Sheriff’s Corner: Wake awareness and etiquette

Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch

Our past few Sheriff's Corner articles have been dedicated to water safety issues, along with water permits and event applications. We have received several complaints and questions on a topic that is popular statewide on lakes of all sizes and it involves wake boats. We are seeing an increase in activity with these boats on several area lakes, both large and small, and have had numerous complaints and questions on legal operating considerations involving them.

The Minnesota DNR has created a new campaign focused on dealing with these issues and creating public awareness. As the popularity of wake boarding and wake surfing increases, statewide sales of wake boats have increased dramatically. With their heightened popularity, concerns about collateral damage to docks, hoists and moored boats, as well as the potential for shoreline damage and erosion, also increases. There are currently no operating restrictions or laws on operating or waterway travel with these boats. Unlike a personal watercraft that has to stay a distance of 150 feet from shoreline, these boats can travel on the water with no restrictions.

The Minnesota DNR has begun to create an educational awareness campaign around the effects of wakes and wake boats. With exceptionally high water for the greater part of this year’s boating season, concerns over this topic have escalated across the state. A DNR web page with designated content meant to cover basic boating etiquette and wake awareness is being developed.

The main points of this campaign are:

  • Be aware of your environment and what’s going on around you. This applies to all types of boats, including paddlers, and those on and around the water.

  • Stay at least 200 feet away from shorelines, docks and other structures. Backing a boat up to a riverbank or lakeshore can damage the area and lead to erosion. Travel slowly in shallow waters.

  • Minimize repetitive passes. Once you’ve run a line, move on to another area. Comply with all signs and respect barriers.

  • Respect the rights of others so everyone can enjoy their time on the water - keep the noise down, be courteous to other boaters and show consideration to all recreationists on and around the water.

Some basic and general safety tips should be followed and observed by all persons engaging in skiing, tubing and wakeboarding activities. While these are popular water sports, they can also be dangerous with participants traveling at high speeds. Remember to take the following steps to minimize the risks:


  • Learn how to get up out of the water and how to safely use the tow rope.

  • Always have a spotter in the boat and go over basic hand signals.

  • Make certain the towline is not caught in the propeller or wrapped around you prior to beginning.

  • Wait for the propeller to stop before getting back on the boat.

  • Enjoy these activities during daylight hours only.

If you have specific questions that you would like answered in this column or in person, please feel free to contact me anytime using one of the following methods: by email at ; by phone at 218-547-1424 or 800-450-2677; by mail or in person at Cass County Sheriff’s Office, 303 Minnesota Ave. W, P.O. Box 1119, Walker, MN, 56484.

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