Bank fishing versus boat fishing ultimately comes down to personal preference—and, of course, whether or not you have the equipment necessary to do the latter. Angling from a boat, however, generally gives you greater access to your target fish. The one thing even seasoned anglers are lackadaisical about is following their state’s requirements to operate a boat. It usually takes a visit from local marine unit police or officers from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for boaters to recognize that there are laws that govern who and what can occupy the waters. Here’s how to find out what precisely is needed before taking your next fishing trip.
Only five states and the District of Columbia require an actual license to operate a boat on their waters, according to the U.S. Coast Guard’s website. But each state is a little different with its requirements. North Carolina requires only those under 26 operating a watercraft of 10 horsepower or more on state waters to have a license, according to boaterexam.com. Vermont’s laws are a bit more quirky; it allows people as young as 12 years of age to operate a six horsepower or more boat, but you must be at least 16 to operate a personal water craft (like a Jet Ski). Alabama, Delaware, Louisiana and New Hampshire also require a license of some sort to operate a motorized water craft on state waters.
Every state except Alaska, Idaho, South Dakota and Wyoming requires certain segments of their populations to take and pass a boater safety course before operating any vessel on state waters. Most of these statutes are age contingent, while states like California only require a course if ordered by a court. Boater safety courses cover a variety of topics, with navigation rules being a big part of most exams. You will learn the basics of navigation, but keep in mind these rules can be disregarded as immediate danger or some other unforeseen situation dictates. Collision avoidance, night boating and proper equipment are some other common topics covered in these courses.
There are several other rules and laws frequently overlooked by boaters that could earn you a citation. Several states require children to wear flotation devices at all times while on a boat. Some waterways have speed zones that must be obeyed. Signs may not be posted, so it’s best to check with your local DNR or police if you plan on traveling far from shore. Officers will likely engage your vessel if people are standing up while the boat is moving, as this presents a safety hazard.
Don’t let ignorance of your state laws ruin a great afternoon of fishing. A little education will equal a whole lot more fun.
Photo by Flickr user gbaku