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News Learn to ice fish

It's wintertime in Massachusetts. Why not give ice fishing a try? Find ice fishing classes near you and review ice safety tips.
1/02/2019
  • Division of Fisheries and Wildlife

Media Contact for Learn to ice fish

Marion Larson, MassWildlife

Ice fishing

Don't let winter keep you indoors! Ice fishing provides anglers with the unique opportunity to fish on a lake or pond without a boat during the cold winter months. If you're looking to learn how to ice fish, join MassWildlife's Angler Education Program at an upcoming event this winter. Whether you're an expert ice angler or just getting started, make sure you review the safety tips below for a fun, safe experience on the ice. 

Upcoming ice fishing events

February 2: Family Ice Fishing Festival,  Pittsfield  This is a free learn to ice fish event at Pontoosuc Lake (81 Narragansett Avenue) from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Please park on the street around the park and walk onto the lake from there.) Bring your ice fishing equipment, or borrow ours; equipment and bait will be available on a first come, first served basis. This event is in cooperation with the Western Massachusetts Boy Scout Council. *Open to the public, no pre-registration required. For more information contact Jim Lagacy at jim.lagacy@mass.gov or (508) 389-6309. *PLEASE NOTE:  Less than 6" of safe ice, rain, or heavy snow will cancel this event. 

February 9: Family Ice Fishing Festival,  Chesterfield  This is a free learn to ice fish event at Scout Pond – Tolgy Wood (the old Chesterfield Scout Reservation at Sugar Hill Road in Chesterfield) from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. Bring your ice fishing equipment, or borrow ours; equipment and bait will be available on a first come, first served basis. This event is in cooperation with the Western Massachusetts Boy Scout Council. *Open to the public, no pre-registration required. For more information contact Jim Lagacy at jim.lagacy@mass.gov or (508) 389-6309. *PLEASE NOTE:  Less than 6" of safe ice, rain, or heavy snow will cancel this event. 

February 9: Family Ice Fishing Festival, Oxford  This is a free, non-competitive, family friendly, learn to ice fish event at Hodges Village Dam (Augettaback Pond at 30 Howarth Rd., Oxford), 10 a.m.–1 p.m. Bring your ice fishing equipment, or borrow ours; limited equipment and bait will be provided. This event is in cooperation with the US Army Corps of Engineers Buffumville Lake and the Charlton Conservation Department. *Open to the public, no pre-registration required. For more information contact Jim Lagacy at jim.lagacy@mass.gov or (508) 389-6309. *PLEASE NOTE:  Less than 6" of safe ice, rain, or heavy snow will cancel this event. 

February 10: MacGyver “Ed” Peary Ice Fishing Derby, Billerica – Join MassWildlife's Angler Education Program and the Billerica Recreation Department at Nuttings Lake in Billerica, 7 a.m.–2 p.m. The derby is open to the public and registration is on-site the day of the event; the registration fee is a gift for a child so that everyone goes home with a prize. Please RSVP to (978) 987-3487 to let the Billerica Recreation Department know you intend on coming and to check if there is safe ice. Parking will be available at Micozzi Beach in Billerica – enter lake through Turnpike Market parking lot. If you have extra ice traps (tip-ups), please bring them to share. Bait will be available onsite for a minimum charge, but please bring a bait bucket. For more detailed information call the Billerica Recreation Department at (978) 671-0921.

February 27: Family Ice Fishing Clinic, Sudbury This is a free family friendly learn to ice fish event at Puffer Pond in the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge (Winterberry Way, Sudbury), 4–6 p.m. Bring your ice fishing equipment, or borrow ours, equipment and bait will be provided. This event is co-sponsored by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Open to the public, pre-registration is mandatory. Please contact Jim Lagacy to register at jim.lagacy@mass.gov or (508) 389-6309. 

Ice safety

Stay safe this winter by taking a few moments to review these ice safety tips and ice thickness guidelines. 

How to tell if ice is safe

Always consider ice to be potentially dangerous. You can't judge ice conditions by appearance or thickness alone; many other factors like water depth, size of waterbody, water chemistry, currents, snow cover, age of ice, and local weather conditions impact ice strength. Ice tips to remember:

  • New ice is stronger than old ice. Four inches of clear, newly formed ice may support one person on foot, while a foot or more of old, partially thawed ice may not.
  • Ice doesn't freeze uniformly. Continue to check ice conditions frequently as you venture out onto the ice.
  • Ice formed over flowing water and currents is often more dangerous. Avoid traveling onto ice-bound rivers and streams, as the currents make ice thickness unpredictable. Many lakes and ponds may contain spring holes and other areas of currents that can create deceptively dangerous thin spots. 

Ice thickness guidelines

There are no guarantees; the guidelines below are for clear, blue ice on lakes and ponds. White ice or snow ice is only about half as strong as new clear ice and can be very treacherous. Use an ice chisel, auger, or cordless drill to make a hole in the ice and determine its thickness and condition. Bring a tape measure to check ice thickness at regular intervals. 

Ice Thickness (inches) Permissible Load (on new clear/blue ice on lakes or ponds)
2" or less STAY OFF!
4" Ice fishing or other activities on foot
5" Snowmobile or ATV
8"–12" Car or small pickup truck
12"–15" Medium truck

Before heading out onto the ice

  • Tell someone your plans, including where you are going and when you expect to return.
  • Come prepared. Carry a cell phone in case of emergency. Always carry ice picks and rope with you on the ice. In case of emergency, drive the nails into the ice and pull yourself to safety while kicking (see tips for falling in below). 
  • Wear your life jacket. If you fall in, a life jacket will keep you at the surface and can provide insulation against the effects of cold water.

Falling through the ice

If you fall in: 

  • Don't panic: Call for help if there are people nearby.
  • Don't remove winter clothing: Air trapped in your clothes can provide warmth and help you float.
  • Turn the direction you came from: Ice you previously walked on should be the safest.
  • Place your hands and arms on an unbroken surface and kick your legs: If you have ice picks or a pair of nails, use them to pull yourself up onto the ice while kicking.
  • Lie flat and roll away: Once your torso is on firm ice, roll toward thicker ice to distribute your weight.
  • Find shelter and get warm: Change out of wet clothing and find warm, dry coverings. If you are in a remote area, get to or start a campfire. Otherwise, get to a car or house. Seek medical advice from your physician on medical attention.

If someone else falls in:

Remember the phrase "Preach-Reach-Throw-Go."

  • Preach: Call 911 if you can. Shout to the victim to reassure them help is on the way.
  • Reach: If you can safely reach them from shore, extend an object like a rope, jumper cables, tree branch, or ladder to them.
  • Throw: Toss one end of a rope or something that will float to the victim.
  • Go: If the situation is too dangerous for you to perform a rescue, call 911 or go to find help. Untrained rescuers can become victims themselves.

If a pet falls through the ice, do not attempt to rescue it, go find help. Well meaning pet owners can easily become victims themselves when trying to assist their pets. Remember to always keep pets leashed while walking on or near ice. 

Media Contact for Learn to ice fish

Division of Fisheries and Wildlife 

MassWildlife is responsible for the conservation of freshwater fish and wildlife in the Commonwealth, including endangered plants and animals. MassWildlife restores, protects, and manages land for wildlife to thrive and for people to enjoy.

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