Mandatory Education

All persons born after January 1, 1984, must complete a boating education course and carry proof of completion to operate a motorboat in excess of 10 horsepower. The person may operate the boat if accompanied by someone over 18 years of age who if required has completed the course.

Rules of the Road for Vessels

A. The following regulations shall dictate the operation of vessels upon the waters of the state and shall set forth a standard of operation. In construing and complying with these rules, due regard shall be had to all dangers of navigation and collision and to any special circumstances, including the limitations of the vessels involved, which may make a departure from the Rules necessary to avoid immediate danger.

B. Any violation of the Rules of the Road as referred to in this section shall be prima-facie evidence of careless or reckless operation.

C. Boating accidents caused by deviation from the Rules of the Road shall be documented as such in accident reports.

D. The Rules of the Road for vessels upon the waters in the state shall be as follows:

  1. Vessels passing head-on shall each keep to their respective right.
  2. A vessel overtaking another vessel may do so on either side, but must grant the right-of-way to the vessel being overtaken.
  3. When vessels are passing at right angles, the vessel on the left will yield right-of-way to vessel on the right.
  4. Motorboats shall yield right-of-way to non-motor powered boats except as follows:
    a. When being overtaken by non-powered vessels.
    b. For deep draft vessels that have to remain in narrow channels.
    c. When vessel is towing another vessel.
  5. Motorboats must maintain a direct course when passing sailboats.
  6. A vessel approaching a landing dock or pier shall yield the right-of-way to any departing vessel.
  7. A vessel departing shoreline or tributary shall yield right-of-way to through traffic and vessels approaching shoreline or tributary.
  8. Vessels will not abruptly change course without first determining that it can be safely done without risk of collision with another vessel.
  9. If an operator fails to fully comprehend the course of an approaching vessel he must slow down immediately to a speed barely sufficient for steerageway until the other vessel has passed.
  10. Vessels yielding right-of-way shall reduce speed, stop, reverse, or alter course to avoid collision. Vessel with right-of-way shall hold course and speed. If there is danger of collision, all vessels will slow down, stop, or reverse until danger is averted.
  11. Vessels will issue warning signals in fog or weather conditions that restrict visibility.
  12. No mechanically propelled vessel shall be operated so as to traverse a course around any other vessel underway or any person swimming.
  13. In a narrow channel, vessels will keep to the right of mid-channel.
  14. Vessels approaching or passing another vessel shall be operated in such manner and at such a rate of speed as will not create a hazardous wash or wake.
  15. No vessel shall obstruct or interfere with take-off, landing, or taxiing of aircraft.
  16. All vessels shall be operated at reasonable speeds for given conditions and situations and must be under the complete control of the operator at all times.
  17. No person shall, under any circumstances, operate a vessel in excess of an established speed or wake zone.
  18. No vessel or person shall obstruct or block a navigation channel, entrance to channel, mooring slip, landing dock, launching ramp, pier or tributary.
  19. Vessels shall keep at least 100 feet clearance of displayed diver's flag.
  20. Operator shall maintain a proper lookout.

AUTHORITY NOTE: Promulgated in accordance with R.S. 34:851.27A.

HISTORICAL NOTE: Promulgated by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, LR 29:1835 (September 2003).

PFDs AND CHILDREN - Children 16 or younger must wear a properly sized and fitted PFD when the boat is underway on all vessels less than 26 feet in length. Smaller children should have a PFD that has ample upper body flotation and a crotch strap, proper fitting is critical.

DWI - Boat operators who are driving while intoxicated (DWI) with a blood alcohol content of .08 and higher face the same penalties as someone operating a vehicle on the highway.  Penalties include the suspension or revocation of boating privileges and driver's license. A designated sober operator is a must for both the roadway and waterway.

Required Equipment and Regulations

Required Equipment and Regulations

Every boater is encouraged to take boater education. However, Louisiana law requires all boaters born after January 1, 1984, must complete a boating education course and carry proof of completion to operate a motorboat in excess of 10 horsepower. The person may operate the boat if accompanied by someone over 18 years of age who if required has completed the course. The minimum age for Boater Education Certification in Louisiana is 10 years old. Youth younger than 10 years old may take the course, but they are not eligible to be certified and will have to retake the course to obtain certification when they reach 10 years of age or older. A person who is licensed by the USCG as a captain to operate a vessel shall be exempt from the provisions.

