RECREATION AND SAFETY
New Hampshire’s lakes offer many year-round recreational opportunities. Here we have provided some information about common opportunities. We have also included some important safety information. If you have a question, or would like information on a topic that isn’t listed, contact us.
Boat parades and races are part of the lake culture in New Hampshire. If you plan to host an event, be sure to get a permit from the New Hampshire Marine Patrol, click here.
New Hampshire has a mandatory boating education law. Everyone 16 years of age and older who operates a motorboat over 25 horsepower on New Hampshire waters must have a boating education certificate.
New Hampshire accepts the following boating education certificates:
- A boating certificate issued by another State agency and NASBLA approved.
- A boating certificate issued by the U.S. Power Squadron.
- A boating certificate issued by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.
- An unexpired commercial boating license issued by the U.S. Coast Guard.
- An unexpired commercial boating license issued by the State of New Hampshire.
If you wish to operate a motorboat on New Hampshire waters and you do not have any of the above certificates, sign up for a Boater Education Course offered by the New Hampshire Marine Patrol. For information, click here.
The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department provides information about boating and fishing sites open to the public on lakes throughout the state. To access this information, click here.
The New Hampshire Office of Strategic Initiative offers access maps for 36 of New Hampshire’s largest lakes. To view these maps, click here.
Depending on the type of boat you plan to use on a lake and how many days you plan to use it, you may or may not need to register it in New Hampshire.
- All motorized vessels (of any size) and sailboats and sailboards 12 feet or longer using New Hampshire’s lakes must be registered annually.
- Unmotorized canoes, kayaks, and small sailboats (less than 12 feet) do not need to be registered.
- You can register at many marinas and sport shops, town halls, and Department of Motor Vehicles offices.
- If your vessel is registered in another state or country and you will be using your boat for less than 30 consecutive days in New Hampshire, you do not need to register it in New Hampshire.
For more information, visit the New Hampshire Marine Patrol website—click here.
Certain recreational activities on some lakes in New Hampshire are restricted. Before venturing out onto a lake, know the rules. To see a complete listing of lakes with restrictions, visit the New Hampshire Marine Patrol website—click here.
If you use a dock de-icer unit to protect permanent docks and boathouses from ice damage during winter, you will need to get a permit from your municipality. You will also need to post a sign about open water and thin ice conditions. For information, contact your municipality.
If you plan to fish in New Hampshire and you are 16 years old or older, you must be licensed. For information, visit the New Hampshire Fish and Game website—click here.
For information on fishing seasons in New Hampshire, click here.
The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department offers depth maps for more than 650 lakes in the state. These maps also provide fishing information. To access these maps, click here.
State law regulates the number and placement of moorings on the following lakes:
- Squam (Big and Little)
- Ossipee (Broad Bay, Leavitt Bay, Berry Bay)
- Bow Lake
- Pleasant Lake in Deerfield
For more information, click here
If you are going to boat, make sure you have the proper personal flotation (PFD) devices for everyone on board and everyone being towed.
- Each person on board must have one U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type 1, II, or III PFD.
- Each person being towed behind the vessel must wear a U.S. Coast Guard–approved life jacket.
- A person using a stand-up paddleboard must have a Type I, II, or III life jacket on board.
- Any person under the age of 13 to wear a life jacket is required to wear a life jacket.
For life jacket types and ratings, visit the BoatU.S. Foundation website—click here.
If you plan to designate an area of a lake as a swimming area, you will need a permit from the New Hampshire Marine Patrol. For information, click here.
Towing people behind your boat can be fun. But, know these safety rules before you head out.
- No more than six people may be towed behind a motorboat on one or more inflatable tubes at the same time.
- No more than two people may be towed on water skis, aquaplanes, or other devices from the same motorboat at the same time.
- When towing fewer than three people, you must have at least one observer (not including the boat driver). All observers need to be at least 13 years old and physically able to assist the person(s) being towed.
- When towing three or more people, you must have at least two observers (not including the boat driver). Observers need to be at least 13 years old and physically able to assist the people being towed.
New Hampshire’s lakes are home to many water skiing groups and competitions. If you plan to set up a water skiing slalom course, you will need a permit. For information, visit the New Hampshire Marine Patrol website—click here.