Marine News from the Great Lakes

What You Donít Know About Boating In Ohio

Published: Wednesday, June 12, 2019
By: Pat Brown, Boating Law Administrator at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources

From the beautiful shores of Lake Erie to the waters of the great Ohio River, Ohio offers aquatic adventures for all ages to enjoy. Whether you are interested in a leisurely cruise, wakeboarding, a fishing charter, kayaking, or stand-up paddleboarding, Ohio is the perfect place to be on the water.

With many opportunities come responsibilities, so Ohio has rules and laws in place to help keep Ohio’s boaters safe. Here are some unique Ohio boating laws that people may not know about:

Navigation Lights

Powerboats are required to have navigational lights that include a red and green bow light and an all-around white light on the stern. However, boaters cannot have any other lights that impair the visibility or distinct character of the navigational lights, such as LED or Christmas lights. This rule also applies to the use of docking lights or spotlights while on the water, although occasional use of such lights to look for hazards is ok.

Mandatory Child Life Jacket / Personal Flotation Wear

In Ohio, all boats are required to have enough wearable life jackets for everyone on board. However, any child under the age of 10 must always wear their life jacket while on a boat less than 18 feet long. We recommend that adults always wear life jackets while boating to stay safe.


Sitting, Standing, Walking on Moving Vessels

Moving vessels can be very dangerous for passengers if they aren’t paying attention. In Ohio, occupants are not allowed to sit, stand, or walk in areas not designated for the intended purpose by the manufacturer on vessels that are moving. We see this often in pontoon boats with boaters sitting on the front deck, sitting in the fishing pedestal seats on fishing boats, or laying on the rear engine cover while a powerboat is underway.

Paddlecraft Registration

In Ohio, all recreational vessels need to be registered, but some people may not realize this includes kayaks and canoes.

Education is key to having a safe and enjoyable day on the water so know the rules before you head out this summer. Learn more by visiting the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Parks and Watercraft website at

This article first appeared in the Launch Issue (May/Jun) 2019 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.

tags: Lake Erie, Law & Politics, Boating 101

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