ODNR clarifies rule about fishing from pontoon boats
COLUMBUS – The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Division of Watercraft has clarified how its officers enforce a state boating law with regard to fishing from the forward deck (bow) of a pontoon boat while it is being operated with an electric trolling motor.
The agency said it continues to promote sport fishing and safe boating practices and is encouraging its marine patrol partners and other local marine patrol officers statewide to follow its waterways enforcement guideline with regard to fishing from pontoon boats.
Under current state law, no occupant of any vessel underway on Ohio waterways may sit, stand or walk upon any portion of the vessel not specifically designed for that movement, unless it is immediately necessary for safe and reasonable vessel navigation or operation. This law, for example, could prohibit a vessel occupant from fishing from the bow of a pontoon boat outside its forward deck rail when it is in operation and the trolling motor is operated by a remote control device.
“We have directed our officers to permit fishing and the operation of a boat in a nonapproved area of the boat, such as outside the main gated deck area of pontoon boats, regardless of the type of trolling motor used,” said Todd Doncyson, law enforcement administrator for the Division of Watercraft. “We are aware that technology allows for remote control of a trolling motor from behind a pontoon deck railing, but our officers will not treat them any different than an operator of a regular tiller and foot pedal trolling motor and this only applies to the vessel operator. “
The clarification from the Division of Watercraft comes in response to concerns from boaters who may not have a clear understanding of the current boating law with regard to the illegal and unsafe practice of riding upon the bow of a boat while it is underway.
The Division of Watercraft promotes boating safety, recreational sport fishing and enforcement of state boating laws in a manner that also keeps waterways safe. “We care about the safety of Ohio boaters and anglers and also encourage they follow safe boating practices that include wearing an approved life jacket or vest, staying sober and keeping a proper lookout anytime while out on the water,” said Doncyson.
Ohio’s boating laws, boat safety tips and other boating information can be found online at www.ohiodnr.com/watercraft and be referring to the Division’s publication “Ohio Boat Operators Guide” that may be obtained by calling toll-free 1-877-4BOATER.