LDWF offers a free boating class that lasts between 6 and 8 hours that is usually completed in a day. The course includes information on choosing a boat, classification, hulls, motors, legal requirements and equipment requirements, many navigation rules, navigation charts, trailering, sailboats, and related subjects that include canoeing, personal watercraft and more. Completion of the course will result in the student being issued a vessel operators certification card.

Boating courses with LDWF/volunteers are offered year-round but are most popular in the spring and summer. Click here. Upon successful completion, students will receive temporary Boater Education Certification credentials. They will receive their permanent card in the mail at a later date.

Who May Operate a Vessel/Personal Watercraft

Persons born after January 1, 1984, may not operate a motorboat or PWC powered by a motor in excess of 10 horsepower unless he or she has successfully completed a boating safety course approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators. The person may operate a motorboat if accompanied by someone over 18 years of age who if required has completed the course (this provision DOES NOT apply to PWCs). These persons must be in possession of evidence of completion of the approved course whenever operating such a vessel.

Personal Flotation Devices 

Personal Flotation Device (PFD) Types

Louisiana law requires that all children 16 years of age and younger wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD while underway on a vessel less than 26 feet long. The PFD must be fastened and of the proper size for the child.

All persons on board a motorboat less than 16 feet which is being propelled by a hand tiller outboard motor are required to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type I, II, III or V PFD while the motorboat is underway.

A motorboat less than 26 feet with a hand tiller outboard motor in excess of 10 horsepower designed to have or having an engine cut-off switch must have the engine cut-off switch link attacked to the operator, the operator's clothing, or the operator's PFD, if worn, while the motor is running and the vessel is underway.

Pirogues, Canoes and Kayaks Must have one Type I; II; or III PFD for each person on board, USCG approved and properly sized and in servicable condition.

Vessel Classes

Class A----Less than 16 feet

Class 1----16 feet to less than 26 feet

Class 2----26 feet to less than 40 feet

Class 3----40 feet to less than 65 feet

Personal Watercraft Requirements

  • Each person riding on a personal watercraft (PWC) must wear a U.S. Coast Guard–approved Type I, II, III, or V personal flotation device (life jacket).
  • An operator of a PWC equipped with a lanyard-type ignition safety switch must attach the lanyard to his or her person, clothing, or PFD.
  • It is illegal for anyone under the age of 16 years to operate a PWC. It is also unlawful for a person who owns or has charge of a personal watercraft to knowingly permit a person under the age of 16 years to operate the PWC. It is illegal for a rental company to rent a personal watercraft to anyone under 16 years of age.
  • It is illegal to operate a PWC between sunset and sunrise.
  • PWCs must be operated in a careful and responsible manner. For example, it is illegal for PWC operators to:
    • Weave the PWC through congested waterway traffic.
    • Jump the wake of another vessel when visibility is obstructed.
    • Operate in a manner that requires swerving at the last possible moment to avoid collision.
  • It is illegal to chase, harass, or disturb wildlife with your PWC.
  • PWC operators should avoid operating around fishermen, anchored vessels, or swimmers.

Fire Extinguishers

All mechanically propelled vessels less than 26 feet must carry one B-1 U.S. Coast Guard approved fire extinguisher if any one or more of the following conditions exist:

  • Inboard engines
  • Closed compartments and compartments under seats where portable fuel tanks may be stored
  • Double bottoms not sealed to the hull or which are not completely filled with flotation materials
  • Closed living spaces
  • Closed stowage compartments in which combustible or flammable materials are stored
  • Permanently installed fuel tanks. Fuel tanks secured so they cannot be moved in case of fire or other emergency are considered permanently installed. There are no gallon capacity limits to determine if the tank is portable. If the weight of a fuel tank is such that persons on board cannot move it, the Coast Guard considers it permanently installed.

Mechanically propelled vessels 26 feet to less than 40 feet must carry two B-1 U.S. Coast Guard approved fire extinguishers. Vessels over 65 feet must comply with Federal Standards.

