As the summer boating season begins, FWP urges all boaters to follow three basic rules on the water:

  • Designate      a skipper who won't drink alcoholic beverages while the boat is on the      water.
  • Have      approved lifejackets on board and readily accessible for every passenger,      and require children under 12 years of age to abide by the law and wear      their lifejackets when the boat is in motion.
  • Do      not exceed a boat's safe carrying capacity. Boats that are over loaded or      unbalanced are more likely to capsize.




Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks reminds boat operators to take a boating safety course. FWP’s boat education program includes a home-study course or on-line education course for motorboat and personal watercraft operators.

Motorboat operator’s age 13 and 14 are required to complete a boating course before operating a vessel with no adult on board. Persons 13 years of age or older who successfully complete the course will receive a motorboat operator's certificate.

Information about Montana's boating courses is available on the FWP website at , go to the Education page and click Outdoor Recreation then Boating, Floating, and Kayaking.

To obtain the motorboat home-study course packet, contact the nearest regional FWP office, or call FWP at 406-444-2535.

Boating classes are also offered by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. For your safety and the safety of others, please be certain you know Montana's boating rules and regulations.



Owners of motorboats, sailboats or personal watercraft need to get new, free 2014-2017 validation decals for their watercraft soon. The current orange decals expired Feb. 28.

Boaters who have permanently registered their boats, sailboats, or PWC must still obtain two free boat validation decals every three years at FWP regional and area offices, or by going to the FWP website at; click Boat Validation Decals.

Owners who order validation decals on the FWP website will receive the decals in the mail. Information included on a current boat registration receipt issued by the County Treasurer is needed to obtain the decals in person or on FWP's website.

For new boat or PWC owners, the County Treasurer's office will provide the first set of validation decals when the watercraft is registered. Boat owners will obtain subsequent sets of validation decals at a FWP regional or area office, or online.

For more information, visit FWP's webpage or call FWP at 406-444-2535.




In Montana, the most common types of boating accidents are collisions with another vessel, capsizing, collision with fixed or floating objects and falling overboard.

"There have been 31 boating fatalities in Montana in the past four years," said Ron Jendro, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks recreational boating safety administrator. "Boating accidents that result in more than $100 in damage must be reported to FWP. All accidents that result in the death or disappearance of someone, and injuries that require medical treatment, also must be reported."

Factors that contribute to accidents include operator inattention, operator inexperience, hazardous water and excessive speed. Alcohol, however, may be the most devastating contributing factor, Jendro said.

FWP is responsible for enforcing Montana's boating laws. For more on Montana's boating laws and safety, go to the FWP website at on the Education page and click Outdoor Recreation then Boating, Floating, and Kayaking.



If you recreate on the water, it is your responsibility to know and understand the "no-wake" rules in effect on Montana waters. That includes operators of personal watercraft.

In general, the same rules apply to all types of watercraft.

Here is a quick rundown on no-wake zones.

No-wake zones are in effect on all lakes and reservoirs in the state west of the Continental Divide in the Western Fishing District. Also, all commercial marinas have no-wake zones near their facilities. These rules help reduce the impact of vessel traffic on the shoreline, boat marinas, other recreators and residents with lakeside property.

"No-wake" means a vessel must travel at a speed where there is no "white" water in the track or path of the vessel, or in waves created by the vessel.

All watercraft operating on public lakes and reservoirs under 35 acres in the Western Fishing District are limited to traveling at no-wake speed. A list of these waters is available on the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks website at

On waters greater than 35 surface acres west of the Continental Divide, watercraft must travel at no-wake speed from the shoreline to 200 feet from the shoreline. Exceptions are:

  • personal watercraft, which must maintain a minimum      operating speed to remain upright and maneuver in the water, may travel at      that minimum operating speed following the most direct route through the      no-wake zone to and from shore;
  • motorized watercraft towing a skier from or to a      dock or the shore, except that watercraft must travel the most direct      route through the no-wake zone;
  • these lakes located within the Thompson Chain of      Lakes in Lincoln county: Crystal Lake; Horseshoe Lake; Loon Lake; Lower      Thompson Lake; McGregor Lake; Middle Thompson Lake; Upper lobe of Upper      Thompson.
  • Lake Five in Flathead County.

Boating laws and other water recreation rules are available on FWP's website at Go to Recreation, Rules and Regulations, then Boating.