Michigan Boating Laws
Responsible Boating: Ensuring our lake remains clean
Dumping garbage and plastics into federally controlled and state water is illegal. You must store trash in a container on board, and place it in a proper receptacle after returning to shore.
Stop the spread of nuisance species! To prevent spreading nuisance species:
Inspect your boat and trailer, remove any nuisance species (zebra mussels and eurasian milfoil) you see before leaving the lake.
Before leaving the lake, drain your motor and bilge on land.
Never release live bait into the lake or release aquatic animals from one lake into another. Empty your bait on land.
Who may operate a boat:
Those less than 12 years of age:
May legally operate a boat powered by a motor of no more than 6 horsepower (hp) without restrictions.
May legally operate a boat powered by a motor of more than 6 hp but no more than 35 hp only if they are directly supervised onboard by a person at least 16 years of age.
May not legally operate a boat powered by a motor of more than 35 hp under any conditions.
Those born on or after July 1, 1996, may operate a boat legally only if they have been issued a boating safety certificate and have it on board the boat.
Those born before July 1, 1996, may operate a boat legally without restrictions.
Who may operate a Personal Watercraft (PWC):
Those less than 14 years of age may not legally operate a PWC.
Those 14 and 15 years of age may operate a PWC legally only if they have obtained a boating safety certificate and …
- He or she is accompanied on board by his or her parent or legal guardian or by a person at least 21 years of age who has been designated by the parent or legal guardian or …
- He or she is operating or riding the PWC at a distance of not more than 100 feet from his or her parent or legal guardian or from a person at least 21 years of age who has been designated by the parent or legal guardian.
Those at least 16 years of age and born after December 31,1978, may operate a PWC legally only if they have obtained a boating safety certificate.
Those born on or before December 31, 1978, may operate a PWC legally without restrictions.
Towing Skiers, tubers, wakeboarders, etc.:
Every vessel (boat or PWC) towing a person(s) on water skis, tubes, wakeboards, or similar devices must have a person-spotter, in addition to the operator, observing the towed person(s) at all times.
It is illegal to tow skiers, tubers, etc. or any device of this type between:
– One hour after sunset and one hour before sunrise if towed behind a boat
– One hour before sunset and 8:00 a.m. if towed behind a PWC.
Persons being towed must stay at least 100 feet away from:
Any moored or anchored vessel
Any docks or rafts
Any marked swimming area or person(s) in the water.
Those being towed behind a PWC must wear a US Coast Guard-approved Type I, II, or III PFD. Inflatable PFDs may not be used.
Diver Down Flags:
Divers or snorkelers must display a diver down flag to mark their diving area. Divers must stay within 100 feel of the vertical position of their diver down flag.
Boats/PWC must remain at least 200 feet away from diver down flags.
Diver Down Flag: A rectangular red flag, at least 14 by 16, with a 3 white diagonal stripe.
To get a copy of The Handbook of Michigan Boating Laws and Responsibilities go to: