Daylight saving time has kicked into high gear and more and more people are heading to the lake to enjoy a day of fun in the sun. Increased traffic can mean longer wait times at the boat ramps to start your day and conclude at the end of your trip.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has some tips to help everyone out and keep the line running smoothly at your favorite fishing and boating destination.
WORK WHILE YOU WAIT
Don’t wait until you’ve backed up the ramp to transfer your equipment from the tow vehicle to the boat or unhook the boat from the trailer. Pull to the side and get your gear ready there. If you’re waiting for the ramp, go ahead and take advantage of this time to prepare.
SAVE THE BIB
Don’t keep others waiting while you chat with your fishing buddy about where to go, unless you want those behind you to come up with colorful suggestions.
DON’T FORGET THE TAKE
Always make sure the boat’s drain plug is where it’s supposed to be, when launching the boat and after you’re done for the day. Leaving the plug in place can get the boat below the surface quite quickly, and many boats only have access to the plug location from outside the vessel, so putting that plug in place after launch can be a mess humid.
Removing the ramp plug at the end of your day can help prevent another kind of wet mess. Giant salvinia, zebra mussel larvae and many other harmful aquatic species can spread in water that may be trapped in the hold and holding tanks. To protect Arkansas waters, the AGFC enacted a rule in 2021 requiring all boaters to remove all drain plugs, including livewell plugs, before leaving the boat launch at the end. of their exit. Visit www.agfc.com/invasivespecies for more information on how to prevent the spread of these pest species.
PRACTICAL WHEN IT’S SLOW
Don’t wait for a weekend during peak boating season to practice backing up the trailer and launching your boat. Go to an uncrowded boat launch one afternoon and take your time while few people are there. Not only will you improve your ability to reverse the vehicle, but you can develop a routine that will give you confidence that you haven’t left anything behind.
When people are waiting, it can be easy to panic and backtrack too quickly. Remember the adage, “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” Take your time and make small adjustments. If you start to wander, take a moment and try your luck again. Backing up a trailer isn’t easy when you’re just starting out. And if you’re one of the people in line who sees someone struggling, be patient and let them understand without honking or rushing them. It can cause an even bigger mess if they panic and get sideways on the ramp.
Make sure you have enough life jackets for the people on board your boat before you get to the ramp. State law requires all boats under 16 feet in length to have a US Coast Guard-approved portable personal flotation device on board for each passenger. Boats 16 feet and larger also require an additional disposable PFD. Children under the age of 13 must wear their life jackets at all times on board a boat, unless they are in the enclosed area of a houseboat, cruiser or party barge and that the boat is not under way. Go ahead and put on the life jacket before jumping into the boat at the ramp as well and lead by example.
DON’T GO TOO DEEP
One of the most common mistakes new boaters make when loading the boat at the end of the day is putting the trailer too far out in the water. You want the bottom of the boat to contact the trailer when it reaches halfway. He can then slide straight up from the berths. If the trailer is too deep, the berths will not guide the boat and the boat will slide from side to side when you try to get the trailer out of the water. Once you find the sweet spot, note where the water level touches the wheels or another part of the trailer so you can get it right every time.
PARK IN THE RIGHT PLACE
If you are towing a trailer, park in the long spaces designated for your truck. If you are using a kayak, canoe or encounter someone with the boat and you are driving a car or truck that does not have a trailer behind it, try to find a parking spot that is not reserved for vehicles towed.
DON’T LET YOUR BOAT BE A SLED
Unhook the boat from the winch once the boat is in the water, not before. Also be sure to hook up the winch before heading out of the water at the end of the day. It’s rare, but boats can slip off the trailer berths if not secured on a steep ramp. Attach the trailer tie-down straps and transfer the equipment to the tow vehicle in the parking lot, not on the ramp.
These tips are just a few of the things anglers and boaters can learn through the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s boating education program. Anyone born on or after January 1, 1986 and of legal age to operate a motorboat or sailboat must have successfully completed an approved boating training course and be in possession of proof while operating a motorboat or sailboat on Arkansas waters. To operate a motorboat powered by an engine of 10 horsepower or more, a person must be 12 years of age or older, or be under the direct supervision of someone 18 years of age or older. To operate a personal watercraft, a person must be 16 years of age or older, or be between the ages of 12 and 15 and under the direct supervision of someone at least 18 years of age. Persons under the age of 12 may only operate a personal watercraft under the direct supervision of a person 21 years of age or older.
Visit www.agfc.com/boatered for more information on Boater Education in Arkansas and how to take a course near you to get certified.
Randy Zellers is assistant chief of communications at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.