Visual Distress Signals

All recreational boats, when used on coastal waters and the territorial seas, up to a point where a body of water is less than two miles wide must be equipped with visual distress signals. Boats owned in the United States operating on the high seas must be equipped with visual distress signals. The following are excepted from the requirements for day signals and only need carry night signals when operating at night:

  • Recreational boats less than 16 feet in length
  • Boats participating in organized events such as races, regattas, or marine parades
  • Open sailboats less than 26 feet in length not equipped with propulsion machinery
  • Manually propelled boats

Pyrotechnic visual distress signals must be U.S. Coast Guard-approved, in serviceable condition and stowed to be readily accessible. They are marked with a date showing the serviceable life and this date must not have passed. Launchers produced before January 1, 1981, intended for use with approved signals are not required to be U.S. Coast Guard-approved.

Sound Signaling Devices

Every motorboat or vessel of Class 1, 2, or 3, shall be provided with an efficient whistle or other sound-producing mechanical appliance. Every motorboat or vessel of Class 2 or 3 shall be provided with an efficient bell.

Navigation Lights

Every motorboat or vessel when underway in all weather from sunset to sunrise shall carry and exhibit the following lights and during such time no other lights which may be mistaken for those prescribed shall be exhibited.

Every motorboat or vessel of Class A and 1 shall carry the following lights:

  • A bright white light aft to show all around the horizon
  • A combined lantern in the fore part of the vessel and lower than the white aft showing green to starboard and red to port so fixed as to throw the light from right ahead to two points abaft the beam on their respective sides

Every motorboat or vessel of Classes 2 and 3 shall carry the following lights:

  • A bright white light in the fore part of the vessel as near the stern as practicable so constructed as to show an unbroken light over an arc of the horizon of twenty points of the compass and so fixed as to throw the light ten points on each side of the vessel, namely from right ahead to two points abaft the beam on either side
  • A bright white light aft to show all around the horizon and higher than the white light forward

On the starboard side, a green light so constructed as to show an unbroken light over an arc of the horizon of ten points of the compass and so fixed as to throw the light from right ahead to two points abaft the beam on the starboard side. On the port side, a red light so constructed as to show an unbroken light over an arc of the horizon of ten points of the compass so fixed as to throw the light from right ahead to two points abaft the beam on the port side. The side lights shall be fitted with inboard screens of sufficient height so set as to prevent these lights from being seen across the bow.

Motorboats and vessels of Classes A and 1 when propelled by sail alone shall carry the combined lanterns but not the white light aft prescribed by this Section. Motorboats and vessels of Classes 2 and 3 when so propelled shall carry the suitably screened colored side lights, but not the white light prescribed by this Section. Motorboats and vessels of all classes when underway shall carry ready at hand a lantern or flashlight showing a white light which shall be exhibited in sufficient time to avert collision.

Anchor Lights

All motorboats anchored in navigable waterways of this state shall exhibit a white three hundred and sixty degree stern light between the hours of sunset to sunrise. This light shall be the highest such light to be exhibited.

Visibility of Lights

White lights shall be of such character as to be visible at a distance of at least two miles. Every colored light shall be of such character as to be visible at a distance of at least one mile. "Visible" means visible on a dark night with clear atmosphere.

NOTE: When propelled by sail and machinery any motorboat shall carry the same lights required for a motorboat propelled by machinery only.

Trawling Vessels

A vessel engaged in trawling, by which is meant the dragging through the water of a dredge net or other apparatus used as a fishing appliance, shall exhibit two all-round lights in a vertical line, the upper being green and the lower white, or a shape consisting of two cones with their apexes together in a vertical line one above the other; a vessel of less than 20 meters (65.6 ft.) in length may instead of this shape exhibit a basket; a masthead light abaft of and higher than the all-round green light; a vessel of less than 50 meters (164.0 ft.) in length shall not be obliged to exhibit such a light but may do so; and when making way through the water, in addition to the lights prescribed in this paragraph, sidelights and a sternlight.

