Mississippi is fortunate to have been blessed with numerous lakes and waterways throughout the state. With 119 public lakes, 123,000 stream miles and 225,000 freshwater acres, including 18 State Park lakes, finding a place to go boating is not hard. For Mississippi’s many avid boaters, water sports enthusiasts, and fishermen (and women), the state offers abundant opportunities for recreation on the water.
Boating is an activity that can be enjoyed year round in the temperate Mississippi climate, but there is no doubt that more of us get the itch to hit the lakes when the weather and the water start to warm up. The Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation promotes boating and fishing as unmatched leisure activities that help make a true connection with family, friends and the natural environment. This year’s National Fishing and Boating Week, is June 2-10. It’s a great time to get the family out on the lake for some fun.
National Fishing and Boating Week – June 2 – 10, 2012
The MS Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Promotes Safe Boating
In 1989, the Mississippi Bureau of Parks and Recreation merged with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife Conservation to form the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP). The MDWFP is charged with the mission to conserve, develop, and protect Mississippi’s natural resources and provide continuing outdoor recreation opportunities. That includes licensing, enforcing and managing the use of Mississippi’s lakes and streams.
The MDWFP has some important tips for Mississippi boaters, to be prepared for a safe outing on the water.
Before going out…
Fueling a vessel:
• Never fuel at night unless it is an emergency. If you must refuel after dark, use only electric lights. Try to refuel away from the water or on a commercial fueling ramp.
• The most important safe fueling practice… If your vessel is equipped with a power ventilation system, turn it on for at least four minutes both after fueling and before starting your engine to remove gas vapors in the bilge.
• Check the weather forecast for the area and time frame during which you will be boating.
• Make sure that the steering and throttle controls operate properly and all lights are working properly.
• Check for any fuel leaks from the tank, fuel lines, and carburetor.
• Check the engine compartment for oil leaks.
• Check hose connections for leaks or cracks, and make sure hose clamps are tight.
• Drain all water from the engine compartment, and be sure the bilge plug is replaced and secure.
• Check to be sure you have a fully charged engine battery and fire extinguishers.
• If so equipped, make sure the ignition safety switch and wrist lanyards are in good order.
• Make sure you have the required number of personal flotation devices (PFDs), and check that they are in good condition.
• Leave a float plan with a reliable friend or relative.
• PFDs (required for anyone 12 and under)
• Navigation lights
• Fire extinguishers
• Ventilation systems
• Backfire flame arrestors
• Sound-producing devices
• Visual distress signals
• Throwable safety devices
On the water…
Encountering other vessels:
Even though no vessel has the “right-of-way” over another vessel, there are some other rules that every operator should follow when encountering other vessels. It is the responsibility of both operators to take the action needed to avoid a collision. To prevent collisions, every operator should follow the three basic rules of navigation: Practice good seamanship. Keep a sharp lookout. Maintain a safe speed and distance.
Weather can change very rapidly and create unexpected situations for boat operators. Even meteorologists have trouble predicting rapid weather changes. You should always monitor weather developments.
Unlawful or dangerous operation:
Remember – vessel owners are responsible… As an owner of a vessel, you may be held civilly liable if you allow others to operate your vessel recklessly.
Alcohol and drugs:
The Mississippi Alcohol Boating Safety Act prohibits anyone from operating a boat powered by a motor of 25 horsepower or greater while intoxicated due to alcohol, controlled substance, or drugs. “Don’t Drink and Boat!”
Anyone born June 30, 1980 and after must take a boater safety course before operating a boat.
For more information on boater safety, visit http://www.mdwfp.com/law-enforcement/boating-rules-regs.aspx or call 601-432-2400.