Our country has always been a country of law and order. There once was a deep-seated respect for the laws whatever those laws were trying to control or enforce. However, that respect for our laws has slowly been weakened in many areas in recent years.
As an angler myself, I am saddened to see the actions of some anglers who disregard laws and the rights of property owners in their pursuit to catch fish. This is certainly not an indictment of all tournament anglers because many anglers I know are very considerate and respectful of the boating laws and for the rights of property owners. However, a few bad apples can create problems for everyone.
Large numbers of boaters flocked to area lakes over the Memorial Day weekend. Many angling tournaments are held during cooler weather but many will be held in June through July when large numbers of recreational boaters are also on the lake.
At the time I wrote this article, I was aware of one incident over the Memorial Day holiday at Lake Sinclair where a young person almost drowned while swimming. Also, five arrest were made for BUI (Boating Under the Influence) on Lake Sinclair. No boating accidents occurred on Lake Sinclair over that same period. I have not received any information for Lake Oconee for the Memorial Day holiday.
When you have a seemingly greater disregard for boating laws, the result can be tragic accidents with injuries and fatalities. BUI is a serious problem on Georgia lakes and only a few of the offenders are actually caught and fined each year. Some BUI offenders are caught after their involvement in a serious boating accident and some by observation and checks made by Conservation Rangers.
Our lakes are getting more crowded each year. Even if all boaters respect the law and the property of others, some accidents will still occur but when individuals break those boating laws, the likelihood of serious accidents increases.
Without cooperation from boaters, the future may see additional boating restrictions inacted. The number of people and boats utilizing the lakes are increasing but the size of the lakes remains the same. In past years, most boating and skiing occurred primarily in the large open areas of the lake.
As the lakes became more crowded those activities began to take place in coves, near docks and near swimming areas. Laws were inacted to protect other boaters, swimmers and property owners as the lakes became more crowded.
Those changes to the boating laws have been ignored by a large segment of those who boat and fish. In my estimation, the most violated Georgia boating law is the 100-foot rule. I dare say if you surveyed boaters on lakes Oconee or Sinclair, the majority of those boaters would be unable to explain the 100-foot rule that applies to all boaters and that includes Personal Watercraft or jet skis.
The 100-foot law states “No vessel may be operated over idle speed within 100 feet of any moored or anchored vessel, vessel adrift, or any wharf, pier, piling, or persons in the water, or shoreline next to a full-time or part-time residence, public park, public beach, public swimming area, marina, restaurant, or other public use area”. The one area where boaters and landowners come into conflict most often is when boaters operate their boats at other than idle speed within 100 feet of a property owner’s dock or shoreline.
Many coves where property owner’s homes and docks are located are hardly 100-feet wide. The cove where my home is located is not 200 feet wide for two thirds of its length but I have had boaters and jet skis operate at full speed even to the back of the cove where it is not 20 feet wide.
I suggest that all boat owners read the Georgia boating laws that cover operation of your vessel. Enjoy the summer boating season on Lake Sinclair and Lake Oconee but while having fun, understand the rules and how they apply to your boating activities and obey the law. See you next week.
— Outdoors columnist Bobby Peoples can be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com