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Boat Regulations on Private Waters

Dear Jim,

Let me first say I really enjoy your website. There is a lot of just plain good fishin' stuff.

My question is boat regulations. I will apologize for the book I'm about to write, but need to give you the background info. I just purchased a 12-foot Jon boat. I plan on using it in the private ponds in and around the development where I live here in Jacksonville Fl. I have a small electric trolling motor as combustion engines are not allowed. I registered the boat at the suggestion of where I purchased it. He said in the event it was ever stolen it would be a good idea. I have looked on the web somewhat and emailed the Fla. wildlife and gaming sites, but they haven't responded.

I decided to take the boat out one night and do a little nighttime bassin'. After about 30 minutes a police car pulled up and I went over to talk to him. He had gotten a call from someone about me putting the boat in, which is understandable as there are virtually no boats ever on these ponds. They are as I told you private, but fishable only if you have a resident tag, and I do. Anyway another officer came up and basically did the I'm a tough guy routine and said "I used to be a gaming officer and the law says you must have navigation lights after dark." Followed by you are in violation of the law and you need to load up the boat do you understand me? I tried to say this is a private pond and there is no danger of any navigation hazards with other vessels, but he would have none of it. So I loaded up the boat and went home ticked off.

So....after all of that...Do I need lights on a private pond? Where can I go or who can I talk with about finding out the laws for small boats in private ponds? Everything I have found so far is for larger/gas engine type vessels. Please tell me the laws are not the same for both. A trolling motor shouldn't be classified as motorized (gas engine), but what do I know.

Any info you could share with me would greatly appreciated.

Thank you
David Smith

Dear David:

The Government bureaucracy is really a crappy deal at times. I go to a lot of different states and I have a real problem figuring out what I can do and can't do and what I need some petty bureaucrat's permission and paper for. I agree with you that it is, at times, a lot of idiotic horse manure. Seems like we could have rules that were standardized to the maximum and that we 'average Joes' could at least understand.

I do know this -- if it is truly private water, you can tell Barney Fife to go away. He has no jurisdiction. But, the definition of 'private' has to be very specific.

Here is a site that may help you through the quagmire. www.eboating.com/articles/howto/1100_howto_florida's_unique_boating_laws.html

Jim Porter

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