Nearly all boaters have been there. You wind up sharing the launch with another party that clearly doesn’t know the drill. Perhaps they park on the ramp and proceed to load all of their gear into the boat. Or maybe they block the ramp with a floating boat so no other boats may enter or exit the lake. Whatever the transgression, the transgressors are always clueless, which ramps up (pun intended) frustration for everyone else.
While there are no written rules or code of conduct for boat launch etiquette, common sense and paying attention to others using the facility will help you avoid being the boat launch buffoon. Nancy Stewart, water recreation consultant for the Minnesota DNR, shares some advice for the unwritten rules for safe and polite boat launching.
“If it is busy,” Stewart said, “the biggest thing to know is that the line to launch and load is formed by vehicles and trailers on land, not by the boats in the water.”
This is because vehicles and trailers aren’t maneuverable once they are lined up. Leave someone from your party at the dock to get your vehicle in line and then move your boat out of the landing area and wait your turn. Be patient.
Prior to launching, install your drain plug, remove tie downs, ready lines and load gear into the boat. Once you are prepared, then move to the ramp area or the line of vehicles and trailers leading to it. When coming off the water, move away from the launch before doing the reverse of the above. Make sure to clean aquatic plants and animals from watercraft and drain all water by removing drain plugs. Keep the drain plugs out while transporting.
When approaching a launch from the water, be sure to power down to avoid creating a wake. Idle away from the launch when heading out for the same reason. Along the same lines, be careful when power-loading a boat on the trailer. The prop wash from revving to high rpms can create a hole in the bottom substrate at the end of the ramp, especially in low water conditions. Someone’s trailer could drop into the hole and become stuck.
Boat launches exist for all watercraft, with the same unwritten rules about keeping the ramp clear for launching. Craft such as kayaks should be pulled off the ramp and out of the way of other launch users. Activities such as fishing or dog training can occur at a launch site, but boaters have the right-of-way.
Parking is generally first come, first served when it comes to boat launch etiquette. Parking spots designed for a vehicle and trailer should be left open for that use. Don’t park in a manner that blocks or hinders use of the ramp. At some access sites, no parking is allowed along the road. If the parking area is full, you may need to find another location to launch your boat.
Your trash is your responsibility. You can use a trash receptacle if one is available. Otherwise, take it with you. Aquatic invasive species rules require you to drain all water, including livewells and bait buckets. To save bait, you can replace the water with water you have brought along for that purpose. Some bait shops provide an extra bag of water when you buy bait. You are not allowed to dump bait in the water or on land.