Fishing Vessels

A vessel engaged in fishing, other than trawling, shall exhibit two all-round lights in a vertical line, the upper being red and the lower white, or a shape consisting of two cones with apexes together in a vertical line one above the other; a vessel of less than 20 meters in length may instead of this shape exhibit a basket; when there is outlying gear extending more than 150 meters horizontally from the vessel, an all-round white light or a cone apex upward in the direction of the gear; and when making way through the water, in addition to the lights prescribed in this paragraph, sidelights and a sternlight.

Things You Should Know

Operation of any watercraft in a careless or heedless manner so as to be grossly indifferent to the person or property of other persons or at a rate of speed greater than will permit him in the exercise of reasonable care to bring the watercraft to a stop within the assured clear distance ahead shall be guilty of the crime of careless operation.

Operation of any watercraft in such a manner so as to endanger the life or limb or damage the property of any person shall be guilty of the crime of reckless operation.

Any person who by the operation of any watercraft at an immoderate rate of speed or in a careless, reckless, or negligent manner shall cause the death of another shall be guilty of the crime of negligent homicide.

No person shall operate any watercraft in a manner which shall unreasonably or unnecessarily interfere with other watercraft or with the free and proper navigation of the waterways of the state. Anchoring under bridges or in heavily traveled channels shall constitute such interference if unreasonable under the prevailing circumstances.

No person shall operate any motorboat or vessel or manipulate any water ski, surfboard, or similar device while intoxicated or under the influence of any narcotic drug, barbiturate, or marijuana.
It shall be unlawful for the owner of any watercraft or any person having such in charge or in control to authorize or knowingly permit the same to be operated by any person who is intoxicated or under the influence of any narcotic drug, barbiturate, or marijuana.

It shall be unlawful for the owner of any watercraft or any person having such in charge or in control to authorize or knowingly permit the same to be operated by any person who by reason of physical or mental disability is incapable of operating such watercraft under the prevailing circumstances.

Vessel Collisions, Boat Accidents, Casualties, and Theft Reporting

An operator involved in a boating crash, collision or other casualty must stop his or her vessel immediately at the scene of the incident. The operator must also render assistance to injured persons or attempt to minimize any danger caused by the incident unless doing so would create serious danger to his own vessel, crew, and passengers.

The operator must give his or her name, address, and the identifying number of his or her vessel in writing to anyone injured from the incident and to the owner of any damaged property.

The operator of a vessel involved in a collision, crash, or other casualty involving a recreational vessel and resulting in death or injury to a person, disappearance of a person from a vessel, property damage in excess of five hundred dollars ($500), or complete loss of a vessel must give notice of the incident immediately, by the most prompt means of communication, to LDWF's Law Enforcement Division, the nearest law enforcement agency, or to state police. The number to report an incident to LDWF is 1-800-442-2511.

The driver of any vessel involved in a collision, crash, or other casualty as described previously must forward a department-approved incident report form to LDWF within five days of the incident.

Reports must be submitted to LDWF, Boating Safety and Waterway Enforcement, P.O. Box 98000, Baton Rouge, LA 70898-9000. Reports in other cases must be submitted within 5 days.

When a registered boat is lost, stolen, destroyed, or abandoned, the owner must notify LDWF within 15 days, file a LDWF Stolen Boat Report, so that the certificate of registration can be cancelled. In cases where a boat is lost or stolen, the owner shall also report the incident to local law enforcement authorities having jurisdiction, and request that the stolen boat information be entered into the crime information network. Report the boat's registration number, the owner's name and mailing address and any distinctive boat markings.


No watercraft shall be loaded with passengers or cargo beyond its safe carrying capacity taking into consideration weather and other existing operating conditions.


No watercraft shall be equipped with any motor or other propulsion machinery beyond its safe power capacity taking into consideration the type and construction of such watercraft and other existing operating conditions.

Riding on Decks and Gunwales

No person operating a motor boat of 26 feet or less in length shall allow any person to ride or sit on either the starboard or part gunwales thereof or on the decking over the bow of the vessel while underway unless such motorboat is provided with adequate guards or railing to prevent passengers from being lost overboard. This activity makes it easy to fall from a boat and leads to serious injuries and death in many cases.

