Safety tips for pleasure boaters

Published 12:01am Sunday, May 25, 2014

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial cast-off of the pleasure boat season.

Surface water temperature of the area lakes was a bit chilly last weekend at 75-76 degrees. With all the sunshine and highs in the 90’s, the temperature has warmed up enough to tolerate the cold water when you fall of your skis and bite the water or, just swimming.

I would guess the lake temperature to be 78 or possibly 80 degrees today. It was amazing at the number of boats I saw Friday and Saturday headed toward our lakes.

Please practice safe boating all the time, but more so on these holiday weekends and this summer.

Help us make this an accident-free pleasure boating season. The captain of the boat should remain sober, of course, and he or she is responsible for all on-board the boat.

With a mix of fishing, ski boats, jet skis and pontoons on the water, our lakes are packed. Our lakes are extremely small as compared to the lakes in other areas.

In Concordia Parish, I spoke with the Lake St. John Lake Committee who, they do an excellent job — unpaid job — managing the lakes, are trying to get the funds to purchase and anchor marker buoys to show people where the mandatory No Wake zones are located.

On Lakes Concordia and St. John, the No Wake Zone is 200 feet out from any pier and 300 feet from the shore. When you are within that zone, it is “dead idle,” meaning put your motor in gear and idle only.

Skiing and high speed boat operation near piers and trees along the shoreline is extremely dangerous, so be aware of these zones. It might help if you think of 300 feet from the shore as 100 yards and 200 feet as about 66-67 yards.

You could get a ticket running on plane in the No Wake Zone. As most know, I own and operate a marine dealership and service center. Our service department, like all dealerships this time of year, was packed this month. We do service calls as well, which means we come to you when we can break loose from the shop. Lakes Bruin, St. John, Concordia and the Black River Lake Complex are about as far as we go.

Somehow, we pretty much got everybody that does business with us up and running except a few that came in too late this week. My advice to all that park their boats for the winter is to get them out in March and no later than April.

If there are issues, get them to your local shop as soon as possible to prevent getting caught up in a long line and a two to three week waiting period.

We moved enough rigs through here the past couple weeks to make room for some more that will no doubt have issues this weekend. We only have two marine dealerships in this area, and both of us stay extremely busy this time of year.

The Mississippi River is on a slight rise. The stage at Natchez/Vidalia today is around 39.6 feet and going to about 40.5’. We may see a slight fall in the level by next weekend. If we see a level of about 35-36 feet and falling, you can bet the perch, bass and bream fishing will be good on the live oxbow lakes.

Of course by “live oxbows” I mean the lakes that are connected to the Mississippi River that rise and fall with the river. Have a great, safe Memorial Day on the water!