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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Boating
A great resource for PA boating information is the PA Boating Handbook
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1. What boating opportunities will I find in Pennsylvania?
2. What should I know about boating regulations before I go?
3. Do I need a boating safety education certificate to operate my boat on Pennsylvania waters?
4. I lost my boating safety certificate, how do I get a new one?
5. Where can I find places to launch my boat?
6. Are there any boating waters that limit the horsepower of boats?
7. Do I need to carry visual distress signals?
 
8. My new boat has an onboard toilet. Can I dump it into Pennsylvania waters?
9. May my child operate a boat?
10. Where can I rent a boat?
11. Where can I find a charter boat or fishing guide?
12. Do you have a list of marinas in Pennsylvania?
13. What kind of lights do I need to put on my boat?
14. When should I report a boating accident?
15. Is there a specific time of year that boaters must wear a life jacket?
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FAQ INDEX
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1. What boating opportunities will I find in Pennsylvania?
  Pennsylvania provides nearly unlimited opportunities for recreational boaters. PA has 85,000 miles of rivers and streams ranging from headwaters to major river systems. Also, 76 natural lakes that provide 5,266 acres of flatwater. An additional 2,300 constructed impoundments provide another 200,000 acres of boatable waters. Lake Erie has over 63 miles of shoreline and 735 square miles of waters within PA boundaries. The Delaware River provides 56 miles of tidal waters within PA, providing access to the Atlantic Ocean.

A number of water trails suitable for canoes, kayaks and small motorized watercraft, are located throughout PA. Online trail guides and maps are available for many of them....go to the water trail index.

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2. What should I know about boating regulations before I go?
  A good place to start is the online version of the PA Boating Handbook. This booklet is the textbook used in all of our boating safety classes. It provides detailed explanation of boating regulations and safety information....go to the online copy.

NOTE: You may have to register or title your boat to use your boat in Pennsylvania. We have a separate FAQ that discusses boat registration and titling requirements....go to the Registering and Tilting FAQ.

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3. Do I need a boating safety education certificate to operate my boat on Pennsylvania waters?
  Boating Safety Education Certificates are required:
  • to operate a personal watercraft
  • for persons born on or after January 1, 1982, to operate boats powered by motors greater than 25 horsepower

The Fish & Boat Commission encourages all boat operators to obtain boating education training, we believe an educated boater is a safe boater. You can get training several ways:

  • By taking a classroom course sponsored by one of the many volunteer boating safety groups across the Commonwealth....view the classroom courses/schedules.
  • Online courses can be taken at Boat Pennsylvania, the only place to get a boating safety education certificate online. Once at the site, you may take the course as many times as you want. There is a small fee to take the final exam and receive your certificate....go to the online courses.
  • Home video courses are also offered at Boat Pennsylvania....get the video course.

We have much more information about boating safety requirements and available courses on our Boating Courses page.

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4. I lost my boating safety certificate, how do I get a new one?
  Use the Duplicate Safety Certificate Application Form to apply for a duplicate or replacement Commission Boating Safety Education Certificate OR to convert the certificate you earned from another approved organization (classroom course only - ex., USCG Auxiliary, US Power Squadrons) to a permanent one issued by the Commission. A nominal fee is charged.

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5. Where can I find places to launch my boat?
  Our county guide interactive maps highlight and list boat access areas throughout Pennsylvania (in addition to providing much more valuable fishing and boating information). Maps are available for each county in Pennsylvania and can be viewed online and are easily printed using your home printer....go to the statewide index.

Another good place to find access is at one of Pennsylvania's state parks. The PA Department of Conservation and Resources (DCNR) oversees these parks. A complete list of parks and much more information is available at their website or you can call 888-Pa-Parks....go to DCNR's Outdoor Adventures page.

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6. Are there any boating waters that limit the horsepower of boats?
  Yes, many lakes in Pennsylvania have special boating regulations which limit the horsepower of boats. All Fish and Boat Commission and Game Commission lakes are restricted to electric motors only. Several larger state park lakes allow motors up to 20 horsepower. A complete list of waters and their restrictions is available online....go to the listing.

