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Use common sense boating on busy lakes

There have been a few incidents on the water over the past week to ten days that prompt me to talk about safety. I think the timing is also good, as we will again have a large number of visitors to our area after wrapping up the County Fair and the upcoming WE Fest. Some of the dangerous situations over the last 10 days are all about not using good common sense while boating. Not all the incidences have involved fisherman, but since fisherman are on the water with other recreational boaters, we have to use the same philosophy as driving a car on the road -- drive defensively.

I was on the water during the several days of morning fog we had a little more than a week ago and contended with boaters running wide open on the lake in the fog with no lights. There were other boaters on the water also with no lights on their boats while fishing in the fog. Both situations are dangerous for obvious reasons. I had a hard time feeling safe sitting in my boat with my lights on. In low light, low visibility situations, turn your bow and anchor lights on, if you don't have them, stay off the water in these situations until you are equipped with them.

I have also encountered boats, pontoons, sailboats, and even jet skis on the water after dark with no lights. Jet skis aren't even supposed to be on the lake after dark! This is scary and frustrating. Law enforcement cannot be everywhere (and shouldn't have to be) to enforce these issues. Common sense needs to rule with people using watercraft on our area lakes. Every year we have boaters running into other boaters, and thankfully not as many fatalities as there could be from the high-risk behaviors.

I also continue to observe passengers in tiller boats riding in the bow seat. This is not only dangerous for the passenger, but it is dangerous for the whole boat and other boaters on the lake due to driving with obstructed vision. Please stop this behavior for everyone's sake!

Watch out on the water for pleasure boaters pulling people on tubes. I know they aren't meaning to cut in front of other boats that are traveling at high speeds, but it happens, and has happened to me several times this last week. I have also experienced this over the last week or two with speedboats, skiers, and jet skis. So, again, drive defensively.

When you are fishing on a few of the high use recreational lakes in our area you have to be highly aware of other boaters and be on your guard. It is predictable that we will have a higher number of late night and early morning swimmers and bathers over the next week or two, so make sure you are careful out there.

Make sure you have life vests, throw cushion, fire extinguisher, boat lights, flashlight, first aid kit, and an air horn on board. We hope we will never have to use the safety equipment, but you just never know. Make good decisions and use common sense on the water during these high traffic times.

(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)