Restricted Areas

No person shall operate a watercraft within a water area which has been marked, in accordance with and as authorized by the laws of the state, by buoys or some other distinguishing device as a bathing, swimming, or otherwise restricted area.


No motorboat which shall have in tow or shall be otherwise assisting a person on waterskis, surfboard, or similar contrivance shall be operated or propelled in or upon any waterway unless such motorboat shall be occupied by at least two competent persons; however motorboats used by representatives of duly constituted water-ski schools in the giving of instruction or to motorboats used in duly authorized water-ski tournaments, competitions, expositions, or trials therefore if applicable permit has been obtained from the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries or the United States Coast Guard. This does not apply to a motorboat being operated by a person sixteen years old or older, which is equipped with a wide-angle convex marine rearview mirror of a minimum size of seven inches by fourteen inches in a position to observe the skiers being towed.


It shall be unlawful to use a motorboat unless the same is provided with an efficient muffler, underwater exhaust, or other modern device capable of adequately muffling the sound of the exhaust of the engine.

Backfire Flame Arrestors

Every motorboat shall have the carburetor or carburetors of every engine therein, except outboard motors, using gasoline as fuel equipped with such efficient flame arrestor, backfire trap, or other similar device.

Gasoline engines installed after April 25, 1940, except outboard motors, must be equipped as stated in the above paragraph. The device must be suitably attached to the air intake with a flame tight connection and is required to be Coast Guard approved or comply with SAE J-1928 or UL 1111 standards and marked accordingly.

Possession of Boat or Motor with Serial Number Removed

No person shall possess an outboard motor or motorboat from which the manufacturer's identification plates bearing the serial number or hull identification number have been removed or altered. An outboard motor or motorboat without these numbers is considered contraband and shall be seized.

Boat Registration

All boats with motors, including electric trolling motors, operating on the waters of the state, must be registered and numbered. Boat registration applications are available from most boat dealerships, and on the LDWF web site, from any of the Wildlife and Fisheries District Offices or from Wildlife and Fisheries, Boat Registration, P.O. Box 14796, Baton Rouge, LA 70898, phone number 225-765-2898.

After completing the application, mail it with your check or money order to the above address and allow 6 to 8 weeks for processing.

Upon receipt of your application and all other required documentation, the Department will issue you a certificate of registration, stating the number assigned to the boat, two decals, and an expiration date of three years from the date of issuance.

Your boat registration certificate must be on board the vessel at all times. Keep it in some type of waterproof container in a safe place where it can be readily found by the owner.

The number assigned and no other shall be painted on or attached to each side of the forward half of the vessel's hull. The letters and numbers must be of a plain block design, not less than three inches high, and of a color that will contrast with the hull, light numbers on a dark hull or vice versa, and placed so that it is clearly visible and legible. The number and letters must be vertical and plain. Border, outline, or shadowing, must be disregarded in determining height or color contrast. Between the prefix, the numerals, and the suffix, there must be a hyphen or space equal to the width of a number, except 1 or letter, except I. Examples of correct number display are: LA-4002-CS OR LA 4002 GS.

Decals received from the Department must be attached to each side of the vessel's bow within six inches of the numbers.

When your boat registration expires it must be renewed within sixty (60) days of the expiration date. The expiration date is printed on the face of the registration certificate. Renewal notices are mailed to the last known address 15 days prior to the month in which the expiration expires. Upon receipt of your renewal notice and applicable fees, your boat will be renewed for three years. Renewal can also be accomplished by submitting a Motorboat Registration Application with the renewal box marked along with appropriate fees. Applications are available online at, or from dealerships and Wildlife and Fisheries district offices. If the certificate of registration expires, the numbers must be REINSTATED.

Certificates of registration that have not expired or have been cancelled can be transferred. When a boat changes hands, the original numbers issued to that boat are transferred to the new owner.

When a boat is sold, the Department must be notified within 15 days of the date of the sale. The Motorboat Registration Application can be used for this purpose.

Registration number, hull identification number, and proof of ownership must be included with an application for transfer of ownership. Proof of ownership may be the certificate of registration card with the reassignment of ownership on the reverse side completed and signed by the prior owner, or a notarized bill of sale.

