One in Every 13 Boaters Checked Will Get a Ticket

Tennessee wildlife officers, sometimes better known as game wardens, are responsible for enforcing boating laws in Tennessee. However TWRA also has several full and part-time boating officers who dedicate all of their working hours to boating enforcement. Statistics indicate that statewide, one out of every 13 boats they inspect in the course of a year will likely receive a citation. (Photo courtesy TWRA)

It has been a long time coming but finally we are going to see temperatures climbing into the 80’s in the Chattanooga area. With warmer weather Tennessee boaters will be heading to area lakes in force.

In the spring when the weather and water is still quite cool, most boaters on the water are fishermen. However as the weather grows warmer, more and more recreational boaters will be heading for the lake. (Photo: Richard Simms)

According to the most recent statistics, for every 100,000 boats on the water in Tennessee, 52 of them are going to be involved in some sort of accident or incident. Those might seem like long odds, but if you were playing the lottery, they would be considered excellent odds – especially considering that in 2016 Chickamauga Lake had one of the highest numbers of boating incidents of any lake in the state.

And don’t think it is all kids. The leading age group of boat operators to be involved in an incident was 46 – 50 years old.

Before you hit the water however there are a few things to check out (1) to stay alive, and (2) to avoid getting a citation.

In Tennessee there are roughly 260,000 registered boats. Of course the Volunteer State is blessed with water and that number does not include boaters from surrounding states that come here to fish and play. (Photo: Richard Simms)

First, before you leave the driveway or the marina, check your registration. Just like cars all motorized vessels in Tennessee, including a personal watercraft, must have a valid registration. The total number of registered vessels in Tennessee is roughly 260,000. The cost to register a vessel varies based upon its length.

For boats less than 16 feet long it costs $13 per year (FYI, in 1998 it cost $4 per year). If your boat is between 16 and 26 feet long it costs $25 per year (1998 cost was $8 per year).

Renewals can be done online. You may also renew instantly by going to any business that sells TWRA hunting and fishing licenses. You must have the boat registration TN number and it is very helpful to have your TWRA ID number with you. You will receive a temporary registration which will allow you to operate your boat until your new decals and registration card arrive by mail, in about 2 weeks.

If you have a new boat the dealer should help you in the registration process. If you bought your boat from another individual, the Tennessee Department of Revenue requires that you pay the sales tax. You’ll have to visit your county clerk’s office to pay that and receive certification that the sales tax was paid before you can register it. The registration form can then be mailed or uploaded to the application online.

You are all registered now and ready to hit the water. Don’t do so without double-checking safety gear. This can also vary slightly based upon the length and design of your boat. This chart shows what safety equipment your boat is required to have.

Paddle sports are becoming more and more popular. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has even established a task force to study how best to deal with the growing popularity of paddling. (Photo: Richard Simms)

These days kayaks and standup paddleboards are becoming all the rage. While these vessels are not required to be registered, there are a number of safety requirements. This document outlines your requirements.

Area wildlife officers have been cracking down on paddlers who don’t adhere to the proper lighting requirements.

For motorized vessels, any Tennessee resident born after January 1, 1989 must have in their possession a TWRA-issued card showing proof of successful completion of the TWRA administered boating safety exam if operating alone.
Youngsters under 12 years old may not operate a powered boat of more than 8.5 horsepower unless accompanied by an adult who can take immediate control of the vessel. If the accompanying adult (18 yrs. or older) is born after January 1, 1989, then he/she must have the boating safety certification card onboard.

In 2016 TWRA officers conducted more than 57,000 boat inspections. They issued 4,488 citations. That means that about one out of every 13 boats they inspected got a ticket for some form of violation.

Don’t be one of the unlucky 13. Know before you go!

Boating in Tennessee

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