequate thickness. This is due to weakened ice, and is usually the reason for treacherous spring ice conditions.
Enjoy the Ice Fishing season, but do it safely!

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