Required equipment for a Michigan fishing boat

Ready to fish
I recently purchased a fishing boat for fishing the Detroit and Saint Clair river.  I wanted to make sure I had everything I needed to operate it legally so I picked up a boater's safety pamphlet from the Secretary of State.

After reading it, I was surprised at the amount of things an angler needs to legally fish.  I realized that in the past, I have fished on boats that did not have half of the things the state requires.  Luckily, we had never been boarded by the authorities so we were never issued tickets.

Now that I own a boat, I am not going to rely on luck.  I decided to put this article together to help people avoid being fined on the water this year.  Hopefully, this will help somebody from getting a ticket this year.  I am going to go over the rules for a boat that is sixteen to twenty-six feet long with an outboard.  If your boat is shorter, you many not need everything listed but it probably wouldn't hurt.

****This list is put together from my understanding of what my boat needs in 2011.  Please double check the state's website before venturing out on the water.  You are responsible for making sure your own boat is up to code.****

The first thing I am going to cover is the lights on the boat.  If you don't plan on fishing after-dark, do not worry about this section.  All boats needs to have a red/green light in the front of the boat and a white light for the back.  The white light in the back needs to be taller than the lights in the front.  The red/green light needs to be mounted so the red portion is on the left and the green on the right.  These lights need to always be on from sunset to sunrise while moving.  The white light needs to be on while anchored.

All sixteen to twenty-six foot boats need to have a working class B fire extinguisher on-board.  Some boats with a fixed system do not have to worry about this requirement but it is probably a good idea to have one.  Make sure that you periodically check your fire extinguisher to make sure it is working properly. 

All boats must have a sound-producing device on board.  If you are fishing inland lakes, a whistle that is capable of being heard 1/2 mile away works.  If you are on federally controlled water, which the great lakes/Lake Saint Clair/Detroit River/St. Clair river fall under, you need an air-horn or horn that can be heard 1/2 mile away.

The next thing that an angler needs to have is visual distress signals.  You may want to look into this section yourself because there are a couple of different options to satisfy this requirement.  Anglers need to have at least three flares on-board at all times and they need to be specific to day/night depending on when you are fishing.  You can buy a combo flare that works for both night and day.  This is the route I am going to take for convenience purposes.

Make sure your flares are up to date when you buy them and also before you head out.  Don't make the mistake of having expired flares on-board.  You will get a ticket for this the same as not having any at all.

The last thing required on a fishing boat is the life jackets.  The boat needs to have one life jacket for every person on-board.  The life jackets can be type one, two, or three.  A boat over sixteen feet also has to have one class four flotation device.  This type of flotation device is throw-able in case of an overboard passenger.

This concludes the list of equipment that is legally required to operate a boat on Michigan's waterways.  However, there are a few things that should also be on every boat.  I would recommend having an anchor, oar and ship to shore radio along with all of the other equipment.

Hopefully your boat isn't lacking many of the basic necessities listed above.  It can be a daunting task convincing your significant other you need to buy more stuff for your boat... let alone multiple things.  Sometimes it is hard to justify wasting money on a boat but you need to be safe on the water. 




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