If a certificate of registration is lost or destroyed, the boat owner must notify the Department or in writing within 15 days, describing the circumstances of the loss. In addition, the owner must make application for a duplicate certificate.

The Department must be notified in writing of any change in the mailing address of the owner of a boat registered within the state, within 15 days of the change.

It is always a good idea to put some kind of marking on or in a boat the only the owner of the boat can identify. This type of mark identification will aid enforcement agents in identifying the boat specifically to the owner who divulges this private information on boats that have been altered in appearance.

Before registration, all boats purchased from a boat dealer in Louisiana or a boat coming in from out of state must show proof that all state and local sales taxes have been paid. This may be shown on a bill of sale from a dealership or a Tax Certification Form completed and signed by the Department of Revenue and Taxation Officer and the local tax authority in your parish of residence. Tax certification is not required on a casual sale between individuals within Louisiana if the boat is already registered in Louisiana.

A hull identification number is a 12-digit combination of letters and numbers located on the outside transom in quarter-inch minimum letters. All boats constructed after November 1, 1972, must have this number permanently displayed on the boat by the manufacturer before the boat can be sold. (Boats manufactured prior to this date will have a metal tag serial number.)

All owners of homemade boats will be assigned a hull identification number by LDWF before the vessel can be registered.

It is a violation of State and Federal law to possess any boat or motor from which the hull identification or serial number has been removed. Salvage or found boats, or boats with no identification markings must be reported immediately to LDWF. Boats of this type will not be eligible for registration until a physical inspection has been performed by an LDWF enforcement agent.

Marine Sanitation Devices

All recreational boats with installed toilet facilities must have an operable marine sanitation device (MSD) on board. Vessels 65 feet and under may use a Type I, II, or III MSD. Vessels over 65 feet must install a Type II or III MSD. All installed MSDs must be U.S. Coast Guard-certified. U.S. Coast Guard-certified devices are labeled as such, except for some holding tanks, which are certified by definition under the regulations.

When operating a vessel on a body of water where the discharge of treated or untreated sewage is prohibited the operator must secure the device in a manner which prevents any discharge. Some acceptable methods are: padlocking overboard discharge valves in the closed position, using non releasable wire tie to hold overboard discharge valves in the closed position, closing overboard discharge valves and removing the handle, locking the door, with padlock or keylock, to the space enclosing the toilets (for Type I and Type II only).

Pollution Control

It is a violation of the Federal Pollution Control Act to pump or discharge any kind of oil or oily waste that causes a film or discoloration or the surface of the water or causes a sludge or emulsion beneath the surface of the water into navigable waters. Persons found with oily waters in the bilges of their vessel must be able to show how they intend to dispose of it according to proper procedure.

Boats 26 feet or longer should display a 5" X 8" sign near the bilge pump control station stating the regulations of the Federal Pollution Control Act.


The Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (MARPOL ANNEX V) places limitations on the discharge of garbage from vessels. It is illegal to dump plastic trash anywhere in the ocean or navigable waters of the United States. It is also illegal to discharge garbage in the navigable waters of the United States. The discharge of other types of garbage is permitted outside of specific distances offshore as determined by the nature of that garbage.

U.S. vessels of 26 feet or longer must display in a prominent location, a durable placard at least 4 by 9 inches notifying the crew and passengers of the discharge restrictions.

U.S. oceangoing vessels of 40 feet or longer, which are engaged in commerce or are equipped with a galley and berthing nust have a written Waste Management Plan describing the procedures for collecting, processing, storing and discharging garbage, and designate the person who is in charge of carrying out the plan.

Termination Order

There are certain conditions under which a law enforcement agent may observe especially hazardous conditions aboard a vessel. The operator may be directed to take immediate steps to correct the condition, including returning to port. Some examples where termination may be imposed are:

  • Fuel in bilges
  • Fuel leakage
  • Insufficient number of USCG approved personal flotation devices
  • No or insufficient fire extinguishers
  • Improper navigation light display
  • Overloading beyond recommended safe loading capacity (Capacity Plate)
  • Ventilation requirements for tank and engine spaces not met or up to standard
  • No or improper backfire flame arrestor
  • Manifestly unsafe voyage
  • Operating in regulated boating areas during permitted marine events.

