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As our waterways become more crowded – especially over summertime holidays – boating etiquette becomes an important issue to keep in mind. Many of us have had encounters with inconsiderate boaters, both on and off the water. Hopefully these experiences remind us to apply the Golden Rule when we’re out in our boats, ensuring a better experience for ourselves and all those around us…even if they are a bit close!

Here are some boating etiquette essentials to keep in mind as you enjoy the waters this summer:

  • Be ready to launch when you hit the boat launch pad. Have your boat rigged and loaded before you get set to launch, so others don’t have to wait in line to get on the water. The same goes for your return trip. Once you’ve got your boat on its trailer, move to a de-rigging area to allow someone else to use the launch pad.

  • Be observant when underway and respect the space of other boaters. Watch what other boaters are doing, or how they are fishing. Know where their lines are placed before nearing or passing their location, to avoid running over their line. Imagine a wide circle around every boat, and stay outside of that space. Keep in mind that just because they are not moving, doesn’t mean you can ignore what they are doing.

  • Help your neighbors. If you spot another boater who seems to be having trouble, it’s a good idea to help out (unless the situation looks suspicious or dangerous – in which case you should call for emergency assistance). Perhaps their boat has broken down, run out of gas, or maybe you find a novice boater in need of a hand. Whatever the case, what comes around goes around. And you never know when you may be in a boating predicament yourself.

  • Be familiar with the rules. Every state has different boating rules, and these rules will depend on the waterway, the boat, and the activity. The best way to get familiar with the rules you need to know is to enroll yourself in a boating safety course. Visit the U.S. Coast Guard site for a list of some of the safety courses that are available.

  • Use Common Sense. There will be times when the rulebook isn’t readily available. Or, times when following the letter of the law could put you in harm’s way. In these situations, the best thing to do is to follow your gut. In fact, the very first rule stated in the U.S. Inland Navigation Rules is called the "general rule”. It says boaters should give due regard to any possible hazard or circumstance that could prompt a departure from the rules in order to avoid danger. In other words, if a boat is speeding toward you, and you’re not sure who should have the right-of-way – just go ahead and let them pass.




Back to Boating

Note: Boaters and Anglers, please remember that you can help prevent the spread of unwanted aquatic plant and animal species by following these guidelines:

  • Remove all mud and aquatic plants from all gear, boats, motors and trailers before departing from your fishing location

  • Drain all water including bilges, live wells, and bait tanks before departing from your fishing location

  • Do not transport fish from one body of water to another

  • Do not release unused bait into a body of water

  • Do not dispose of fish carcasses or by-products in any body of water

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