Our Opinion: Be safe this boating season
We hope anglers have good luck this opening weekend of fishing. We hope boaters have fun on our lakes and rivers from now into the fall. For everyone, we hope they have a safe year on the water.
The ice is off the lakes, Minnesota’s open water fishing season is in full swing, and that means the state’s boating season is also here.
We hope every angler — and the pleasure boater getting out for a cruise — enjoys their time on the water this spring and summer, especially after the long, record-breaking snowy winter we experienced in the Brainerd lakes area.
And there’s no time like the present to offer a few friendly reminders about boating safety. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, over 30% of boating fatalities in Minnesota happen in cold water with a victim not wearing a life jacket. Overall, falls overboard and capsizing are still the most common cause of boating fatalities in the state.
The DNR offered the following tips to be a safe boater:
- Wear a life jacket: Minnesota law requires a wearable U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket for each person on board a watercraft.
- Prevent capsizing: Reduce speed in rough water, don't overload a boat, secure loads from shifting and adjust for changing conditions.
- Prevent falls overboard: Remain seated while underway, avoid a sudden shift in weight.
- File a float plan: Leave it with a responsible person. Include a description of your boat, names of passengers, boating location, time of return and description of your car and where it is parked. Tell the person to call 911 if you don't return at the expected time.
- Brief passengers: Everyone should know where all safety equipment is (and how to use it), and how to start, stop and steer a boat.
- Carry a whistle or horn: Minnesota law requires a whistle or horn on all motorboats 16 feet or longer.
- Don’t drink and drive a boat.
- Keep an eye on the sky: No boater should ever set out in a storm.
- Boaters should also carry a compass and chart; carry a cellphone or two-way VHF marine radio. The U.S. Coast Guard monitors Channel 16; and take a boater safety course.
It’s not just the safety of people we need to keep in mind, but also of the waterfowl on area lakes. Take care to avoid and not disturb the loons, geese, ducks, swans and pelicans while they, too, finally get to take advantage of the open water and start raising their young.
Residents and visitors alike also need to be alert while traveling to and from their favorite bodies of water. There’s a lot of road construction taking place in the Brainerd lakes area this spring and summer, so everyone needs to be mindful of workers in work zones and detours, and stay patient with any traffic delays that arise.
We hope anglers have good luck this opening weekend of fishing. We hope boaters have fun on area lakes and rivers from now into the fall. For everyone, we hope they have a safe year on the water.