Welcome to the lakes of Calhoun County. We hope that you will have a safe and enjoyable experience on our waterways.
The Calhoun County Sheriff's Office Marine Patrol shares the responsibility with the Department of Natural Resources to patrol the lakes and streams of the county.
If an emergency should arise on any county waterway, boaters are urged to contact 911. Any other marine-related questions should be addressed to the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office, Marine Patrol Unit at (269) 781-0880.
Important Boating Information
Step 1: Safety Equipment For Your Boat
1. Life Preservers (Personal Flotation Devices - PFD)
- Small boats, less than 16 feet in length, need only a United States Coast Guard (U.S.C.G.) approved PFD on board for each passenger.
- Larger boats, 16 feet or longer, must have a "wearable" Type I, Type II, or Type III PFD, designed to be worn, for each person on board. The vessel must also be equipped with a Type IV "throwable" PFD, a Type IV PFD is a device designed to be thrown to a person overboard. U.S.C.G. approved Type IV PFD's are of the "ring" or "seat cushion" varieties.
- By law, PFD's must be "readily accessible" and "immediately available". They are of little value if you can't get to them! Hand a PFD to each crew member as they board your vessel.
- PFD’s must also be "serviceable". If they do not work, they won't save your life! Ensure that all straps, seams, labels and flotation pieces are in good working order. Look at the label and make sure that the PFD is sized for the intended wearer.
- Michigan Law requires all children under 6 years of age to wear a USCG approved type I or II PFD when riding on the open deck of any vessel while underway (moving under engine power)
2. Fire Extinguishers
- If vessel of any length is construed as to trap gasoline vapors, it must be equipped with a U.S.C.G. approved fire extinguisher. Boats less than 26 feet in length need only one B1 type fire extinguisher. Boats longer than 26 feet in length need more than one B1 or B2 type fire extinguishers. Be safe, you can get a larger one for extra safety. Make sure that your fire extinguisher(s) are both "serviceable" and "accessible".
3. Registration Numbers
- Motorists are given a plate already made. We skippers must make our own, which can result in a vessel improperly numbered.
- Any boat that has an electric or gas motor or any other type of propulsion machinery, must be registered. All sailboats must also be registered.
- Look closely at the diagram: MC 1234 AA (decal). The letters must be block letters at least three inches high. The letters must read from left to right. The characters must also be of a contrasting color. Three inches must separate prefixes, suffixes, numbers, and the registration decal, at the far right. The characters must be on the forward half of the vessel as high out of the water as practical.
Registration decals expire March 31 of the year displayed. For example, if you have a 2020 registration decal on your vessel it expired on March 31 of 2020 and will need to be renewed.
4. Lights and Horns
- Vessel operators must make sure that their vessels are equipped with the proper navigation lights and use the lights during these conditions: When away from the dock between sunset and sunrise and also during periods of restricted visibility such as fog or heavy rain. All vessels are required to use an all-around white light between sunset and sunrise whenever they are anchored in the waters of or connected to the Great Lakes. It is advisable to display a white light always when anchored or adrift at night in the inland lakes of Michigan.
- Non-powered vessels need only display a white lantern to prevent a collision.
- Horns are required on vessels 16 feet in length or longer.
Step II: Operating Your Vessel Safely
Every vessel towing a person(s) on water skis, a surfboard, or a similar device must have a person on board, in addition to the vessel operator, observing the towed person(s) at all times. Every person being towed behind a vessel must wear a U.S. Coast Guard- approved wearable Type I, II, or III PFD. Inflatable PFDs may not be used.
2. Capacity Plates
- Capacity plates are located in the vessel for your safety. Remember each person weighs 150 pounds according to the law. Do not exceed this number or pound value. Failure to do so may be viewed as "careless operation".
3. Slow No Wake Speed
- Slow no wake is a speed of a vessel which makes a wake or wash that is minimal. Go no faster than this when within 100 feet of any dock, raft, anchored vessel bathing beaches, or buoys. Some local laws require this speed in congested areas.
4. High Speed Boating
- High speed boating is when the boat reaches a "planing" condition. Make sure you are in open water to avoid collision. For fast boats, inland lakes have a 55 mph speed limit.
- Violation of this law is reckless operation of a vessel.
Other Important Information
- Those less than 12 years of age may operate a boat powered by a motor of no more than 6 horsepower legally without restrictions. They may also operate a boat powered more than 6 horsepower but less than 35 horsepower only if they have been issued a boating safety certificate and have it on board the boat with them AND are directly supervised on board by a person at least 16 years of age. Those less than 12 may not operate a boat powered by more than 35 horsepower legally 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 with them. Those born before July 1, 1996, may operate a boat legally without restrictions.
- PFD's cannot be stored in plastic bags.
- Vessel must go "counter-clockwise" around the lake.
- All boats must stay at least 200 feet away from a diving flag. A diving flag is a red flag with a diagonal white stripe. It may be seen on a floating buoy or even displayed on a boat.
- The operator of the vessel must have the registration on board.
- Canoes or kayaks must have at minimum 1 type IV throw able per person on board, wearable jackets aren’t required if using a throw able but are strongly suggested in swift moving or cold water.
- Intoxicated vessel operators go to jail!
- You are liable for damage caused by your wake.
- It is illegal to ride on the side (gunwale) or covered bow of the boat, unless the manufacturer designed the boat for that use.
- Children 12 to 16 years of age must have a Boating Safety Certificate to operate a motorboat of six horsepower or more. The certificate must be in their possession while operating the boat.
- Some insurance companies give lower rates to skippers who have completed safety courses.
- Non-Use of PFD's is found in over 80% of all drownings.
- Wearing PFD's increases your survival chances in a water accident.
If A Water / Boating Accident Or Emergency Occurs
If a person is injured, or more than $2,000 in damage is suspected the appropriate water accident or boating accident report must be completed.
In Calhoun County the following agencies will be happy to assist you.
- Emergency, CALL 911
- Calhoun County Sheriff's Office, Marine Patrol Unit, (269) 781-0880
Canoes or kayaks must have at minimum 1 type IV throw able per person on board, wearable jackets aren’t required if using a throw able but are strongly suggested in swift moving or cold water.
- Each person riding on or being towed behind a PWC must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved wearable Type I, II, or III PFD. Inflatable PFDs may not be used.
- The kill switch must be connected to the operator.
- A PWC must be operated at slow, no wake speed if crossing within 150 feet behind another vessel unless the other vessel is also a PWC
- A personal watercraft (PCW) cannot be operated between sunset and sunrise.
- 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 parents 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.