An early spring ice-out provided a jump start to the 2016 open-water season for North Dakota anglers and boating.
Then came a period of rather cool temperatures that slowed water warm-up and delayed other forms of water recreation. Now, however, Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial start of summer is at hand, and regardless of water temperatures, it’s time for recreational boating, other water activities and just enjoying a summer which is never long enough.
Few will argue that we savor our time outdoors no matter the season. To paraphrase a popular quote, how many great memories begin with, “I was watching TV with … ?”
But our outdoor heritage is more than just deer, ducks and pheasants. Time on the water boating and fishing is part of that heritage as well. But no matter how beautiful the sunset view from the deck of a pontoon, or catching the sunrise while breaking the “glass” of a calm lake heading out for a morning of fishing, if an accident takes place, there’s no way even the biggest fish or nicest day ever will overcome the memory.
Knowing the rules for safe operation helps avoid accidents in the first place, and providing for safety of passengers can reduce the potential for injury if an accident does occur.
Failure to provide enough life jackets is by far the number one boating violation in North Dakota. In 2015, it was the third most prevalent of all citations issued by North Dakota Game and Fish Department game wardens.
As a reminder, operators of watercraft of less than 27 feet in length are responsible for having a Coast-Guard-approved legal personal floatation device on board for every passenger.
North Dakota law also requires that all children ages 10 and younger must wear a 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 2014-16 North Dakota Boating Guide, available online at the Game and Fish website, gf.nd.gov.
A safe outing will help ensure your memories made this summer are about walleye and waves, not accidents and emergency room visits.