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Going Outdoors? Or, Out on the Ice?

Curt tells me that his mother frequently took him ice fishing on the North Hadley pond.

Of course, they lived on the pond, now changed into an upscale body of water called Lake Warner. They cooked tomato soup in a can over an open fire, and carried their stuff out onto the ice on a sled.

Frankly, I'm glad that my husband no longer even thinks of the sport. Because my idea of fun is not freezing in a shack, sitting around a hole in the ice, waiting for fish to move your tip-up, while slurping tomato soup.

But the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife tells me that it's still a big sport in the Commonwealth. In fact, they're stocking the fish for you.

If you're angling for salmon this winter, try Congamond in Southwick--it's being stocked with salmon this winter, and they average seven or eight pounds each.

Trout fishing is also excellent, if you're fishing in a lake that was stocked last fall. (Another reason I'm not going--trout like worms and pinhead shiners.) Shiners are favorites of salmon, too, and now's the time to catch some trophy sized fish.

Bass, northern pike and tiger muskellunge are out there too and the fisheries folks insist it's possible to break the 35 pound record for pike, with your best chances in western Massachusetts. Be sure to get a license first!

And, if you're thinking about fishing, driving, walking or skating on the ice this winter, remember this. Two inches of ice will support one person on foot. It takes three inches for a group moving single file and five inches for a group of six together. If you're in a car of light truck, look for eight inches. A heavy truck (seven to eight tons) needs a dozen inches.

As an outdoors aside, hunters took 7,482 deer in the season that just ended, along with 78 bear.

If fishing or hunting aren't your style, and you just want to enjoy nature, ask the Fisheries and Wildlife folks to send you their beautiful full color guide to the best wildlife viewing spots in the state. It costs $8.95; call 508/792-7270.

You can call the same number if you want to buy a three day Outdoorswoman's Weekend, scheduled for next August. Topo maps are available too. On CDs, believe it or not.

Massachusetts offers a lot of outdoor area. In fact, the Massachusetts State Forests and Parks Systems just celebrated its 100th birthday in a ceremony in the State House this week.

Big? You bet. Each year, more than 13-million people visit our more than 285,000 forest and park acres in the state. That's one in every 17 acres, and its the ninth largest system in the country. Impressive, when you remember that Massachusetts is the seventh smallest state.

The oldest...Mt. Greylock, at 3,491 feet the highest peak in the state. It's grown from 400 acres to 12,500 acres since 1898.

The newest...Lake Wyola State Park, 30 acres in Shutesbury established just last year.

The smallest...City Square State Park, one acre in Charlestown. The biggest...16,127-acre October Mountain State Forest in Lee.

Perhaps the most famous...Walden Pond, or Pilgrim Memorial State Park.

You'll also find 37 fresh water beaches, 27 campgrounds, 8 ocean beaches, 20 swimming pools, 18 skating rinks, 24 historic sites, 2 wading pools, 8 urban heritage state parks, more than 1,200 miles of hiking, biking and horse trails, and former estates, formal gardens and waterfalls in the state's system.

I'm waiting for warm weather. But if you want to enjoy some winter recreation--snowmobiling, cross country, skating, sledding or horseshoeing--call the Department of Environmental Management (800/831-0569) and ask for a winter centennial guide.

And, tell them happy 100th birthday!


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