Safe Boating Tips

  • Plan route as close to shore as can safely be navigated
  • Keep away from areas with fast currents
  • Stay within protected coastlines with surf under one foot
  • Study marine charts and have on board
  • Check weather conditions. Check the weather forecast before you get underway. While boating check forecasts and observe current conditions and be aware of changing weather.
    • Approaching fronts
    • Expected winds and rain storms
    • Wind velocity and direction
    • Fog possibilities
    • Tidal conditions
  • Rollover protection
  • Wear protective clothing
  • Expect to get wet
  • Wear a wet suit (hypothermia)
  • Have extra jacket or space blanket
  • Wear a life jacket that's the proper size and fit. Most fatalities occur when someone falls overboard or the boat capsizes. Nine out of ten people who drown are not wearing life jackets. Don't mix alcohol and boating. More that 40% of fatal boating accidents involve alcohol use by the boat operator or passengers.
  • Learn and practice safety procedures
  • Learn and practice extrication and re-entry procedure
    • Slide belly onto vessel, then bend legs to enter vessel, stay balanced
  • Learn and practice assisted rescue
    • Practice in controlled conditions with other observers
    • Practice while wearing a PFD
  • Know and avoid hazards
    • Weather conditions, wind, squalls, lightning, waves, shallows, currents, tides, stumps, debris, other boat traffic, commercial boat traffic, vessel failures, medical conditions, wind temperature and water temperature, etc.
  • Learn and practice boating skills before taking trip, i.e. beaching in surf, avoiding obstacles in current, making safe harbor in lightning storms, righting vessel, vessel flotation, emergency calls, self rescue techniques, etc.
  • Plan route so emergency assistance can reach if needed. Leave a float plan with a friend or relative.
  • Establish group leadership, coordination, and spacing
  • Establish alcohol and drug control policy for trip
  • Follow navigation rules. Know where your danger zone is. Stay on the correct side of the waterway.
  • Ski in a counter-clockwise direction and only in open areas with little or no boat traffic. 
  • Don't overload your boat with people or equipment. 
  • Don't develop a lead foot on the throttle. Maintain a safe speed for the conditions that exist.
  • When driving a large vessel, slow down when passing smaller boats in narrow channels.
  • When operating a jet ski, stay away from larger boats and don't try jumping their wakes. A jet ski is a Class A motorboat and is bound by the same rules as other vessels on the water.
  • Always use a hand-hold when moving about in or on any vessel. Never stand in or on a vessel that is underway.

Lake Bistineau May 5, 2010 Update


As the lake continues to lower to 7 feet below pool stage level, our fisheries staff is preparing to evaluate the lake bottom and acquire sufficient data to plan for lake bottom renovations.  Any approved plan to move dirt will require prior approval by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  We will work cooperatively with this federal agency during the summer. 

The plan is to incorporate fish habitat improvements while addressing the issue of drying lagoons during drawdown events.  We’re confident that we can accomplish both simultaneously.  The earliest any dirt work can be accomplished is the summer of 2011, and it will require an approved Corps permit and a commitment by the National Guard.

Our fisheries staff observed salvinia re-emergence around the lake.  The plants are small and dispersed, making treatment with contact herbicides impractical at this point.  Spray crews will treat areas where plants are heavily accumulated.

As noted in the plan, cypress tree removal in some areas is necessary to encourage salvinia mats to move to shallow areas, increase boating safety and decrease leaf litter.  Over the next few months, while the lake is down, our fisheries staff will identify trees that will satisfy one or more of these needs.  In addition, we encourage any timber company interested in harvesting/salvaging cypress trees under our supervision to contact Mark McElroy in the Baton Rouge office at 225-765-2865.

Going forward, prior notice (of one week or more) will be posted on this website to notify the public of the opening and closing of the control structure gates.  For now, the gates will remain open to allow time to accomplish the activities described above.  Hopefully, we can complete our work quickly so that we can resume fluctuating water levels in an effort to control salvinia growth.  

Mark McElroy
Fisheries Biologist

Lake Bistineau April 12, 2010 Update


There will be a public meeting to discuss the Lake Bistineau Rehabilitation Plan at the Lake Bistineau State Park, Area 1, Boat Launch Pavilion on April 17, at 9 a.m.  Mark McElroy from LDWF will attend the meeting to discuss aspects of the plan and answer questions. 

