Memorial Day weekend launches summer boating season
Summer-like temperatures have arrived in Kentucky and many families will be headed to their favorite lake during the Memorial Day holiday weekend, May 23-25.
“Memorial Day weekend is the traditional start of recreational boating season in Kentucky,” said Maj. Shane Carrier, assistant director of law enforcement for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “Officers will be monitoring the waterways and encouraging social distancing. This goes for those in the water or out of the water.”
Many boaters will be on the water for the first time since fall. In that case, it’s good to get reacquainted with your boat first.
“Do a quick check to ensure all required safety equipment is still on board and in serviceable condition before you launch,” Carrier said. “Some basic preparation will ensure your initial return to the water is both safe and enjoyable.”
Boaters should check the signage at the ramp for hours of operation before launching their boat. Operating hours for ramps operated by Kentucky State Parks are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Please visit parks.ky.gov/covid-19-information for more information about Kentucky State Parks and COVID-19.
Boaters are encouraged to read the 2020-2021 Kentucky Fishing and BoatingGuide before visiting the boat ramp. The guide provides basic boater information and is available online at fw.ky.gov and wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold.
Due to COVID-19, boat registrations have been extended for 90 days. Boat registrations will now expire July 31. Those who have recently purchased a new boat or purchased a boat from a third party will need to have their bill of sale.
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.
“We encourage the public to continue to enjoy our waterways responsibly,” Carrier said. “Boaters must consider two important things: wearing a lifejacket and avoiding alcohol consumption. Like seatbelts, lifejackets are proven to save lives.”
Kentucky law requires each occupant of a boat to have ready access to a U.S. Coast Guard-approved lifejacket. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife recommends that everyone wear a lifejacket while boating. Children younger than 12 must wear a lifejacket while in the open portion of a boat that is underway.
Carrier emphasized that boating and alcohol do not mix.
“It is illegal to consume alcohol on public waters in Kentucky,” he said.
Alcohol consumption can increase the impact of boater’s fatigue, a condition where the sun, wind, waves and boat movement dull the operator’s reaction time and decision making.
Carrier also cautions those swimming in ponds or lakes to follow some basic recommendations.
“With the pools closed, there may be many who go to the lake or river to swim, but are not familiar with swimming in these waters,” he said. “It is a totally different experience than swimming in a pool. The perception of distance is not the same on a bigger expanse of water and can get a swimmer in trouble.”
He also advises those using inflatable rafts to wear a lifejacket and stay close to shore in the case of the raft’s failure.
For more information on boating, visit the department’s boating web page.