Boating Safety

May 31, 2011 by  

By Doug Leier

Many anglers and recreational boaters enjoy reading through information and testimonials on the latest electronics and power options for a boat or personal watercraft.

It’s a good thing to invest time into finding out ways to more efficiently use every last second of fun outdoors. While honestly no one would expect the same level of enthusiasm regarding information on boating regulations, on-the-water safety is no less important – actually it’s probably more important – than a well-researched purchase.

There is no lasting satisfaction from a stringer of plump walleyes or a sunset cruise on calm waters if you’re involved in an accident. Knowing the rules for safe operation helps avoid accidents in the first place, and providing for safety of passengers can reduce injury if an accident does occur.

Failure to provide enough life jackets is the number one boating violation in North Dakota. As are reminder, operators of watercraft of less than 27 feet in length are responsible for having a Coast Guard approvde legal personal floatation device on board for every passenger.

North Dakota law also requires that all children ages 10 and younger must wear a PFD personal flotation device while in boats of less than 27 feet in length. The law also requires all personal watercraft users to wear a life jacket, as well as anyone towed on skis, tubes, boards or other similar devices.

Failure to wear a PFD is the main reason people lose their lives in boating accidents. The National Safe Boating Council warns boaters that most drowning victims had a life jacket available, but were not wearing it when they entered the water.

If you don’t believe the importance of wearing a PFD, as opposed to thinking you’ll grab one and put it on if your boat capsizes, try putting one on while treading water.

Anglers should opt for a PFD that is comfortable enough to wear for an entire outing. Floatation device technology may not have advanced as fast as your fishing sonar or GPS, but if you haven’t looked lately you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the engineering and yes, even style, which have replaced the bulky old orange life vests of decades ago.

Skiers and tubers should wear a life jacket with four nylon straps, rather than one with a zipper, because straps are stronger than zippers upon impact with water.

All water skiers and tubers are also reminded that it takes three to ski and tube. An observer other than the operator is required on the vessel whenever a person is towed on water skis, wakeboard, tube or similar device,

Regulations to help ensure safe boating this summer are found in the 2010-12 North Dakota Fishing Guide.

A more comprehensive listing is available in the North Dakota Boat and Water Safety Guide or the Boat North Dakota education book. These guides are available online at the Game and Fish website,, by e-mail at [email protected], or at a local Game and Fish Department office.

Leier is a biologist with the Game & Fish Department. He can be reached by email: [email protected]


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