Massachusetts Hunting & Fishing
Ice Strength and Safety Tips
This ice strength and safety information is presented for the benefit of ice anglers and other winter sports people recreating on iced-over bodies of water.
The figures in the table to the right are for clear, blue ice on lakes and ponds. Reduce strength values 15% for clear blue, river ice. Slush or snow (white) ice is only one-half the strength of blue ice and can be very treacherous. “Honeycombed” ice, which occurs in the spring or during major winter thaws as the ice is melting, is the most dangerous ice, and best avoided unless the angler is certain there is a safe layer of solid ice beneath the honeycombed surface.
Anglers should also be aware that many lakes and ponds contain spring holes and other areas of current that may create deceptively dangerous thin spots in areas that are otherwise safe. Always use caution, and don’t venture out onto unfamiliar waters without checking ice thickness frequently.
How can you tell if ice is safe?
There are no guarantees. Always consider ice potentially dangerous. Assess ice safety by using an ice chisel to chop a hole in the ice to determine its thickness and condition. Make sure you continue to do this as you go further out on to the ice, because the thickness of the ice will not be uniform all over the pond or lake. Be aware that ice tends to be thinner on lakes and ponds where there are spring holes, inlets or outlets. Don’t venture onto ice-bound rivers or streams as the currents make ice thickness unpredictable.
For other ice safety tips and winter weather preparedness, visit mass.gov/mema.
Ice Thickness and Strength
Ice Thickness (inches)
2“ or less
Ice fishing or other activities on foot
Snowmobile or ATV
Car or small pickup truck
Finding Fish with Pond Maps
MassWildlife has provided maps of popular waterbodies to anglers and boaters since the 1950s. These maps contain information regarding stocking, public access, resident fish species, and a bathymetric (depth) map. Bathymetric maps are extremely useful to anglers, as different fish species often associate with specific underwater features. For example, bass prefer steep drop-offs and submerged plateaus, while trout occupy deeper, colder water.
Recently, MassWildlife began updating these bathymetric maps using new technology that renders underwater terrain with 100x the precision as the original maps. These new, more detailed maps allow anglers to focus their efforts within the habitats they choose with unparalleled accuracy. Anglers who ice fish or fish from shore will find these maps particularly valuable.
Anglers can find pond maps at mass.gov/dfw/pond-maps.
Our Coldwater Streams
MassWildlife defines a Coldwater Fish Resource (CFR) as a waterbody that contains at least one coldwater fish species (i.e., Slimy Sculpin, Longnose Sucker, Lake Chub, American Brook Lamprey, Burbot, Rainbow Smelt, Landlocked Atlantic Salmon, and Lake, Brook, Brown, and Rainbow Trout) that reproduced in that waterbody, or a connected tributary, and use such waters to meet one or more of their life history requirements. Protection of coldwater habitats is therefore critical for maintaining the overall health of coldwater fish species, which are ecologically, and in many cases, recreationally important fishes throughout Massachusetts. Once designated as a CFR, waterbodies are then afforded a greater degree of protection from potential human-caused alterations to their health. A map and list of currently designated CFRs can be found at mass.gov/dfw/cfr.
Improved Trout Stocking Report Provides More Options for Anglers
Massachusetts anglers can go to mass.gov/trout to view a list or a map displaying trout stocking information, which is updated daily during the stocking seasons!
Anglers seeking stocking reports for a particular water body or town should use the table to locate information. Type the name of the water body or town into the search window to find all stocking reports for that location. The table also allows users to sort by town, water body, stocking date, type of fish, or district. Note: All districts are now displayed on the same table.
The new map component of the stocking report allows users to zoom and pan to regions of the state and discover new destinations for fishing. The default map view shows trout-stocked waters for the entire state. Zoom to the area you would like to explore and then click on any thumbtack icon to view the dates and types of trout that have been stocked at that location. Stocking locations on streams are accurate, but fish swim, so be sure to investigate other reaches of the stream as well.
The stocking report is still subject to change depending on staffing, equipment, and weather conditions.
Don’t forget your fishing license — available online at mass.gov/massfishhunt at MassWildlife offices, or at license vendors.
Massachusetts Boating Laws: A Summary
BOAT REGISTRATION: Registration and numbering of all motorized boats is required. This includes electric motors.
MINIMUM AGE RESTRICTIONS: No person under 12 years of age may operate a motorboat, unless accompanied on-board and directly supervised by a competent person 18 years of age or older. Personal watercraft (PWC) users must be at least 16 years of age in order to operate.
BOAT SAFETY EDUCATION CERTIFICATION: Youth between 12 and 15 years of age must complete an approved basic boating course in order to operate a motorboat without adult supervision. Upon successful completion of such a course, students are issued a state “boating safety certificate” which must be in the possession of the certified operator when underway. Prospective personal watercraft users 16 or 17 years of age must also complete an approved boating course.
SAFETY EQUIPMENT: Personal Flotation Devices (life jackets) are required to be worn by: (1) youth less than 12 years of age, (2) personal watercraft users, (3) Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP) users, (4) water-skiers, and (5) canoeists/kayakers from September 15 – May 15. A boat owner or a boat operator is responsible to ensure that all passengers on-board wear or have access to life jackets. When not in a bathing, swimming, or surf zone, all SUP users on inland lakes, rivers or coastal waters, are required by law to have a Type I, II, or III life jacket aboard. All motorboats (with the exception of personal watercraft) must be equipped with an anchor, manual bailer, and line. A paddle or an oar is required on boats less than 16 feet in length. Motorboats towing water-skiers must be equipped with a boarding ladder.
The following types of operation are extremely unsafe and are prohibited.
- Operating any vessel under the influence of alcohol (BAC of .08 or greater) or drugs.
- Operating a motorboat within 150 feet of swimming areas.
- Operating in inland waters at a speed greater than 45 mph or operating at an excessive speed without regard for weather conditions, boat traffic, and other hazards.
- Operating a motorboat without properly working lights.
- Operating a motorboat during the nighttime while towing water-skiers, tubers, or others.
- Operating at greater than headway speed (6 mph or less) within 150 feet of a swimmer, water-skier, mooring area, marina, boat launch, or when the operator’s vision is obscured in any way.
- Operating an overloaded vessel (carrying total weight that exceeds capacity plate recommendations or is excessive due to water conditions).
- Operating with passengers on the bow, gunwales, or any other place from which a person could fall overboard.
PERSONAL WATERCRAFT (JET SKI) OPERATION
By law, personal watercraft (PWC) operators are considered motorboat operators and must comply with all boating laws and navigation rules. In addition, PWC users must:
- Wear an approved life jacket at all times (operator and passengers).
- Attach the safety lanyard to the operator and the cutoff/kill switch.
- Always operate at slow, no-wake speed (6 mph or less) within 150 feet of swimmers, shorelines, water-skiers, boat launches, rafts or floats, and moored or docked boats.
PWC Operation is prohibited:
- By any person under age 16
- Between the hours of sunset and sunrise (i.e. night time)
- At high speed in congested areas
- On waterbodies under 75 acres
- Towing (water-skiers, tubers, boats, or others) is illegal.
ACCIDENT REPORTING: The operator of any motorboat involved in an accident which results in personal injury, death, or property damage (over $500) must immediately notify the Massachusetts Environmental Police and file the appropriate accident report within 5 days for most boating accidents, within 2 days for boating incidents involving fatalities.
For further information on boating laws, boating education, or to obtain accident report forms contact the Massachusetts Environmental Police Boat & Recreation Vehicle Safety Bureau at (508) 564-4961 or visit mass.gov/ole.