What you need to know if you want to go fishing on the Quabbin Reservoir
NEW SALEM — If you want to rent a boat at the Quabbin Reservoir and spend the day on the water, you’ll need two things: cash and an alarm clock.
Rentals start at 6 a.m. and it’s best to show up before the gate opens. Even on a weekday, it’s not unusual to see cars lining up before 5:30 a.m., since boats are rented on a first-come, first-served basis.
Rental boats must be returned 90 minutes before the gate closes. Closing time varies by season, with the latest being 8:30 p.m. May 6 to Aug. 4, the earliest 6:30 p.m. from Sept. 9 to Oct. 11.
There are three places to rent or launch a boat on the Quabbin.
The New Salem boat ramp is on Route 122, just south of the Route 202 intersection. Launching here will start you in the northeast end of the reservoir.
The Hardwick ramp is on Dana Road, and starts you out toward the southern fishing limit of the reservoir’s main body.
The Pelham ramp is at the end of Old Ward Road. From here, you can fish the western leg of the reservoir, but you won’t be able to access the rest of the Quabbin.
Remember, the boat rental shacks doesn’t take American Express, or any form of plastic payment. You have to bring cash, and they don’t take any bills larger than a $50.
A 16-foot aluminum boat with a motor, five gallons of gas, oars, life-vests and an anchor costs $40 for a full day, or $30 for the afternoon — though you may find yourself waiting quite a while for a boat to free up if you come late in the day. Either way, parking will cost another $6.
At least one person per boat needs to have a fishing license. If you don’t want to spend the $30 for a year-round Massachusetts fishing license, you can buy a one-day Quabbin license at the gate for $5.
That comes to a grand total of $51 for the full day if you don’t have your own license. It’s quite the value when you think about it.
Renting a similar boat at the Sportsman’s Marina in Hadley will run you $85 for four hours or $115 for the day, plus a $100 cash or card deposit, and it doesn’t include the gasoline.
At the Quabbin, four people are allowed per boat, but that can make for tight quarters. For every additional person in the boat, your chance of hooking someone on the back swing increases exponentially.
Though you need a license to rent a boat, you’re not required to fish. Rather than a rod and reel, you can bring along your binoculars, camera, or just a good book and a snack.
Speaking of snacks, it’s a good idea to pack a lunch if you’re going to spend any real time on the water as well as plenty of drinks. That’s soft drinks, by the way, as alcohol is not allowed at the shore or on the water. You’d do well to bring sunblock, too, and a hat or shades to keep the sun out of your eyes.
While it’s not required, it’s a good idea to have a map, as it’s easy to get turned around while fishing the reservoir’s coves, inlets and islands. Large, fold-out maps can be had for about $6 at the New Salem General Store and other locations.
They’re as good a tool for fishing as for navigation. The maps show the locations of sunken ponds, drop-offs and islands, and even give a hint at the underwater topography via depth lines.
Go without a map, and you’ll have to rely on your memory to get you home, as well as a few signs on the islands’ shores that point back to the boat ramps.
Try relying on your smartphone for navigation, and you may find yourself up the creek. Service is near non-existent, and your phone will wear itself out quickly searching for signal. You’d be best to turn it off, or at least put it in “airplane mode.” Besides, who wants to be bothered while they’re out fishing?
Bring your own boat
If you’ve got your own fishing boat, you may think it’s convenient to just tow it on down to the Quabbin and launch.
If you’d like to take your own boat out on the Quabbin, it has to be at least 12 feet long. Taking your own boat will also cost you almost as much as a rental — the first time, at least. It’s also an extra $2 to park with a trailer, for a total $8.
Due to concerns over the invasive zebra mussel, the reservoir instituted a boat sealing program. The first time you tow your vessel to the Quabbin, you’ll have to have it decontaminated at the cost of $40. This must be done by appointment and only on certain days during the season at the House of Wax on New Athol Road in Orange.
Trolling motors, downriggers, oars and other equipment that will touch the water will also need to be decontaminated.
You can also get a free seal by having your boat inspected on certain days in November and December. To schedule a boat decontamination or cold-weather inspection, call the Quabbin Visitors’ Center at 413-323-7221. After decontamination or inspection, a “seal” tag is affixed, tying the boat to its trailer.
After a day on the reservoir, Department of Conservation and Recreation staff will re-seal the boat and you’re good to go for your next trip.
Break the seal by taking your boat out on another waterway, however, and you’ll need to go through the decontamination process again and pay another $40.
If you’re using your own boat, you’ll also need to stay within the motor size limits, 25 hp for four-strokes, and 20 hp for two-stroke motors. If you’d like to put your own motor on a rental boat, the limit is 10 hp, and the motor must sport a Quabbin seal.
For a complete list of Quabbin Reservoir rules and regulations, visit goo.gl/7FpDsc.