Winter is here, but your outdoor adventures don’t have to end.
There’s a winter wonderland just waiting to be explored in Massachusetts state parks, Wildlife Management Areas, and forests.
Whether you’re interested in hunting, fishing, or camping, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) offer outdoor opportunities and resources to help you enjoy the great outdoors all season long.
Ice fishing can be a great way to relax and unwind — just bundle up, grab a thermos of warm soup, and drop your line. The Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) has a pond map finder and fishing locations to get you started. Pay attention to local restrictions — most but not all public ponds allow fishing — and be sure to do your own research before heading out on a fishing trip. Here are some general rules and safety tips to keep in mind:
- Buy a Fishing License — Anyone 15 or older must have a freshwater fishing license. Anglers under 15 don’t need one. You can buy your license online through MassFishHunt. A license for an adult Massachusetts resident under age 65 costs $27.50. Licenses are free for anglers ages 15–17. Check MassFishHunt to learn more about fishing license types and fees.
- Know and Follow Regulations — Keep up to date on regulations with the Massachusetts Guide to Hunting, Freshwater Fishing, and Trapping, which lists fishing seasons, catch limits, and other restrictions.
- Be Safe on the Ice — Before heading out, read MassWildlife’s ice strength and safety tips.
- Respect the Environment — Follow MassWildlife’s code of angler ethics when fishing.
If you’d like to learn the ropes of fishing, MassWildlife and local partners host family ice fishing festivals and other fishing classes throughout the winter. Typically, you can borrow equipment and bait. No experience necessary! Check out the MassWildlife calendar of events to find a free learn-to-fish event near you.
DCR allows hunting at most state parks, forests, and reservations across the Commonwealth. DFG’s Wildlife Management Areas and Wildlife Conservation Easements are all open to hunting — you can explore them with the MassWildlife Lands Viewer. Check the most recent Massachusetts Guide to Hunting, Freshwater Fishing, and Trapping for full listings and dates, but a selection of winter hunting seasons include:
- Waterfowl (ducks and geese)
- Snowshoe hare and cottontail rabbit
- Bobcat and coyote
- Gray and red fox
- Opossum and raccoon
Before you set off on a hunting trip, be sure to prepare properly with these tips:
- Follow Regulations — Familiarize yourself with fish and wildlife laws and regulations, as well as DFG’s rules of firearm safety. Check the 2016–17 MassWildlife Migratory Game Bird Regulations to find restrictions for waterfowl hunting.
- Get a Hunting License or Permit — If you plan to go hunting in Massachusetts, you may need a hunting license, permit, or stamp. Check DFG’s hunting license purchase requirements to find out what you need to do to get a license. Hunting and trapping license fees vary based on your age, whether you live in Massachusetts, and other factors.
- Register for the Harvest Information Program Survey (HIP) — If you plan to hunt geese, or other permissible migratory game birds in January or February, you must visit MassFishHunt to register for the 2017 HIP survey.
- Stay Safe While Hunting — Be sure to follow DFG’s outdoor recreation safety tips. Dress warmly and ensure you are easily visible — wearing blaze orange helps reduce the risk of accidents.
With snow on the ground and frost on the trees, off-season camping has a rustic and adventurous quality you can’t find any other time of the year. For the determined outdoor enthusiast, DCR offers winter camping at 8 different locations.
If you’re planning to brave the cold with a winter camping trip, DCR strongly recommends that you do some research and prep work beforehand, because you may need additional or special equipment to handle the colder conditions. If you decide to take on the challenge of off-season camping, keep these tips in mind:
- Choose the Option That Fits You — Know your limits and comfort level. Off-season camping options include hike-in camping experiences, rustic cabins, RV camping with electric hookups, and standard camping with heated bathroom facilities.
- Plan Ahead — Reservations are required for cabins at Mohawk Trail State Forest, Savoy Mountain State Forest, and Camp Nihan Environmental Education Camp. You can check campsite availability and make camping reservations online or by calling (877) 422-6762. Always contact the park before you arrive — winter campsites may close due to weather conditions.
- Beware of Extreme Cold — Keep the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency’s (MEMA) safety tips for extreme cold in mind, and pay close attention to changes in the weather.
There’s no reason a little snow and ice should keep you cooped up inside. For more winter activity ideas, check out 3 activities to keep you moving this winter.
What are your winter adventure plans? Leave a comment below or tweet @MassGov to let us know!
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