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Safety on the lakes: DNR cautions boaters about the busy weekend ahead

Published: Jul. 2, 2021 at 6:06 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is cautioning boaters as they head out to the water this weekend.

Wisconsin’s active boat registrations are up by about 20,000 compared to pre-pandemic numbers.

This influx of new boaters combined with the hot, holiday weekend means more people will likely be on the water.

“If the weather is nice and it is the weekend, then it’s our favorite place to be!” Charles Thomas, a Madison boater said. Thomas said when he is in a boat, on the water, he is on alert.

“We see people doing stupid stuff all the time,” Thomas said. “There are people in no wake zones that are whipping their jet skis around, in crowded areas, people flooring their boats and making big rooster tails, and all of that can come back to bite you.”

Twenty-five-year fishing guide Jeff Hanson has also seen his share of bad boating.

“On the fourth I’m taking the day off, just because the lakes are so crazy on the fourth,” Hanson said. “Actually, coming in today a guy about backed into me because he had five people standing behind him, so I had to swerve out of the way for him.” Lieutenant Darren Kuhn, Boating Law Administrator with the Wisconsin DNR said these examples are not the only kind of reckless behavior that could land you with a ticket. “There are all sorts of data out there about drunk driving on the water,” Kuhn said.

Kuhn said when the captain decides to drink, they are putting more people at risk than just those on the lake.

“Now you take that intoxicated boat operator and put them behind the wheel of a car or truck pulling a boat on our highways,” Kuhn said.

Boaters say it comes down to common sense and respect. “Just be aware that you’re not alone, there’s a lot of boats, there’s a lot of traffic, there are swimmers,” Thomas said.

“Give people a lot of space and you won’t have accidents, just pay attention to what you’re doing,” Hanson said.

Throughout the holiday weekend, there is also a national campaign going on called ‘Operation Dry Water.’ It reminds boaters not to drink and drive when they are behind the wheel on the water.

Kuhn said in addition to a sober driver, wearing your life jacket while on the boat, is just as important.

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