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Play it safe and use common sense on the water
GREEN RIVER—The Memorial Day holiday weekend is finally upon us and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is reminding everyone to “pack” their common sense, along with their boating and fishing gear, so we all enjoy the weekend safely.

Game and Fish game wardens will be working local reservoirs to promote water recreation safety. Their efforts are part of a nationwide safety campaign. Wyoming’s boating safety slogan is “Wear It Wyoming!” Watercraft enforcement officers do more than just check your fishing license and Conservation Stamp. They provide important watercraft education, emphasizing safe boating practices. They spend a lot of time talking to people about watercraft safety and explaining to them that having life-saving equipment readily accessible and ready to use is critical. They remind people to boat responsibly and safely every day, not just on the holidays.

“Last year, the most common watercraft violations encountered on waters in the Green River region were failure to provide proper safety equipment, especially personal floatation devices (life jackets), for everyone on board and failure to obtain and display a Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) decal,” said Green River Wildlife Supervisor Todd Graham.

“Enforcement is sometimes required to maintain safety and proper use of our resources,” Graham said. “When officers approach a watercraft, they are making sure people have proper safety equipment. Proper safety equipment depends on the size of boat being operated, but standard practice is to ask boaters to show them one personal floatation device for each person onboard, a working fire extinguisher, and a throwable flotation device. The last thing anyone wants is another water recreation-related accident and/or fatality. We are asking everyone recreating on or around the water at any time to please bring along your common sense and ensure your friends and family members do the same.”

Boaters should anticipate severe weather conditions, including lightning, rain, and wind, which can cause dangerous situations in a short amount of time. People need to be prepared if their watercraft motor quits. At a minimum, it is recommended that boaters make sure a tow rope and paddles are onboard, and life jackets are on. Wyoming law requires that a Coast Guard approved life jacket, that is in good condition and fits, must be available and accessible for each person on board.

“Drowning accounts for 70% of all boating-related fatalities nationwide,” Graham said. “In about 85% of those cases, the victims were not wearing a life jacket. Children 12 and under are required to wear a life jacket while the watercraft is underway. Flotation devices are also of no use to people onboard if they are buried under coolers or in storage compartments. Make sure all of the safety equipment is accessible so it can be used at a moment’s notice. It has been my experience that bad situations begin unexpectedly.”

“Another common violation is failure to purchase the Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) decal,” Graham said. “In an effort to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, like zebra and quagga mussels, into Wyoming waters from neighboring states, the Wyoming Legislature created the AIS Decal Program to help defray the costs of monitoring and managing AIS. Many people are new boaters, or new to boating in Wyoming, and are unaware of the AIS program, especially for small nonmotorized kayaks and sailboats. Many people simply forget to buy a new sticker the first time they get the boat out. Hopefully, the option to purchase a combination AIS decal and boat registration should alleviate the problem of people forgetting to purchase a new AIS decal every year.”

“Also, a lot of people fail to get their boats inspected when they bring them in from out of state,” Graham said. “Many people are unfamiliar with Wyoming's AIS program and the requirement to get all out of state watercraft inspected prior to launching. Depending on when and how they come into Wyoming, many people do not pass a check station on the way to the lake, or just don't notice the check stations. Nonmotorized boat owners often do not consider their boats watercraft so they don't get them inspected or think they don't need to stop at the AIS check stations.”

Graham also reminds boaters to make sure they register their motorized watercraft. All motorboats powered by propulsion machinery of any type and operated on Wyoming waters shall be numbered, including electric trolling motors, and the certificate of number is displayed on each side of the bow of the motorboat. People can register new watercraft at their regional Game and Fish office. Watercraft renewals may be completed online at the Game and Fish website or at a regional office.

Other water recreation-related violations typically include fishing without a license and filleting lake trout, because of some area fish species restrictions, or not leaving skin attached to fish fillets. The cost of a resident fishing license is $6, $14 for a nonresident daily fishing license, and $12.50 for a Conservation Stamp. Wyoming Watercraft Regulations and Wyoming Fishing Regulations are available free of charge at any Game and Fish regional office, license vendors, or on-line at the department’s website

“We are more than happy to provide information to boaters and anglers this summer,” Graham said. ”Enforcement is part of our duty to ensure people’s safety and keep our resources for future enjoyment. We encourage smart boating it saves lives, maybe even yours.”

For more information on safe boating or fishing contact the Green River Region Office at (307) 875-3223.