It’s going to feel a lot like summer across Kentucky for the unofficial start of the season.
For many anglers, paddlers and pleasure boaters, relief from the warmer weather over the Memorial Day holiday weekend on May 25-27, 2019 will come on one of Kentucky’s waterways. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources wants everyone to have an enjoyable time while staying safe on the water.
“Memorial Day weekend has traditionally been the kick-off of recreational boating season in Kentucky,” said Maj. Shane Carrier, assistant director of law enforcement for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “The two most important things to remember this weekend and before each outing on our waterways is to wear your personal flotation device and do not consume alcohol.”
Like seatbelts, lifejackets are proven to save lives.
Recreational boating statistics compiled annually by the U.S. Coast Guard show an overwhelming percentage of people who had been involved in boating accidents and drowned were not wearing a life jacket.
Multiple people have drowned in boating related accidents this month in Kentucky. In at least two incidents, the victim was not wearing a lifejacket.
Kentucky law requires each occupant of a boat to have ready access to his or her own U.S. Coast Guard-approved lifejacket (personal floatation device).
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife recommends that everyone wear a lifejacket while boating, especially children and non-swimmers.
Children younger than 12 must wear a lifejacket while in the open portion of a boat that is underway.
Many boaters will be hitting the water for the first time since fall. In that case, it’s good to get reacquainted with your boat first.
“A quick check should be conducted to ensure all required safety equipment is still on board and in serviceable condition before launching,” Carrier said. “Some basic preparation will ensure your initial return to the water in 2019 is both safe and enjoyable.”
The 2019-2020 Kentucky Fishing and Boating Guide is valuable reading before descending the boat ramp. It provides basic information for most boaters and answers the most commonly asked questions. It is available on Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s website at fw.ky.gov and wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold.
The department’s website also harbors information about public boat ramps in Kentucky. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife has built or maintains more than 150 boat ramps open to the public, but there are many more access points around the state. On the department’s homepage, enter “boating access sites” into the search box.
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 or completion of a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators-approved boater education course.
There were 47 deaths on Kentucky waterways last year; 13 of those boating related.
Alcohol is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, according to U.S. Coast Guard statistics.
In anticipation of the increased boat traffic, Kentucky’s conservation officers will be stepping up their patrols and keeping a watch out for dangerous boaters.
Kentucky’s conservation officers are sworn law enforcement officers with statewide jurisdiction but a primary mission focus on hunting, fishing and boating enforcement. In their everyday role, they ensure compliance with hunting and fishing laws and ensure that the state’s waterways are a safe place for all to enjoy by utilizing a two-pronged approach consisting of education and enforcement.