This is National Safe Boating Week, and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources wants to remind Kentuckians to be safe as they visit their favorite lake this Memorial Day holiday weekend or later this summer.
Since many owners have not had their boats out since last fall, becoming reacquainted with basic safety procedures will help protect boaters and other aquatic recreationists as they venture back out on the water to enjoy the warmer weather.
"The summer boating season traditionally kicks off with Memorial Day weekend, so it's a good time for boaters to review general safety practices to help prepare for and prevent accidents that can easily happen around water," said Maj. Shane Carrier, assistant director of Law Enforcement for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. "Boating on Kentucky waters can be safe and enjoyable this weekend and all year if people plan ahead and prepare responsibly for water activities."
Boaters are encouraged to consult the 2023-2024 Kentucky Fishing and Boating Guide before visiting a boat ramp. The guide provides basic boating information, including regulations, and is available online at fw.ky.gov and wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold.
Thoroughly check to make sure that required equipment is present and in good working condition before launching. Make a float plan so that someone on shore knows about the trip itinerary and include passenger names, ages, and emergency contact information. Watch the weather and stay aware of surroundings, especially nearby boat traffic.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife urges boat operators to complete a boating safety course, or review standard procedures if they are already safety-certified. General guidance about boating requirements in Kentucky is available on the department's website at Boating - Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife.
Kentucky boat registrations expire April 30 each year, so owners who haven't done so already will need to renew their annual boat registration through their county clerk's office. All mechanically powered vessels used primarily in Kentucky will need a registration certificate carried on board. Rented boats must carry the lease agreement on board. Boats registered in other states may be used in Kentucky for up to 60 consecutive days without registering here.
As a reminder, a person must be at least 12 years old to operate a boat with a motor of 10 horsepower or greater on public waters. This includes personal watercraft. A boat operator 12-17 years old must possess a Safe Boating Certificate Card obtained upon completion of a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators-approved boater education course.
Kentucky law requires each occupant of a boat to have ready access to a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket that properly fits each person. Children younger than 12 must wear at all times a lifejacket that fits them while in the open portion of a boat that is underway. Life Jacket Loaner Stations, available in a growing number of locations across the state, allow parties to temporarily borrow life jackets.
"The same kind of safety behavior the public practices with automobiles should be applied to watercraft," Carrier said. "Anyone operating or riding in a boat should wear a life jacket and avoid alcohol consumption. Like seatbelts, life jackets are proven to save lives."
Conservation officers will be out in force for the Memorial Day weekend to monitor waterways across the state to help keep everyone safe as they enjoy the start to summer. For emergencies, call for assistance at 1-800-252-5378, or contact a local law enforcement agency or nearest Kentucky State Police post. Marine channel 16 can be used to contact a local marina.
Opportunities for boating and fishing abound across Kentucky, but boaters should check online or call ahead for operating hours before launching a boat to help ensure that a favored location is open and available. A comprehensive resource to search Kentucky waterbodies is available at Fisheries | KDFWR (ky.gov).
For boating opportunities at nearly 30 Kentucky State Parks, visit Boating | Ky Parks. Boat ramps operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may be limited or closed during holidays, but information is available at:
A new smartphone app also allows boaters to find directions to local lakes, read fishing reports, learn about regulations, find stocking schedules, locate the nearest boat ramp and more. To download the app to your phone, go to Fish Boat KY App - Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife or search for "Fish Boat KY" in your preferred app store. Remember to insert spaces between words.
Additional boating information can be found on the department's website at Boating - Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife. Questions may also be directed to the information center at 1-800-858-1549, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. (Eastern) weekdays, excluding holidays.
(Photo Kentucky State Parks)