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Published June 18, 2022

Northern Celebrations: Brushing up on Boating Safety and Regulations

Written by
Patricia Stockdill
| The Dakotan
Pier fishing, Lake Audubon: A family fishes off the pier at the East Totten Recreation Area on Lake Audubon. [Photo: Patricia Stockdill]
Pier fishing, Lake Audubon: A family fishes off the pier at the East Totten Recreation Area on Lake Audubon. [Photo: Patricia Stockdill]

Summer is officially only days away even though boaters, anglers, and watercraft enthusiasts have already enjoyed some time on the water – wind permitting, that is.

In celebrating summer’s arrival it doesn’t hurt to test one’s brain power when it comes to water, boats, safety, and perhaps above all, North Dakota’s laws when to avoid getting a ticket or worse, having something bad happen.

And so, with a muted drum roll playing somewhere in the background, here’s the “Know your boating regulations and water safety quiz, North Dakota style” for the season:

*Question: What’s the better life jacket for water skiers and tubers to wear – one with four nylon straps or one with a zipper? Two bonus points when providing correct justification for the answer – and, yes, it has to be the correct answer.

*Answer: One with four straps. And, yes, two bonus points for the right reason – it’s because straps are stronger than zippers upon impacting water.

*Question: The United States Coast Guard has four categories, or types, of approved personal flotation devices (PFD). What is the designed use of a Type IV PFD?

*Answer: It’s not meant to be worn but instead designed to throw to someone in the water.

*Question: Can a child under the age of 12 operate a motorboat, including a personal watercraft, if it has a motor more than 10-horsepower alone in North Dakota?

*Answer: Nope, someone 18 years of age or older must accompany them.

*Question: Here’s a two-part question and two correct answers garners the victor with two bonus points: Does North Dakota require boat owners to register their boats (OK, technically boats really should be referred to as watercraft in the official jargon of water safety regulations and laws)? If so, what agency is responsible and does that include any type of boat that floats?

*Answer: Yes, residents need to register their boat, AKA watercraft, if it is propelled by a motor. The N.D. Game and Fish Department is the responsible agency in charge of that detail.

*Question: Just in case a boat doesn’t have a capacity plate indicating its maximum weight or number of people, is there a way to get an idea of what should be allowed?

*Answer: Yup, there is. Simply take the boat’s length times its width and divide by 15 to get the number of maximum capacity of people.

*Question: How much is North Dakota’s ANS (Aquatic Nuisance Species) fee, which is used to help the State of North Dakota address ANS issues?

*Answer: $15, which runs concurrently with the state’s three-year watercraft registration period.

*Question: Are there lakes in North Dakota where motorized watercraft aren’t allowed?

*Answer: That’s another “yup”. Some lakes are “Idle speed only” or “Electric motor only” so check the regulations and definitions to be on the safe and legal side of things.

*Question: What are the three basic things every boater, angler, and watercraft user can do to help reduce and prevent the spread of ANS?

Photo from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department

*Answer: This is a critical question because doing the right thing not only helps save the state’s fisheries but protects industrial and municipal water supplies by reducing negative impacts on intake structures: Here’s another drumroll leading up to the correct answer…: First, clean the watercraft by inspecting equipment and removing plants, animals (think things like zebra mussels here), or mud before leaving an access site. Next, drain all water completely before leaving. And, finally, dry all equipment or simply wash with hot water before using again.

*And the final question and final drumroll…: Where is the best place to get the complete North Dakota Boating Safety Guide?

*Answer: It’s right on this link from the Game and Fish Department website: Boating Safety Guide (2020-2022) | North Dakota Game and Fish.

ANS check places: Some of the most important places to look for aquatic nuisance species latching onto a watercraft include the trailer hitch, axles, hull, rollers, and the trailer itself, motor and prop, and boat bilge, live well, dock lines and anchor.

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