Those planning to attend the meeting are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the plan posted below.  

Lake Bistineau March 10, 2010 Update


Temperatures are rising and "green-up" is around the corner. Fishing activity has increased over the last few weeks as the crappie, or white perch run has noticeably commenced. With summer just a few weeks ahead, inquiries about the lake level have increased. The most commonly asked question is, "What will the lake levels be during the summer?" My response is, "We don’t know." Plans are to fluctuate the water level throughout the summer, and I believe the lake level will be anywhere from pool stage to seven feet below pool stage. Rain events and implementation of a plan to address giant salvinia will dictate water levels. Next week, Secretary Robert Barham and Assistant Secretary Randy Pausina will be briefed on the plan.

Aquatic herbicide spray treatments commenced this week. The primary purpose of these initial treatments is to break up salvinia mats in order to facilitate their movement. We need the mats to move to areas we can potentially strand during water fluctuations. A remote sensing fly-over will be conducted for Lake Bistineau on Monday, March 15.

This Thursday, we will examine the lake by boat to locate mats with GPS (coordinates will be used in the fly-over), to understand how the lowering of the lake is affecting stranded plants and to further evaluate freeze damage. Initial evaluation of the plants indicates winter freezes caused significant damage to the plants, including bud damage.

Salvinia weevils were not detected in samples taken from the lake last week. We believe at this point that very few, if any weevils, survived the winter. A video flyover will be conducted as early as next week to determine and document winter effects on the lake. This will serve as a baseline just prior to the beginning of the growing season.

The department has no involvement with the airboat traffic and markers associated with the seismic activity on the lake. Those individuals are permitted to conduct this work, and we are not involved with their daily activities.

We’ve met with officials from Webster Parish regarding preliminary plans to construct a new boating access facility with access capability at minus seven feet. Our department is interested in assisting the parish to fund this endeavor. Enhancing and promoting boating and fishing access is very important us and is therefore addressed prominently in the plan.

We want to encourage everyone interested in working with the department to rehabilitate Lake Bistineau to stay informed and engaged. We can’t do this by ourselves, and we appreciate your interest and involvement.

On a personal note, working with the folks in the region has been very helpful and something that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed as we work through this process. It helps when everyone generally wants the same thing.

Mark McElroy
Fisheries Biologist

Lake Bistineau February 18, 2010 Update


I have received several questions recently regarding the current status of the lake and future plans.  I’ll take this opportunity to try and answer these as best as I can.

First, there is some seismic work for gas exploration being conducted on the lake which is why you’re seeing airboats and flagging.

Our plan does stipulate that cypress trees are contributing to poor water quality and lagoon building which promotes nursery building for giant salvinia growth.  Some cypress tree removal is recommended in our plan.

As of last Friday, the water level was three inches above pool stage.  Since the drawdown was initiated on September 16 (5 months ago), the water level has risen three inches.  The unusual fall and winter rain events have countered our intentions.  Unfortunately, we are also approaching the spring rainy season. 

I’ve received multiple inquiries regarding research by Dr. Lynn Walker at Louisiana Tech University.  We are very interested in his work and will continue to monitor his progress.  We will of course consider use of his research should he successful in acquiring an EPA label for use on giant salvinia.  As I understand, they are still conducting experimental trials and working on ways to ramp up production at this time.  However, let me remind everyone that EPA requires loads of statistical testing/reports in their consideration. Conducting these trials is very costly and will take time, probably years.  Our department will not use any herbicide for control of giant salvinia without a label stipulating its use for that plant.  

Right now, we suspect the salvinia weevils did not survive the freeze events.  We plan to reintroduce additional weevils later this summer pending their availability.  Additional samples will be taken next week to confirm our suspicions. 

We may need to close the gates again in the near future to remove the debris building up on the lake side. 

Next week, we will conduct a meeting to consider herbicide treatments in the lake for 2010.  I anticipate that as spring approaches, we will be putting crews out on the lake.


Mark McElroy
Fisheries Biologist

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