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When Recreating On The Water This Summer, Be Safe And Follow The Law!

Unseasonably warm weather is occurring early in Montana, and many boaters and anglers have been going to the local reservoirs and other waterways to get some relief from the heat. However, along with having fun, folks need to follow all the laws while out and about. Wardens have been checking a slew of boaters and anglers recently, and some common issues are recurring as summer is getting underway:

  • License possession while fishing: Many anglers contacted this spring and summer have not had their license in possession while fishing. This is a requirement by law. Anglers are required to produce their fishing license when requested by a game warden. A good recommendation is to carry the original printed license and hold a digital “copy” on a phone as a backup. The digital phone copy is legal, provided the license is quickly accessible and saved as a PDF, *screenshot of the license or a photo of the license. Sometimes, anglers have tried to rely on spotty cell phone service to look up their licenses via the internet, which has not always worked. Save a copy that you can find immediately!

  • Required Safety Equipment on boats: Multiple citations have been issued this summer for insufficient safety equipment on boats. By law, the following are required for noted watercraft:

    • A wearable U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal floatation device must be readily accessible for every person on the vessel, regardless of age. This includes, but is not limited to, all boats, kayaks, paddleboards, jet skis and canoes.

    • All vessels 16 feet in length and over must have one U.S. Coast Guard approved throwable personal flotation device that is immediately available for use.

    • Children under 12 years of age must wear a life jacket on a boat less than 26 feet in length that is in motion.

    • Towing/Skiing:

      • There must be at least two people on board a towing vessel, one operator/driver and one observer. If the operator is 12 or younger, the observer must be at least 18.

      • The person(s) being towed must be wearing a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket

    • Fire extinguishers: All motorboats must carry a U.S. Coast Guard-approved type B fire extinguisher.

      • * Exception: motorboats less than 26 feet long that are propelled by an outboard motor and are completely open construction (no closed spaces where gasoline fumes may be trapped) are not required to have a fire extinguisher.

  • Validation Decals on Boats: Wardens have found that most boats have followed this rule, however, a few boats are still missing their required decal.

    • All motorboats, sailboats or personal watercraft that are registered in Montana must display two validation decals. Current validation decals are red in color and are in effect for a three-year period expiring Feb. 28, 2023. Validation decals may be obtained, free of charge, at any Fish, Wildlife & Parks regional office or at the website.

  • AIS Check Stations:

    • ALL WATERCRAFT are required to stop at all open AIS check stations. Folks doing “drive-bys,” whether intentionally or unintentionally, are being cited.

    • ALL NONRESIDENT WATERCRAFT must be inspected before launching in Montana. This is required by law.

      • Proof of Inspection Paperwork: Many nonresident boats that have been contacted do not have their proof of inspection paperwork in their boat while on the water. Please always carry these.

For more information on fishing or boating laws, please pick up a copy of the 2021 Fishing Regulations or Montana Boating Laws. Good luck and be safe out there!

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