Winter has arrived in South Dakota and brought ice fishing season with it. While many of the state’s waters are frozen over and seeing ice fishing action, anglers are reminded to use caution when out on the ice.

“We have seen a good number of anglers out on the ice in the eastern part of the state,” said Game Fish and Parks fisheries section leader John Lott. “Cold temperatures are creating good ice, but during this time of year, we like to remind anglers to use common sense when getting out on the lakes.”

“It takes at least 2 inches of ice to support a fisherman, at least 6 to support an ice shack and over a foot for a vehicle,” Lott said. “Just because an angler sees 6 inches near the shore, doesn’t mean it will be 6 inches across the lake. Springs, current, wind or ice heaves all effect the formation of ice and can make ice very dangerous.”

Anglers should always drill test holes to measure the thickness of the ice they are traveling on, have flotation devices available and tell someone where they are going to be.

Ice Thickness Guidelines for Ice Anglers

  • Less than 4 inches – We recommend anglers stay off the ice altogether.
  • 4-6 Inches – Ice fishing via foot travel in single-file lines should be safe, presuming the ice is clear and clean of snow.
  • 6-12 Inches – Snowmobiles and ATV’s can travel safely on good ice that is over 6 inches thick.
  • 12-16 Inches – Small cars and pick-ups can begin to venture on to the ice once it is a foot or more thick. However, we encourage anglers to avoid driving on ice that is less than 16 inches thick whenever possible.
  • 16+ Inches – Generally a medium-sized car or mid-size pickup can travel safely on good clear solid ice.

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