State parks managed by the PA Department of Conservation and Resources (DCNR) may have additional regulations specific to individual parks....go to DCNR's State Parks page.

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7. Do I need to carry visual distress signals?
  Visual distress signals (VDS) are only required when operating on Lake Erie, although they are a good idea everywhere. 

Between the hours of sunset and sunrise, boats less than 16 feet in length must carry VDS suitable for use at night. 

Boats 16 feet and over must at all times carry VDS suitable for both day and night use. Approved day use devices include orange smoke and orange signal flags. Flare type VDS must be carried for night use. 

A minimum of three flares must be carried. These must be Coast Guard approved. All flare devices have an expiration date and to be legal the flares cannot be older than the expiration date. We recommend that expired devices continue to be carried onboard for backup in an emergency. If you are disposing of expired devices, please do so in an appropriate manner.

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8. My new boat has an onboard toilet. Can I dump it into Pennsylvania waters?
  It is illegal to dump untreated sewage or gray-water from boats in any water of the Commonwealth. If your boat's toilet is fitted with a Coast Guard approved marine sanitation device, you may discharge the treated waste in some waters. The ONLY waters where treated wastewater may be discharged are: the Allegheny, Monongahela, Ohio, Delaware and Susquehanna rivers; and the Allegheny Resevoir, Youghiogheny Lake and Lake Erie.

Our preference is that you discard your waste at one of the Clean Vessel Pumpout Locations located throughout PA....go to the online list.

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9. May my child operate a boat?
 

A person 11 years of age or younger may NOT operate a personal watercraft or a boat propelled by a motor greater than 25 horsepower. A person 12 through 15 years of age may NOT operate a personal watercraft if there are any passengers onboard 15 years of age or younger.

A personal watercraft (PWC) is a boat less than 16 feet in length that uses an internal combustion motor powering a water jet pump as its primary source of propulsion. It is designed to be operated by a person sitting, standing, or kneeling rather than in the conventional manner of boat operation. Some better known brand names include Jet Ski®, Sea Doo®, Wave Runner®, Tiger Shark®, Wet Jet®, etc. We have a seperate FAQ that discusses PWC....go to the PWC FAQ.

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10. Where can I rent a boat?
  We maintain a list of liveries (places where you can rent a boat) located throughout Pennsylvania....go to the list of liveries.

Most of the State Park (DCNR) and Corps of Engineers operated lakes have a boat rental concession....go to DCNR's Outdoor Adventures page.

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11. Where can I find a charter boat or fishing guide?
  Commercial charter boats and fishing guides can voluntarily register with the Commission....go to the list of guides.

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12. Do you have a list of marinas in Pennsylvania?
  Yes....go to the list of marinas

Many of our Boat Registration Issuing Agents also operate marinas or are boat dealers, you can check out our online list to find an agent near you....go to the agent list.

The Commission owns and maintains, through a contractor, a full service marina on Lake Erie in Northeast, PA....go to the North East Marina website.

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13. What kind of lights do I need to put on my boat?
  As this depends on the type and length of your vessel, please refer to Chapter 4 of the PA Boating Handbook for specific requirements for your boat....go to Chapter 4.

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14. When should I report a boating accident?
  The operator of a boat must report a boating accident when one or more of the following conditions exist:
  1. A person dies. (Immediate notification required; written report must be submitted within 48 hours.)
  2. A person is injured and requires medical treatment beyond first aid. (Written report must be submitted within 48 hours.)
  3. Damage to the vessel(s) and other property totals $2,000 or more or there is a complete loss of any vessel. (Written report must be submitted within 10 days.)
  4. A person disappears from the boat under circumstances that indicate death or injury is likely. (Immediate notification required; written report must be submitted within 48 hours.)

The Boating Accident Report form must be completely and legibly filled out by the operator or owner (if the operator is unable).

....go to Boating Accident Report, PFBC-260.

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